The Montessori curriculum includes Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Science, and Geography/Cultural Subjects. Practical Life is the area of the curriculum that helps children learn how to take care of themselves and their environment, and that includes activities such as table washing, hand washing, dish washing, etc. These activities teach good work habits, provide opportunities to practice hand eye coordination and muscle control, and help students learn how to concentrate on an activity and finish what they start. Practical Life is perhaps the most important part of the curriculum, as it lays the foundation for all that is to follow. It is difficult for a child to learn to read and write if they have not learned how to concentrate or if they do not have the fine motor skills necessary to grasp and manipulate a pencil.
Practical life activities are those lessons that help children learn how to care for themselves and their environment. It may be the most underestimated area of our curriculum, as Practical Life works help prepare children for the daily activities of life and gain skills necessary for every other academic area. Practical Life activities include three types of activities:
- Care of the environment – cleaning, sweeping, polishing, washing clothes, gardening, putting away materials.
- Care of the person – washing, dressing, cooking, setting the table.
- Grace and courtesy – walking carefully, carrying things, opening and closing a door, tucking in a chair when finishing work, rolling up a floor mat, offering food, saying “please” and “thank you” and so on.
Practical Life exercises are so critical because they are the foundation for all future learning in the classroom. They help the child to participate and take responsibility for himself and others. It gives him/her a feeling of comfort because he/she sees the same or similar materials from his/her own home environment. The materials are all real and can be handled by the child.
Children learn to read in conjunction with learning to write. They engage in various activities that help them develop the fine motor skills necessary to grasp a pencil with the appropriate grip, and they practice tracing outlines with a work called the Metal Insets. They also learn the shapes and phonetic sounds of the alphabet through working with our Sandpaper Letters, and they build words with the large Movable Alphabet. The language materials capitalize on a child's fascination with words and a child progresses from pronouncing words that he or she has formed to reading the words that someone else has formed and understanding the meaning of those words. Since Montessori lessons are given individually, a teacher is able to take advantage of each individual child's moment of readiness, when their own enthusiasm and interest will help them progress.