When my daughter first started in Casa and came home talking about polishing silver, I have to admit that I had a few hesitations. ‘How outdated is this curriculum? Is this really how she is spending her morning at school?’ It wasn’t until I started training as a Montessori teacher that I really understood the true value of many of the practical life activities, proficiencies that reach far beyond the ability to help polish the silverware before Grandma’s annual visit for the holidays.
There is no doubt that silver polishing was a more readily required skill 100 years ago when Dr. Montessori first designed the preschool curriculum. While I thought it was great the kids were learning useful skills like washing tables and taking care of plants, I wondered why they didn’t just remove the whole antiquated polishing practice and replace it with a more up to date skill; online banking perhaps?
It turns out that Dr. Montessori had hidden intentions when creating many parts of the curriculum, especially in the practical life department. Children love working on concrete skills; they savor the opportunity to complete a ‘real’ job independently. Polishing activities also reinforce the importance of showing respect for your things; not just throwing something out when it gets a little old (perhaps an increasingly important lesson in our disposable culture!).
However, more then this, Montessori recognized that in each task there is a chance to capitalize on academic skills as well. These underlying components of each lesson are referred to as the ‘indirect aims’. Within the polishing work, ancillary goals include working on fine motor skills and strengthening the pincer grip, which are necessary for the many pencil tasks ahead in their schooling career. Students are also taught to remember and follow multiple steps in the process, a prerequisite for future math work. If that wasn’t enough, to trump all of these reasons, there is also the inner-satisfaction the child feels when they complete a piece of work independently, increasing their ability to concentrate and boosting their self-confidence.
So the next time you feel concerned that your child is spending so much time on practical life skills you can relax; the hidden aims they are completing are setting them up for success in future academic work. Needless to say the Casa classes at Dearcroft now have a supply of my previously tarnished silver, and I am happy that it is actually being used and appreciated somewhere!