How to Use Montessori Principles for Summer Learning
One great thing about using Montessori principles is that there’s no set school year – education and learning can continue even in the summer! In fact, I’d argue that summer is a perfect time to embrace Montessori, as your child is able to get outside to explore and enjoy nature.
The summertime presents learning opportunities in many new and exciting ways. Unlike “traditional” schooling, following a child-led learning framework allows for a year round education.
Instead of letting “summer learning loss” happen, continue with the Montessori principles and philosophy, and watch as your child flourishes.
To maintain a Montessori mindset during the warm months of relaxation, vacations, and adventures, there are a few things parents can do. First and foremost, uphold some sort of structure. As with any aspect of Montessori learning, structure and a prepared environment is important.
Freedom within Limits
Whether you’re going on a summer vacation or simply planning out your weekdays, uphold the expectations you’ve laid out. While as adults we’re fully aware that summertime doesn’t mean a break from our day-to-day responsibilities, it’s important our children realize this as well.
While on vacation, for example, continue to include your child in the necessary daily chores. Give them a chance to show off those Practical Life skills they’ve been developing!
Let them know of the age-appropriate tasks they can help with, such as:
- Sweeping the floor
- Sorting laundry
- Scrubbing down counters/tables
- Setting the table
- Helping with food prep
Not only does upholding expectations and structure allow your child to continue to thrive within those Montessori principles, but it reaffirms how important they are.
Follow the Lead of your Child
Summer also offers the perfect setting for your child to lead the way. Learning with their emotions, senses, and creative thinking is so fun to do during the summer month! The warm weather is the perfect setting for them to spend their time in an outdoor classroom setting.
If the idea of having an outdoor classroom intrigues but overwhelms you, remember – keep it simple!
Dr. Maria Montessori was a strong advocate of bringing nature into daily learning, and believed that “there must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony, and the beauty in nature.”
So to that end, your outdoor classroom is not a separate entity from the classroom or learning spaces within your home. Rather, it’s an extension of your structured indoor environment.
As such, just like your indoor learning environment, observe the child and again – follow their lead!
Are they asking endless questions about the plants popping up along the sidewalk? Then growing a summer garden should be on your radar.
Do they love to sit and watch the bugs crawling along the back deck? Make note to provide additional materials to help them learn more about what’s intriguing them.
Have they begun collecting rocks during family hikes? Perhaps it’s time to dive deeper into a Montessori Geography curriculum.
Focus on Life Skills Learning
With Montessori learning, it’s imperative that we focus on the child as a whole. While math and science are important, being engaged and active in the world around them is vital, too.
One of the biggest blessings as a parent is remembering how many seemingly mundane tasks we take for granted. What seems ordinary to us is a world of wonder and excitement for a child. Every day routines – meal prep, washing dishes, getting dressed – while potentially daunting to a child at first, is also exciting and empowering to master.
Keep these practical life activities in mind as you move forward with your summer learning opportunities.
Give them an opportunity for some simple gardening, like filling pots with soil and planting seeds.
Let them rake, pull weeds, and practice their pouring skills with a watering can.
Spend as much time outdoors as possible
Sensorial development is another key focus that’s especially easy during the summer months.
Being able to be outside presents endless opportunity to engage all five sense!
Children can explore different textures, from the rough bark of a tree to the smoothness of a leaf. They can listen to and learn to identify sounds, like different birds, the buzzing of insects, and even planes roaring by.
Chalk is of course often a family favorite, so why not draw shapes with different colors. In nature, the opportunity to explore color theories is endless. You can even use your color tiles to compare the colors of the flowers, grass, butterflies, and more.
Have fun with math senses
Even math can be incorporated into summer learning fun! One idea you might try (that can be tweaked to be age-appropriate) is to write out numbers with chalk. Not only can a child then re-trace or copy these numbers should they wish, but you can have a fun scavenger hunt adventure. Encourage them to find groupings of certain objects – pinecones, rocks, acorns, etc. – that match each number.
Give them time to be creative
In general, the summer, of course, often means parents rushing to find activities to keep kids busy. From swim lessons and dance recitals to day camps and playdates, too often the summertime ends up far from relaxing for anyone.
Instead, make it a priority to give your child the freedom to be their most creative selves.
Rather than rushing them to start their day, give them the time to choose what activities they might want to focus on. You’ll find that often they do just jump right in and start with independent play or reading, which is an excellent way for them to be engaged and active without any extra planning on your part.
If they’re struggling with ideas, this is where you can offer advice - but not until then. Their minds will pull them towards activities that interest them, just give them the time to do so.
Age-Appropriate Summer Planning
With each summer that passes, you’ll find your child better able to understand nature and the world around them.
As toddlers, you may simply take them on daily walks around the block, letting them observe nature.
Then as they grow, you’ll find they’re all the more apt to be more engaged and active in their outdoor learning spaces. From filling birdfeeders to watering the garden, they’ll be inspired by all that is to be found in nature.
Even as they head into elementary ages, summer Montessori learning abounds as they learn to classify plants and study the various parts of a flower. They may take to sketching the butterflies that flit about or find inspiration to build their own rain gauge or water barrel.
As you can see, the summer months are a perfect time for your child to continue with many of the Montessori principles they use throughout the school year.
When you have a plan for summer learning, you’ll find freedom and flexibility flows just as naturally as it does during the traditional school year. Beyond that, the summer months allow a deeper connection to the outdoors that will further nurture a love of learning and exploration all year long.