Practical Life for Older Children and Teens

When people think about Montessori schools, some of the most prominent materials that come to mind are the beautiful practical life opportunities in our primary environments. There are small wooden trays with pouring and transferring works. There are whole lessons dedicated to the arrangement of flowers. The children prepare their own snacks and wash their own dishes. They use special frames that teach them to tie, buckle, and snap.

Those practical life materials at the primary level are so important. They are also very visible, because they take on the form of a standard material on a shelf, so it can sometimes appear that practical life is a part of our education for children up to age six, but not after.

What happens when children reach the elementary years and beyond?

The work of practical life does not stop, nor does it become any less important. It does, however, take on different forms and blend into the rest of the program somewhat. The following skills are critical steps toward becoming an independent adult; we ensure to present them when the child is ready. Is learning to tie one’s shoes any more or less important than learning to balance a budget? Of course not. Both are necessary but are best presented at different times in our lives.

The following are just a sample of some of the practical life skills taught to our older students. Often embedded into the curriculum, they still help kids reach independence milestones.

Time Management

No one is born knowing how to manage their time. First, it takes a good sense of time as well as the ability to set goals and follow directions. Once a person has those basic skills mastered, they can gather tools to help them meet their goals within a set time.

In our elementary classrooms, this often begins with a work plan. Work plans can take on many forms, but at its most basic, the plan sets forth a list of tasks that are to be completed over the course of the day or week. Students have some choice in regards to the order they will complete the tasks and how they will go about doing so, but the expectation is set.

Do children take their work plans and successfully complete them all the time? Absolutely not, but that’s where the time management learning comes in. Let’s assume a child is getting their language work done each day all week, but on Friday it becomes obvious that they have not done much in the way of math. This happens - frequently - and our guides make sure to work with students (rather than dictate to them) to find ways t