Monday, October 28, 2013

Montessori: Setting up for Success

In a Montessori classroom, the goal is always to make the child feel challenged but not discouraged. We want to set them up for success. That isn't always easy, but generally, progressing from simple-to-complex works. Rather than diving into button sewing with a three-year-old, I'd probably show them simple weaving with yarn and burlap first. But, if the child is particularly dexterous, going straight to a button could work. It's always a process of gauging the best lesson to give, giving it and then observing to see if it was too simple, too complex, or just right. The perfect lesson is challenging enough to be genuinely satisfying to accomplish, without getting disheartened along the way and giving up.

So, when it comes to Coco and her emerging skills, I try to apply the same philosophy. Right now her favorite thing is her scooter. That thing is such a genius design, it's the perfect example of setting up for success. Note that the scooter has two wheels in the front. It can still tip over, but in the beginning, she was able to focus more on the motion and feel of scooting than on simply staying upright. It also has a ring instead of a t-bar at this stage. We have the t-bar in the cellar to put on when she's taller and more coordinated, but for now the ring is very forgiving if she oversteers, whereas the t-bar would be more sensitive to steering movements, taking her straight down in the process. Coco has gotten so good at her scooter that she really flies on it now. But it was tough in the beginning. It was work for her and she would only keep at it for short stretches. Watching other children on scooters motivated her to get better and now she is so fast, I have to run to keep up! ;)
Another related concept I always follow with Coco is allowing her to do what she can do on her own - but not helping. Saturday, she really wanted to climb onto and sit on this street barrier next to the sidewalk. It's a pedestrian street the barriers block, but I think they're let down to allow delivery trucks to go in during the week. Because it was a safe situation, I let her go ahead. I stayed close enough to catch her if she were to fall, but I didn't help. I didn't even touch her; I was just there in case. She struggled quite a bit, but she eventually got it. She was so contented and proud of herself! 

This approach helps her to know her own limits, sends the message that we believe in her - and (bonus!) we're never stuck lifting her onto the slide and "sliding" her down over and over again. ;) I simply do not have the energy to helicopter about fussing over her when we visit the playground, so I'm particularly grateful for that last bit. 

What do you do to set your children up for success? I'm curious, is it a concept you had thought of?

PS - If you live in Switzerland, Coop Hello Family and Pampers are running a scooter promotion. It's an amazing deal!

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