Written by Danuta Wilson, Toddler Guide
“The first assistance we can give to the child is to serve as a model for self-control and order within our own lives.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
You may have heard the term “Grace and Courtesy” in reference to Montessori classrooms.
This is, in fact, something we work on every day in our classrooms, and remains a focus at every level of Montessori education. There are four principals that the Grace and Courtesy curriculum encompasses: treating the child with respect, teaching the child to respect herself, teaching the child to treat others with respect, and teaching the child to treat her environment with respect. What does this look like in our classrooms? We speak to the children with soft voices and with mutual respect. We give the children freedom to choose their work and decide where they want to work. Yet the guidelines and limits of the environment are understood by all. For example, a lesson should be put back where it came from before moving on to something new. Children are free to choose their work, but are not free to disturb the work of others. We call this “freedom with responsibility.”
There are specific Grace and Courtesy lessons that demonstrate how to respect and care for oneself, such as blowing one’s nose, washing hands, getting in and out of a chair, hanging up or putting on a jacket, making healthy food choices, etc. Lessons on respecting others include walking around a rug, ways to not interrupt, soft voices, inviting others to work, politely asking others to not touch their own work, table manners, etc. Lessons on respecting the environment include carrying and rolling up a rug, snack procedures and clean up, how to take materials off of shelves, washing a plant, washing a table or mirror, etc. We are working daily on cultivating a sense of gratitude and nurturing wonder.
There are many ways that you can support this curriculum in your homes. The main focus, of course, always being respect.
You can respect your child by letting her learn at her own pace. Respect your child by allowing him to follow his own interest; try to refrain from pushing him to succeed academically. Respect your child by taking time each day to give her your undivided attention. You can spend time teaching him how to play a board game, work on a puzzle together, read books, enjoy family dinners at the table, garden together, complete household chores together, etc.
Respect your child by giving him as many opportunities as possible to be independent at home. Take time to let her dress and undress herself. Give him the opportunity to put his own shoes on (as he does at school). Respect your child by limiting her time with electronic devices. Respect your child by providing him with multiple opportunities to “work” alone with hands-on activities. Respect your child by setting examples and setting limits. Lastly, respect your child by giving her time.
Remind yourself to be patient and wait. These are the greatest gifts you can give your child!
By working in partnership to bridge the gap between home and school, these lessons of Grace and Courtesy become lifelong values and skills.