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“A child’s parents are not his makers but his guardians. They must protect him and have a deep concern for him like one who assumes some sacred trust.”

Maria Montessori

Parents often wonder about their role in providing a learning environment in the home and ways to support their child’s education. Dr. Montessori viewed the child as a member of a family, not as an isolated individual, and one whose most formative life experiences take place within their family. Current research has determined that essential relationships in the first years of children’s lives have the greatest influence on their emotional development and, as a result, on their later success. Consistent, sensitive care provides the critical foundation for development of empathy, persistence, self-motivation, and the ability to cope with stress and strong feelings that have been found to greatly determine success in adolescent and adult life. Early experiences have a dramatic and unique impact on children’s psychological and neurological development. In addition, children learn to initiate and maintain relationships through aggressive or cooperative behaviors from their early family interactions. Ways of relating to people and expectations of how people will relate back, both positive and negative, are developed during early life. They greatly determine responses children elicit and underlie children's future relationships. The patterns become increasingly difficult to change over time.

We may know these things, but sometimes we don’t really know how to apply them. These suggestions come from the American Montessori Society:

• Provide organization and consistency. Self-control, responsible behavior, and freedom are outcomes, not starting points.

• Prepare areas and equipment that are child sized.

• Provide appropriate responsibilities and choices.

• Provide real experiences. Nothing man-made compares to the complexity and interest of nature. Plastic doesn’t compare to the real tools parents use.

• Encourage your child to be capable and confident. Empower your child to do it herself.

• Protect your child from media and ideas that are not age appropriate.

• Encourage your child to be an active agent of his own education. Watch for interest and build learning around that.

• Limit toys and games to a workable number.

• Make sure your family’s schedule allows thinking time.