Having been very gently introduced to and inspired by the Montessori philosophy of child development by Meg of Sew Liberated, I dove into researching it before and after River was born.
My local library here in CT has a wealth of primary sources (books written by the founder, Maria Montessori) and teacher-oriented books on the method, and internet is a wealth of illuminating illustrations and real-life examples. I found a combination approach of library and internet research to be vital in exploring this philosophy because it has a lengthy set of carefully thought through principles behind everything it does. The exegesis of these principles just doesn’t show up on the Montessori blogs and websites that I’ve found (and I’ve combed through more than thirty), so the books gave me a much needed foundation for applying these principles.
One particularly odd principle that I came across in the books was the emphasis on teaching a child to do a task by modeling it PERFECTLY. This means that if you’re going to teach your child to, say, scrub a table top with a sponge, you practice doing this activity yourself until you can do it fluidly, perfectly, and clearly. Then, you model it for your little one.
There is even a book that contains lengthy instructions on how to model each “life skills task”–sweeping the floor (even describing your hand placement on the broom, etc).
Naturally, being the brilliant educator that I am, I blew off this principle when I showed River how to clean her outdoor table with a sponge.
She happily dunked her sponge in a basin of water, pulled it out, squeezed the excess water out with both hands, scrubbed diligently at the table, and periodically rinsed the sponge.
I was thrilled. Until I thought about transferring this activity to an indoor table. And I realized that she was squeezing the water out of the sponge AFTER she’d pulled the sponge out of and about a foot away from the basin of water. This wasn’t an issue when we were playing outside….
But I realized to my horror that her current method meant that every time she rinsed the sponge, my floor would get doused with at least 3 oz of water if we moved this activity indoors.
“No worries,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just playfully show her how to squeeze the water out OVER the basin, so that it splashes in. She’ll change her method in no time.”
Well, those of you who interact with toddlers on a regular basis are probably already chuckling at my delusional optimism.
River was NOT thrilled with my proposed change, no matter how fun I tried to make it, and she became even more emphatic about doing it her ORIGINAL way. I left her to her cleaning and am now pondering reintroducing the activity in a week, when she’ll hopefully have forgotten her original method and will be more open to the new and improved method.
But I get it now. TEACH IT CORRECTLY THE FIRST TIME! It’s not just a perfectionistic goal–it’s a practical, time-saving, labor-reducing (in the long run) concept.