by April & Jeff Powell (February, 2013)
Who hasn’t been there? It’s getting late, the house is out of order, the great plans you had for the day are history, you feel like you haven’t been half the parent you would like to be and there is still so much left to be done before you can get some much needed rest. We all experience a sense of chaos in our lives. With some planning and preparation, we can at least retain a sense of purpose. This will bring a greater sense of inner peace when the storm blows into our lives.
A key feature that contributes to the success of Montessori classrooms worldwide is the idea of a prepared environment. This is the secret to a peaceful space in the Montessori classroom even when it is full of tiny, growing, exploring versions of ourselves. So lets visualize how we can use this concept to contribute to “peace” in the home.
A “prepared environment” consists of two fundamental concepts: The psychological environment and the physical environment.
The Psychological Environment:
- Safety – we all want our homes to be a safe place. To achieve this psychologically, each person needs to be offered respect and dignity, even the little ones.
- Love – we want our children to feel loved, accepted and free to develop themselves. To have this they need to be given patience, allowed to make mistakes and allowed to struggle through appropriate challenges.
- Limits – children find security and trust in adults who set clear limits and consistently enforce those limits.
- Concentration – when our children are concentrating it is important we protect them from interruption even from us.
- Praise and judgement – as difficult as it may sound, a child’s psychological health is better preserved when we avoid overuse of praise, contrived rewards and punishments as these all carry with them judgement.
The Physical Environment:
- Order – young children depend on physical order to help them create mental order. Everything needs to have a “home” and be kept there consistently (you will need to model this over and over for the little ones). Older children understand the need for order on a social level. They need a clear understanding of the rules and why they are there.
- Beauty – children appreciate items that are real and beautiful. If we give them cheap plastic junk they will treat it like cheap plastic junk. If we give them things that are real and beautiful, they will learn to care for their things and appreciate the trust and respect we give them.
- Independence – placing items that allow the child to make a useful contribution to the household within the child’s reach will give them the freedom to appropriately use these materials. Keeping these items neatly displayed will make them even more attractive to the child.
- Simplicity – the age and capabilities of the child dictate what and how much should be offered at any given moment. Avoid superfluous objects, as they only serve to distract and frustrate the child. It is hard to purge the “gifts”, “toys” and “sentimental” items we collect so quickly and it is vital to the child’s sense of order. Clutter kills motivation and creativity.
We all know planning and preparation serve to create order and peace. However, we don’t always know where to start. Start somewhere. Pick one of the items above or, if you have been inspired to create your own, start there. Just pick one and go with it. Allow yourself the freedom to ignore the others for a while. Work with one and grow into it. The others will follow naturally.
Hopefully some of the perspectives in this article will serve your pursuit of a more peaceful and joyful home. The key will be to observe your children as they interact with their environment. Watching them and paying attention to their needs will serve as a guide in what to offer, what to remove and when to do this. A conscious choice is never a wrong choice.
A small shelf with a few activities displayed beautifully attract Maebel (7 months) to purposeful activity.
Maebel loves getting in and out of bed by herself. A low bed on the floor inspires her independence.
We paint and hang very simple and lovely things on Maebel’s walls so as not to overwhelm her.