Child-led learning: tips and advice on home learning
A child learns best through experiences during their early years – and there are many experiences that are readily accessible in the home. Whether it’s breaking away from a reliance on digital entertainment, organising the home to encourage spontaneous learning, or uncovering soft skills, there’s something that every parent can gain from Montessori over the coming weeks.
Here are nine tips on what parents can do to bring Montessori education to the home as the environment becomes a place for life, work, and learning.
- Create a daily routine
Setting out a structure for the day is important when home schooling. Your child may find it difficult to adjust from the normality of the school day, and the lack of peer support to keep them engaged and motivated. Help them to set up their own routine that works for them – this may be working in periods of time (led by the child), or at a particular time of the day when they feel most receptive. Ensure the day is broken up into manageable activities and scattered with lots of breaks for unstructured learning and downtime. However, the key is to allow the child to decide when it wants to do something else rather than break it into set time periods.
- Set up a home school area
As always start with your child/children: first, choose a room/area and simply observe how they use the space: Does it allow mobility, the freedom to move, explore, and choose? Are the things the child needs within reach? Are the things the child needs well organised and easy to locate? Often a small change can make a big difference in how children use a space; think about what you want them to get out of the space and make adjustments accordingly. For older children, if you can, position a desk in a quiet space in your home where they can keep their laptop, textbooks and any notes. Having their own dedicated learning space will help them to focus. They may also need your help finding online resources or to provide tools like exercise books, pens, pencils, and sticky notes.
- A dedicated play area.
For example, for younger children, rather than having a toy box to hold your child’s toys, organise a special area, designed just for them. It could be a corner of a room with a rug that they play on. If you can, perhaps create low shelving where children can access their toys and equipment and put them back neatly. These make your child feel that his or her work and belongings really matter
- Use digital to aid your child’s learning but don’t over rely on it.
Instead, slow down to your child’s pace. Spend time sharing the things that he or she is excited about or interested in. For toddlers, aged 2-3yrs, engage them in practical learning through taking part in daily household routines such as setting a table for meals, helping to wash up or load the dishwasher or washing machine, and organising cupboards. Give them little tasks such as making sure that their shoes are neatly put away and their coat is hung on a low hook
- Learning is all around you.
Encourage imagination through ‘loose parts play’and use household objects to create toys. For example, you could experiment with a variety of objects that will make interesting shadows, explore ways of changing the shape and size of their shadow patterns. Get them to make drawings of the shadows and talk about their representations. Simple activities like this have a range of benefits for younger children, helping to familiarise them with vocabulary, improve skills such as writing, drawing, and tracing
- Dedicated roles and responsibilities.
For primary school children, this could mean looking after their own room and keeping it clean and tidy, or managing an aspect of running the household. For example, helping to plan and cook simple, healthy meals based on food availability provides a great opportunity to learn about new cultures, how to be frugal, and utilise the resources they have available – and it could even become a long-term hobby or spark a career! (Many of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Google and Amazon are ex-Montessorians who credit Montessori with their success)
- Nurture nature.
If getting into the outdoors is tricky, look to bring the outdoors into the home. This can be done by encouraging children to tend to plants, or planting seeds in window boxes, or out in the garden. Observing birds through a window is also a great activity. Notice their shape, their beaks, their wing size, their colouring, and research them further online
- Enriching the mind with music.
Try making your own instruments and musical games out of what’s around you. For example, rice in sealed container could make a percussion instrument, a chopstick and a bottle with water can be used to create a sound. Record instrument sounds and play them back to see if your child can get the answer right, or create a music trivia game where you act out the answers
- Embrace the new normal.
Most importantly, don’t feel pressured to make every moment “an educational one”. Your child will benefit from being with you; enjoy this time together, invite your child to participate in your daily routines with you and talk with your child and support them as they make sense of this new situation. Through this, learning will happen