For years, the Montessori method has been one of the most interactive and social-based curriculums for kids. As a favored method for early childhood development, is it still possible to continue this engagement with students through distance learning? And where do you draw the line between too much screen time and just enough?
In episode six, we spoke with Maria Chaffin, an educator with over 20 years of experience in teaching and learning the Montessori Methods as well as owner of Challenging Children and Montessori. She highlighted how parents were coming to her early in the pandemic with a cry for help since little ones were stuck at home all day while parents were working from home. Maria decided to give Montessori Distance Learning a trial.
Maria speaks on her experience in seeing kids adapting well with this new method and noting that every child's case is different depending on the routines implemented and enforced by the parents. Kids succeed with consistent habits, as well as needing expectations and goals to reach. During COVID-19, Maria suggests letting children know what is happening and why this new routine is being applied. Kids need to see this as an opportunity to learn in new ways.
Maria was diagnosed with ADHD later in life and saw it as a strength to build instruction and work with parents with ADHD. Maria recalls, "after so many years, I now see it as a strength as it allows me to focus in ways that no one else can or even to have the ability to take on four or five tasks at a time." She highlights how distance learning might also result in showing us that our kids work better in an environment where they feel ownership. Much like adults, some children work well under pressure (the teacher, schedule, classroom) while others don't. Several kids will enjoy going at their own pace when intaking daily lessons, resulting in better concentration and engagement levels.
Part of making the distance learning journey successful is training and educating parents on how they're participation at desired levels can be of great value. In the same way, educators have weekly check-ins with their students; parents need the same accountability and guidance of teachers.
In Maria's expertise, she says it's good to find the silver lining through it all as COVID-19 might have opened up the idea that kids can continue to learn through virtual classrooms post-COVID-19. Technology is showing the world how vital it can be in the education space, as has parents exploring the idea of making online school a permanent option in their household. Maria says, "of course, this is not for everyone, but the reality is that there are kids that might find this a much better way of learning for them."
Maria states navigating the Montessori Method while distance learning has been tricky in finding the right balance of including technology. Montessori is very involved, hands-on, and collaborative with kids. The philosophy behind Maria's lessons is to nurture life skills and social skills at a young age. Incorporating simple activities with household items has been one of Maria's favorite ways of engaging with her students. Her success has come from having planned activities that meet the needs of each family. Having a tight-knit parent community in your school can allow for flexibility in your child's lessons. A great example of that is Maria reaching out to her parents and asking to take a tour of their home virtually to understand better the space the child is working at while also designating a daily area based on their activity. The importance of distance learning is to make the child feel at ease while also not putting the teaching responsibility on parents. If each individual nurtures their role as a parent, student, and teacher -- distance learning can bring a lot of value in a child's education.
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