Forward to “Do real things”
A Montessorian, Chris Trostel, wrote the article below on “Do real things” to share with others and I found it absolutely wonderful! If I knew how to write so beautifully, I would have said the same things! So I am borrowing her write-up to share with all of you. I have edited it for clarity.
Chris Trostel (AMI 6-12 Elementary Trainer)
During the Covid-19 situation when schools were closed
Home is not school
Alrighty. Several folks have asked me to post this. Do real things. My advice: Do not try to recreate the classroom at home. School is a laboratory where certain kinds of real things happen. It is set up in a very particular way with very particular participants designed for particular outcomes. It is unique, special, rather lovely when done well and perhaps impossible to replicate. The home laboratory is something entirely unique and special and rather lovely in its own right – and impossible to replicate anywhere else.
Different kinds of real things are done at home. Value and appreciate the opportunity to be home and do some real things. Children who do real things – in collaboration with others – learn real skills and grow up to be independent humans who know how to cooperate and collaborate and contribute to society.
Certainly, home provides an opportunity to build on the school experience – and there are thousands of websites and ideas out there for doing so – but now is a special a time where family experiences can be valued and appreciated in an entirely expansive and beautiful way.
Because parents and children have unexpected time together and there is no need or call to rush anywhere, we can embrace this once-in-a-lifetime event and be together; and, for once, there is enough time.
You may ask, “Enough time for what?” Well there is enough time …
Suggestions for work
To work together, spring clean! There are many practical life activities to learn and do:
1. Making beds
2. Washing and folding laundry (teach children how to use the washing machine and dish washer)
3. Plan dinner and breakfast menus
4. Dust, vacuum & sweep floors
5. Clean bathrooms
6. Organise the cupboards
7. Wash dishes, dry and put away, disinfect door knobs, mailboxes, common surfaces
8. Clean the car, the garage, the boat, the refrigerator
9. Cut and stack wood. Sweep the driveway. Rake the yard. Get garden beds ready. Plant garden. Observe and admire your work.
Suggestions for play
To play together, you may be amazed what can be learnt about:
2. Resource management
5. Problem solving
But especially what can be learnt about each other by playing games. Play board games and the old childhood games that are disappearing:
1. I spy
3. Tag games
4. Hop Scotch
5. Jump Rope
6. Musical Chairs
7. Hot & Cold (Current Shock :))
9. Slap Hands
11. Blind Man’s Bluff,
12. Hide and Seek (in dark)
… Observe and relish your play.
Suggestions for movement
To move together:
1. Go for a run
2. A bike ride
3. Build a fort or secret land
Enjoy the change in seasons, watch and listen to the returning birds, observe (smell) black cottonwood trees leafing out, take weather readings and predict the weather, move your bodies, walk with your breath. (NB: ‘phenology’ is the scientific study of seasonal change). Observe and remember your adventures.
Suggestions for meals
To cook and dine together:
You’ll do a lot more eating together than maybe anytime since your children were babies. Show them how to cook your favourite dishes (maybe something your parents made).
And show the children how to set a proper table, how to have a conversation over a meal, how to serve tea, work on manners (grace and courtesy). Try to eat two meals a day together as a family. Starting and ending the day around the family table is a gift of talk and time. Observe and appreciate your food and family time.
Suggestions for recreation
To sing and make music together:
If you don’t play an instrument, listen to your children practice their instruments. Sing a lullaby you sang to them when they were infants. Make a family song book and illustrate it. Listen to favourite artists and talk about what you like about their music (not their ‘image’ but their music).
Singing together is a powerful way to build up the family structure – and, by the way, if only the prettiest birds sang – the forest would be silent. Where would our forests be without ravens and eagles and Stellar’s jays squawking across our mountains and valleys? There is beauty in the effort together. Observe and enjoy your music.
To make stuff, make art together; be crafty, construct stuff from:
1. Wood scraps
3. Felt and yarn bits
4. Play dolls
5. Get out the glue and tape and papers and cloth
6. Sew, knit, crochet
7. Make Origami
9. Compose music
10. Write stories
11. Make puppets, write a puppet play (or any play)
12. Perform a reader’s theatre after building the sets
14. Invent stuff
Practice the scientific method. Find the area of a room, the house, the yard, the street. Draw a map… Observe and admire your creativity.
To be quiet together:
Make quiet. A small silent time everyday resets things, brings the family in balance. Being quiet together is a powerful model for being still with one’s own thoughts. Reading, daydreaming, drawing…there are lots of ways to be quiet – but it is so dramatically powerful to value quiet and make it together. Observe and take delight in the peace.
To have fun together:
Make laughter. It will be remembered best and most of all. Read a funny story aloud. Tell jokes, tell stories about each other (and childhood stories), call grandma or grandpa and have them tell stories about their childhood (or your parents), forgive mistakes and laugh them off, chuckle at your inventions, creations, music…Observe yourselves and take yourselves lightly. Think and play and move and work and create and laugh together.
This is a time to connect, not correct.
Have compassion for one another in this new time. Everyone is generally doing the best they can under the most unusual circumstances. Be together.
There is enough time. Do real things.
Anjum is one of the founders of Lodestar Montessori School. She wishes that everyone discovers Montessori the way she did. She lives in Singapore with her husband and son.