By Francina Lelei

As parents, we all want what is best for our child.  We want them to grow and be healthy, learn and be smart, and love with empathy and compassion. However, a child is not born knowing how to do all these things.  The child must be taught and shown how to navigate through life.  In a Montessori school, we are creating an environment that allows the child to not only watch and learn but also explore and practice new skills so they can be independent.  We develop a true love for learning not just academically but also in caring for our environment and those around us.  Montessori can be carried into the home as learning is not just something that happens at school.  Children are always developing, growing and learning new skills.  Sometimes they only see something once and have already added it to their skill set.  At other times, they need to repeat and practice to accomplish it on their own.  This is why it is so important to allow a child to also continue his learning in the home.

In order to do this, a child needs to be allowed the same freedom at home when possible.  There are lots of little changes that can be made in order to help a child feel more independent. For example, an infant loves to explore, placing a shelf with toys at his level allows him to get a toy of his choosing.  A child that is a little older may enjoy sweeping with a small hand broom after dinner to help keep the floor clean. A preschool child may enjoy setting the table or folding laundry as a way to help the family and keep the household running smoothly. Making some small changes at home will allow a child to take part in everyday family routines on his own to establish a sense of togetherness.

Parents also need to remember we are role models all the time as our child is always watching.  It’s important to take a moment and share with your child what you are doing and why so they can better understand the role of an adult.  Far too often it is quick and easy to say “I’m too busy” or “not now.”  However, a child cannot understand what it means to be busy all the time.  It is better to explain to the child what you are doing, for example, “I am using my time to fold the laundry, would you like to help?”  Offer to show the child how items are folded and put away in your house.  It is important to include your child in daily activities of maintaining a household so he can learn and grow in his own independence.

Independence is a key element in a child’s growth.  Each child needs to be allowed to grow on his own path at his own time.  Giving each child a chance to watch and learn both at home and school further allows that child independence, which gives him the opportunity to truly learn who he is as an individual.