The following guidelines educate parents on the appropriate behavior inside the Montessori classroom.
The Montessori Environment is prepared with a large amount of thoughtfulness and attention to detail. On parent day, parents become co-guardians of this special environment, along with the teacher.
The environment we aim for is an environment that protects certain rights for the child:
- The right to peaceful quiet
- The right to concentrated work
- The right to work purposefully
- The right to choose one’s own work
- The right to work alone
- The right to work with others
- The right to work without being corrected or interrupted
- The right to repeat the same work for as long as one needs
- The right to observe the work of others for as long as one needs
In order to protect these rights for all children, we also place certain restrictions on a how each child behaves in the classroom:
- We walk in the classroom, not run, so that everybody can enjoy their right to uninterrupted work.
- We use a quiet voice so that all children can concentrate.
- We don’t interrupt other children at work. If a child wants the attention of another child, they may do so by putting their hand on the other child’s shoulder. The other child may take as long as they need to respond. (This applies to adults too.)
- We put our work away when we’re done so that other children may easily choose their work.
In general, we expect children (and adults) to comport themselves in a way that shows respect to the environment, respect to others in the environment, and respect for themselves.
As an adult, here are some guidelines to help you to be in this environment:
- Please arrive on time, and settle into a calm routine, so as not to break the concentration of the children already in the classroom.
- Keep your voice low, in order to maintain a peaceful environment and not break the children’s concentration.
- Allow your child to lead, choosing the work that they are called to, and observing other children if they wish.
- However, if your child is not observing and not choosing work (for example, if a group of children are gathered and are being distracting to other children), gently encourage your child to choose work. You may ask for assistance from the teacher on this if you are unsure.
- Do not bring technology into the classroom. Cell phones and tablets should be turned off and checked at the door. If you have an urgent call to make, let the teacher know and step outside to make the call.
- Running and yelling is not permitted in the classroom. If you observe your child or another child run in the classroom, get down to the child’s level and say, gently and with love, but firmly, “We walk in the classroom.” If you observe your child or another child yelling in the classroom, get down to the child’s level and say, gently and with love, but firmly, “We use our indoor voice in the classroom.” Please do not be shy to say these things to children other than your own. The children are depending on all of you to maintain the environment they have come to expect.
- Conversation with other parents should be done quietly and in a way that is respectful of the children’s right to focus on their work.
- If your child has not had a lesson on a material, please ask the teacher for a lesson before diving in. Your child will generally know to do this.
- Avoid the temptation to overhelp your child. A lot of materials take time and patience and hard work, and your children are accustomed to taking that time. Wait until your child asks for help before offering. Unnecessary help = hindrance.
- If you would like to bring an outside material into the classroom, such as a snack or book, please run it by the teacher before Friday. She will be able to tell you if it’s OK to do so, and how to use it in the context of the prepared environment.
- Snacks should be eaten at the snack table, and you may join your child at the snack table if you wish. You may choose to eat a snack with them or accompany them without eating. We will have extra snacks prepared on parent days.
- In the first few months of parent days, your child will want to spend time with you. After that, your child may sometimes express a need for independence. If so, please feel free to read from the school library, take observation notes, or do parent work. When doing so, avoid congregating in large groups. Groups of parents together will create an energy that will distract children from their work.
- We make observation notebooks available to all parents. We encourage you to take a few notes each parent day. Notes may include what materials your child worked with, their level of attention, their energy level, what they enjoyed and what they struggled with. These journals will be a rich resource to you, and help fine-tune your capacity to observe your child.
- Avoid initiating group activities in the classroom. If there is a book that you’d like to read to the group or song that you’d like to sing to the group, please run it by Katelyn before Friday, and we can see if we can incorporate it into circle time.
- Children have the right to politely decline an invitation, and the right not to share. If a child asks to work with your child, your child may say “No thank you” or “I’d like to work on this by myself right now.” This can be uncomfortable for adults who are used to encouraging their child to share. However, sharing is only genuine when it comes from an authentic place. (Imagine being focused in a middle of writing an important email and having your partner come up and say that they want to work on the computer with you. You would likely, rightfully, decline the invitation at that moment.)
- While we instinctively tend to praise our children, praise can have the effect of lessening their own intrinsic motivation to do things. Instead of saying “great job” or “that’s beautiful”, to the extent that you feel the need to praise, focus on acknowledging the process rather than praising the product. You may use language like: “I see you worked very hard on this.” or “I could see that you were frustrated by you stayed focused and got it done.” You may also acknowledge how a child must be feeling: “You must feel so proud of yourself” (which better maintains a child’s independence than “I’m so proud of you.”) When you do talk about the outcome, it’s best to talk about the natural consequences of the outcome “I can see that you cleaned the table, it will be very nice for others to work on it.” But in general, feel free not to say anything at all. Imagine if your boss kept saying “good job” to everything you did at work.
- Every child will have their ups and downs in the classroom. This is OK. If you are struggling with how to address something that arises with your child, please feel free to ask the teacher. Parent education is a big reason for these Fridays.
And finally, if you have a question on how to address anything that arises in the classroom, always feel free to ask the teacher. That’s what we’re here for.