What work should my child be doing? How much? How often? How can I help?
These questions seem to crop up often among Elementary parents seeking the best way to support their child through Distance Learning. In this article, Ms. Tina, one of our Elementary Teachers, hopes to answer those questions while also giving you a gentle reminder: we’re supporting the whole child.
Right now, we have to work together to help nurture all of our children’s needs. Your children may already be at an advantage compared to children in more traditional settings. With their Montessori education, many of them are well-versed on how to self-direct and how to initiate their own activities. Children coming from traditional programs may be having a more difficult time right now because they don’t have their teacher with them all day to tell them exactly what to do and when to do it.
That said, it can still feel challenging to know what to look for at home. Here, we’ve created a series of answers, tips, and advice for families of Elementary children.
What work should my child be doing?
Let them have options. The important thing for the Elementary child is to have choice in their learning. In the classroom, we guide the children to complete tasks that cover all subject areas within the curriculum that are developmentally appropriate for each individual child. We do not normally force a child to complete work he is not interested in completing.
Encourage them to persevere. We do encourage them to persevere and finish once they decide to start a project. We adapt as necessary to help them complete their work, but we do not force them to begin an activity in which they have no interest. Instead, we keep providing options until interest is gained and we nurture that curiosity.
Find a balance between what’s easy and what’s a challenge. Your child gets to take part in being responsible for their education by judging what they are interested in learning and when they need refreshers. We can help guide them towards what is too easy and what is too difficult, but providing them with the choice is imperative. Their work should be an even balance between challenging and enjoyable, and they should strive to work on each subject area every other week or so.
How much work should they be completing?
There are no standard expectations for this. Please know that there is no set expectation as far as how much work your child should be completing before the end of the school year. Elementary is a six-year cycle, and repetition is a major factor of Montessori philosophy. Progress is not linear. Your child will continue to work on and build upon their skills as they develop throughout their elementary years.
Quality of work is much more important than quantity of work. I always tell the children in my class that I would rather see one piece of thoroughly completed work in their most beautiful cursive handwriting than five sloppy finished projects.
How often should my child be doing schoolwork?
One to two hours of schoolwork per day is plenty. This does not need to be done all in one sitting. It can be broken into several 15-20-minute sessions throughout the day depending on your child’s level of focus and concentration.
Daily life is a major part of Montessori work. The rest of your child’s time should be spent on caring for themselves, their family, and their environment. They should be spending quality time with you, playing (independently and with family), reading for pleasure, exercising (outside of possible), and helping around the house (cooking, cleaning, etc).
They can opt for more support if they need it. Some children may need a little more structure and one-on-one time with their teachers, and guides are happy to schedule that time as needed. Both group and individual meetings are embedded in our Elementary Distance Learning programs, but your child can take the initiative to ask for more meetings when they feel they need (or simply want!) it.
How can I support my child at this time?
Get creative with ways to learn together. We encourage students to work with friends and family as much as possible via Zoom, FaceTime, etc. Children and family members can make math problems for each other (equations as well as word problems), quiz each other on states and capitals, parts of a cell, fruit, flower, seed, etc… Possibilities are nearly endless.
Find a routine. Children thrive on routine and predictability, so once you find a schedule that works for your family, try to stick to it. This simple strategy can create a sense of normalcy even though everything else has changed.
Don’t force your child to do extra work. If your child chooses to do more schoolwork beyond our guidelines, that is wonderful! But please don’t force them. By imposing unrealistic expectations, children will either feel powerless or rebellious, and neither one of those is going to help any of us in the long run.
The Big Picture
Remember: there is much more to your child’s education than just academics. Their social, emotional, and psychological needs are also paramount to their development. Montessori referred to her pedagogy as education for the whole child. It is meant to prepare children in all developmental areas to be successful, confident, and kind citizens of the world.
The world did not just stop for CMS. Putting too much pressure on children academically because we are afraid they are going to get “behind” can be emotionally and psychologically damaging. Children and families all over the world are being affected by this pandemic. When schools reopen, all children will need support to “catch up” and get back to their regular routines.
What children need most right now is for us to share our calm, our strength, and our laughter. As the saying goes, “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint.” We are in this for the long-haul, so pace yourselves. We’re here to run with you.
Tina Lavi Condratov, Elementary Directress