Montessori however believed in preparing her children for adult life and so designed activities modelled on real household tasks. Children in her care would be allowed to help prepare food, wash and tidy up, sweep floors and assimilate a wide variety of household chores. Like Froebel, tying ribbons, buttoning laces and threading materials would also take place. These she called her practical life activities and developed them to promote social skills, independence, self-discipline, concentration and motor skills.
Again from personal experience within an early years setting, it could be suggested that aspects of today’s environment are also modelled on the theories of Maria Montessori.
When practicing in the early years environment children can be seen at there most potential when using their imagination. The most common area for this to take place is within the home corner, which is so called because it is designed to represent a house. Today’s home corners will have a place for a tea and cutlery set, pots, pans, food, oven, sink, iron and ironing board, and clothes for dressing up.
Within this space, children are allowed to role play as grown ups and simulate making tea, washing up and cooking food much like Montessori’s theory on practical life activities. Bayley, R. (2002) acknowledges that today’s early years environments still symbolize ideas embedded in the past by Maria Montessori. The former teacher states that practitioners will ensure that materials are available and easily accessible by having a place for everything and everything in its place (p26) Areas are logically situated and sectioned and displays are kept at a reasonable height so as children can observe their own work.
As well as this, Bayley believes that like Montessori’s notion of the acquirement of autonomy children should be allowed to participate in the preparation and handling of drinks and snacks and getting involved in setting up the learning environment with the practitioner. The practitioner’s role within the early years environment has always been paramount. However, throughout history, psychologists and theorists have always disputed about how much the practitioner should physically be involved with the children. This is an area in which both Montessori and Froebel held similar ideas.
Throughout Friedrich Froebel’s observations of childhood, the philosopher came to believe that the practitioner’s role within the Kindergarten was to plan and observe the child in their play. By monitoring the child closely the practitioner could intervene in the child’s play when it was deemed necessary. However, the activity was left to the child to lead whenever possible. Because of Montessori’s whole concept of self-education, she considered the child to be her teacher in an environment where practising teachers received the term director or directress.
Like Froebel, the practitioner’s role was to observe, record, intervene when necessary and plan. It could be said that both theories have stood the test of time and are still witnessed today. When carrying out activities within a structured environment, practitioners encourage children to solve problems for themselves. Aiding children with open questions the practitioner will encourage the child to query what is accepted and work out answers for themselves. Of course children will not always come to the right answer first time however according to Bayley (2000) it is when we make mistakes that the greatest learning happens.
It is also believed that children who learn to function independently have many advantages over those who do not. (Ibid) However, children do need interaction, as well as observation so as to motivate and encourage them in a testing situation. The foundation stage document follows the historical principles of observing and assessing children so as to identify stages of development and knowing when it is time to intervene and when to hold back. (QCA 200) Once a child has been observed and assessed.
Practitioners can then plan the right type of education depending on the child’s diverse needs. Again this relates to Froebel and Montessori’s theory of planning and record keeping and gives the practitioner an insight into what the child knows and can do. More importantly it can help identify children who may have special educational needs. However, the practitioner was not the only influential adult in the child’s education. Both Froebel and Montessori regarded the child’s parents as playing an equally important role in the development of the child.
Froebel saw the child’s family as being the most important first educator in their life. He viewed the child’s relationship with the parents to be as important to the child’s development as was his socialisation and interaction with his peers and teacher. He also believed that the context of life was the love and respect that both parent and child share with one another, therefore through a loving, purposeful relationship, foundations for learning could be laid in the family during the early years.
Maria Montessori on the other hand viewed any adult, including the parents, to be a threat to the child’s freedom, as she believed that their presence would hinder the child’s independence. She maintained that within the household, because of the different psychological states between the two, it would be almost impossible for parent and child to live together unless necessary adjustments were made. (Carter, B. B, 1936) According to the philosopher, the child’s home would need to be large with multiple rooms set out like a school environment.
(Montessori, 1964, pp 9-10) Instructive apparatus like the ones used within the classroom, and designated areas where children could be left free to move would have to be in place. Within his home the child could then continue to be educated with or without the need for his parents and so extending his independence out of the school environment and into the world around him. The idea of parent school partnerships is a more modern concept of parental involvement but could almost certainly be traced back to the ideas formed by both Froebel and Montessori.
The high scope curriculum that was talked about earlier highlights the importance of a developing partnership between the school and parents. Professionals teaching the curriculum maintain that this partnership needs to be established if parents are to significantly influence their child’s education. Schools practicing the high scope method welcome all parents and focus on sharing control of their children’s education by listening and learning from parents and using themes such as coffee mornings and PSP meetings to form relationships and show interest in the parent as well as the child.
Similar to Froebel’s theory, the parent of today is still seen as the first and most enduring educator (QCA 2002) and schools aim to become part of their local community. Parents are urged to develop their own education as well as their children’s so they will be more able to help their children and not shy away from awkward questions about numeracy or literacy. Portage groups can also be set up to encourage parents to work at home with their child. Henry (1996) claims that children see love and affection as an attachment.
This he believes is a basic need to every child, that only the mother can give. The author states that as schools work on rote and have many children to teach, they cannot give children the type of secure attachment they need to be emotionally stable. Therefore by working along side the school, parents are giving children a psychologically steady, and secure education. To conclude it can be suggested that from the evidence brought forward in this essay, the four main areas of a good early years education originated from theories that were set in the past.
These theories were developed because of the different views that each philosopher had about childhood and education. Since the progress and practice of Froebel and Montessori’s ideas, many more theories have developed and it is important that many more continue to do so as Learning and development in humans is so complex that no single theory can adequately account for all the interrelated processes involved. (Wood & Attfield, 1996)