Each day, the children spend their days actively engaged in many activities. They sing songs, have conversations, help roll rugs, prepare snack, set up for lunch, observe the work of others, and (of course) explore with the Montessori materials. The materials are beautiful, purposeful, enticing means for your child to learn in the classroom. Practice, repetition, and exploration with the materials help them to make new connections and master of a variety of skills- from baking to auditory discrimination to reading. The children’s work with the materials and their engagement in community life are equally important aspects of your children’s education.
At the end of the day, we often observe enthusiastic parents greet their child with a smile and the age-old question, “Did you have a *new* lesson today?” Your child may look perplexed or even sad because he did not get a *new* lesson. In fact, children only get a few *new* lessons each week. New lessons are a way to introduce a new concept in one of the four areas of the classroom- Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Math. After the initial presentation, it is important for a child to practice with the material, refine techniques, explore new ways to engage with the material, ask questions (to teachers and friends), and ultimately master this new concept. Some lessons have several extensions that are introduced at a later time and may not be perceived as a *new* lesson. Some concepts come easily, while others take a good deal of work for the child to master. The art of being a Montessori teacher comes from the guide’s ability to balance offering *new* lessons and encouraging the children to work independently. We know that the child’s independent work is where the real education happens.
The seemingly innocuous question, “Did you get a *new* lesson?” may lead some children to only find value in receiving lessons. In the classroom, we aim to emphasize independent practice, repetition, and exploration as a road to mastery. We hope that you will help us by taking the emphasis off of *new* lessons and encouraging your children to find joy in exploring all of their favorite lessons while at school.
I have heard many parents express concern that their child rarely shares what happens in the classroom. Asking about a *new* lesson is the only way some parents feel they are able to get information about their child’s day. Please know that your child’s day is VERY busy and many children only remember the last thing they did before you arrived (such as play on the playground or have snack). Some children are so happy to see the face of their mommy that they don’t even want to discuss school. If pressured to answer questions, some children will give one word answers while others will simply make something up. I am certain we all want the children to volunteer to share about their classroom experience. Here are a few ways to engage your child in conversation that have been successful for other parents:
– “Let me tell you what I did at work today!” Starting the conversation about what you spent your day doing may prompt your child to jump in with how things went in the classroom.
– “Oh! I love this song playing on the radio.” We sing A LOT in the all-day class. Perhaps this statement will prompt conversation about what music is currently in the listening corner or your child’s favorite song to sing at school.
– “Did you have fun on the playground today? Was snack yummy?” All children love the playground. This may be a fun place to start having conversations about the day. Over time, your child may start to volunteer things that happen around these events.
I hope you will have some wonderful conversations with your children during the next few weeks.