- Parenting a Montessori Child
Understanding the Transition from Non-reader to Reader
Your child is progressing, as he or she should, at his or her own pace, which is the right pace.
There is no reason to rush through the important period of valuable skill building for reading and writing. Consider how critical skills are developed over time in all areas of your child’s life, in school and in your home. The early childhood years can be an exciting, joyful time—for the child to experience and for the parent, too, to observe and even participate.
Process of Building Pre-reading Skills
For now, our primary task is to together (teacher and parent) instill in your child a great curiosity and love for language. In the classroom, we aim to provide access to the materials and opportunities needed to practice and perfect the necessary skills leading to reading.
Start with the Practical Life area in your child’s classroom. What skills are being refined and how? Try viewing this activity as preparation for reading and writing.
Skills learned in the classroom’s Practical Life area reflect fundamental Montessori principles of order, self-discipline, and concentration. A child masters his or her movements through a series of isolated steps and through repetition. He or she eventually learns to analyze and to respond with rational, orderly actions; intellect becomes the primary guide for navigating a challenging scenario.
Role of Practical Life and Sensorial Works
Foundation skills, such as the capacity to organize one’s workspace and to use reason to problem-solve, are needed for accomplishing work throughout the classroom. (Proficiency here is a strong indicator of future academic success, too.) However, many of the Practical Life works are specifically about preparing your child for reading and writing.
The presentation of Practical Life materials often adheres to a left-to-right, top-to-bottom order, which is consistent with other works in the Montessori classroom that help a child prepare for reading and writing the English language.
Teaching strategies associated with the Practical Life area often focus on a child’s fine motor skills—specific to hand and eye coordination. Grasping, pouring, and spooning works support the child in refining skills for gripping and delicately maneuvering a pencil. Similarly, variations in textures, shapes, and sizes of manipulatives help a child to refine the sense of touch and to increase visual discrimination. The former directly relates to Montessori sandpaper letters and the latter aids in distinguishing the differences between letters through sight.
A similar approach for cultivating reading readiness is apparent in the Montessori Sensorial works. For example, tracing forms in the Geometric Cabinet is a form of training for both the eyes (exactness of shape) and for the hands (muscular development).
Early works, such as described here, are necessary preparation for visually distinguishing and eventually forming letters. Your child must first master this kind of work before learning to read and write.
Practice Makes Perfect
A less obvious, yet, no less important category of work in the Montessori classroom involves oral language activities. These teaching techniques involve allowing the child to see the juxtaposition of spoken and written language. The child must discover (on his own!) the value of using labels, categorizing and ordering his or her environment, and following written instructions. From an understanding and then application of these concepts eventually comes the knowledge necessary for reading.
Be aware that your child practices the implementation of pre-reading skills. This prep work takes place on the playground and in the home, in addition to school. Socializing with young peers is a critical component of a child’s development leading to reading, for the child is learning how to mentally organize and communicate his or her thoughts, as well as how to anticipate and decode information received.
Understand that your child’s recount of his or her day is also about refining the pre-reading skills learned earlier in the classroom. Consider the intellectual agility involved in recalling, organizing, and then narrating your day!
Your Role is Important
As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your child to build communication skills by modeling accurate syntax in all verbal interactions and by continuously introducing new vocabulary. Sharing should coincide with your child’s actual experiences; you want to help him or her to make the connection between communication (whether verbal, written or read) and real-life happenings.
How special it is to be a part and to witness those first steps toward understanding language’s use and its ultimate purpose of self-expression. Savor each and every moment.