Practical Life

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No one can be free unless he is independent. Therefore, the first active manifestation of the child’s individual liberty must be so guided that through the activity he may arrive at independence. * Dr. Maria Montessori

Comment on the above quote and explain how the Montessori practical life exercises help the child to become independent.

“No one can be free unless he is independent. Therefore, the first active manifestations of the child’s individual liberty must be so guided that through this activity he may arrive at independence.” (The Montessori Method, Chapter 5, Pg. 118) Montessori learning environments are prepared to allow children to be socially and intellectually independent. Montessori learning materials are designed to capture children’s interest and attention and to encourage independent use. When children work with the Montessori materials, they refine their perception and their movements, especially manual dexterity, all by themselves. They are also preparing themselves for learning educational knowledge. “The ‘Practical Life’ helps the child to develop himself by teaching him to perform independent daily tasks that develop his thought, will, and action.” ( Montessori emphasised the exercises of Practical Life as the first lessons that the young child is introduced to in a Montessori environment. This is because they can immediately begin to satisfy the young child’s inner and hitherto frustrated desire for skills and self-sufficiency. All children want to be independent. As adults, we become used to of doing everything for them. It is hard to let go of control. But, we need to feed that desire for independence. Children learn important life skills as they manipulate materials in Practical Life. Even more important is the confidence that the child gains when he achieves a new goal. "Help me to do it by myself." (Montessori and Early Childhood: A Guide for Students, Chapter 1, Pg, 15) The practical life activities are often the first area of interest for the new-comer to a Montessori classroom because of their familiarity, relative simplicity and self-contained nature. However, as children become more competent, the skills acquired in this area will be used daily in supporting the organisation and maintenance of the classroom. The activities take on social importance and give children opportunities to contribute to the well-being of the group, and in the process boost their self-esteem and reflect their responsibilities within the group. The practical life activities often act as the ‘secure-base’ for children, who may be worried or anxious; their simplicity will offer security and predictability as well as opportunities to be successful at achieving the chosen tasks. “Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow and work to create the adult, the person that is to be.” (The Montessori Way, Chapter 2, Pg. 61) Practical life exercises are those simple activities performed daily by adults in their environments to restore and maintain proper conditions. The adults’ purpose for doing those daily tasks is purely conservative and utilitarian. The child carries out these same exercises because the child is attracted to them and they are constructive and developmental for the young child. When the child carries out these exercises, he is wholly immersed in the exercises and his mind is totally engaged. These practical life activities are easily understood from start to finish. They have a simple, clear, and concrete purpose. They have visible movements. Even at an early age; the child is capable of performing them. They give direction to the child’s movements. The young child can intelligently understand the activity. The exercises are an attractive invitation to the child’s will. He is able to carry out the movements necessary to perform the activity according to his understanding of the “will purpose” of the...
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