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Although we have both Toddler and Casa dei Bambini classes, let’s choose a girl of four years old in a Casa dei Bambini classroom.
Children are dropped off in the morning and come into the room independently. After putting her coat and other outdoor clothes away, she can choose to eat breakfast or go right to an activity in the classroom.
Perhaps there was an activity, such as an art project, that she was working on from yesterday. This may last a half an hour or it may take all day. Think about when you are at home and you get into a good book or engage in a favorite hobby. You may be involved for hours. The children have a similar in Montessori.
The teacher and the assistant are observing and noting that she was painting for half an hour and she was highly engaged. As Montessorians, copious amounts of notes are taken in order to provide the academic, physical, social, and emotional support that children need.
We are always looking to present new material at the point that the child needs it (not too hard, not to easy). Therefore, at this point the guide may notice that the child has finished and asks her if she would like a presentation on something new in language. After getting this new instruction, she may do it over and over until satisfied. When finished, she may be hungry and decide to have a snack.
On the Practical Life shelves, she finds the cucumber cutting work and takes it to a table. She goes to the refrigerator and takes out a cucumber. There are tools for washing and cutting a cucumber.
This process requires many steps. The other things we do in the classroom, like geometry or writing a story, will also require the child to be able to do many steps. This cucumber cutting activity helps the child develop an ability to do multi-step processes. It also develops the muscles in her fingers as she cuts and holds the cucumber.
After the cucumber work is finished, the child will take the dishes to the sink to be washed. By taking care of her own dishes, it gives her a feeling of independence.
Once the cucumber work is done, the child may go on to choose something else that interested her. Meanwhile, she is moving around the classroom freely, interacting with her schoolmates, and learning all the time.
By lunch, she is hungry and ready to help set the table and serve the food. While setting the table, she drops a ceramic serving dish and it breaks on the hard stone floor. The adults in the room do not get upset, but might comment how that dish was quite beautiful. Their words are directed at the broken dish and not at the child. The lesson to walk slowly and use two hands when carrying something important is learned without scolding or shaming the child.
After the meal, the class cleans up and goes outside for exercise and fresh air. The school is in such a beautiful area and we are happy to be so close to nature. The six-year olds might organize a game or try out snowshoes if it is winter. The adults show children early on how to organize games, ask friends to play, or join a game that is already going on. These skills are important in life or work.
After the time outside, they come back into the classroom and put on indoor shoes. She has learned to tie using the Montessori material called the Bow Frame and so she can tie her own shoes. A 3-year old boy has not learned yet and asks her for help. Because children can be anywhere from around 2 ½ to 6 years old in a Casa dei Bambini class, old children helping young children happens often.
Montessori afternoons vary between centers. In our particular center, children participate in various activities. The activities may include chess, cooking, sports, art, music, and Chinese language and culture. Each day, children can choose an activity and are also able to use the usual Montessori materials, as well. Our girl decides to join chess and plays a few games with a friend.