The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.
~Maria Montessori. Secret of Childhood
Some time ago, we began using our Five Before Breakfast strategy to help our children start their days well. However, before the children’s habits were completely set, they flagged. In fact, by the first day of the academic year for public school kids in our area, I noticed that my own children needed some “schooling” in their habits again.
So, on the first day of public school here, I began our homeschooling day with a real-life writing activity that would act as a tool in our prepared environment: hand cut-outs to help us remember our Five Before Breakfast each day.
To make our hands, I helped each child trace their hands. Then, they cut these out. (Well, not Jack, because his scissors skills are not there yet. And, not Nina completely on her own, either, since I could not find our kids’ scissors an it was difficult for her to make some of the tight corners with our grown up ones.)
Then, we reviewed what their Five Before Breakfast tasks are and Luke and Nina did copywork to write reminder words down on each of the fingers of their hand cut-outs while I wrote on mine and Jack’s.
Then, we flipped the hands over and wrote, “I’m ready!”
Luke then decided to decorate the front of his hand cut-out with picture-cue drawings overlapped by lines to indicate veins and capillaries and to draw figures on the back of his cut out with speech balloons, too. (Ever the creative individual, our Luke!)
Hands made, I laid them out on the table an suggested a rehearsal time. Everyone got back into bed and we did a run through of waking up, attending to our tasks, coming to the table to check our hands to ensure we had completed all five of our morning tasks, going back to do whatever we had forgotten to do and, finally, announcing that we were ready to eat breakfast.
In the past few weeks, I have witnessed success with out our cut-out hands. The children are taking more ownership of their five morning tasks and, thus, the life skill of getting up and getting going in a productive, peaceful way is developing further.
One morning’s guided activity has allowed our children to act more independently. Our hand cut-outs have become part of our Montessori-inspired prepared environment in that they allow our children freedom to decide which of their five tasks to do in what order and when they will accomplish all five, while still setting a framework for order in our home and structure in their days.
What tools do you use to help your children set habits and maintain routines? How do you offer freedom while still providing order and structure?
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