Friday, 1 July 2011

Abstraction and Practical life for the 6-9 year old

If you surf around the web for information concerning Montessori for the 3-6 year olds you will be drowned into information. There are so many excellent blogs, informational sites, flickr albums (...) to show, teach and inspire us through the Montessori educational philosophy.
But once passed this first cycle, the amount of information is greatly reduced. Elementary cycles are might not be as popular, or maybe just not as available: Montessori really pushed her researches on the 3-6 crowd, she did work with the 6-12 age span but for some reason it is not as widely available as the earlier cycle, and if you look for information on the next step, which is 12+ you won't find much. She didn't have the time to explore these parts of childhood as she wished, and so only left a few guidelines for people to follow.

So the best place to learn about the 6-9 (and 9-12) age cycle, is through her very own words. I thus read these 2 books: From childhood to adolescence, and the advanced Montessori method, which covers the elementary cycle.

AS my son is approching his 6th birthday, I am starting to see many of the transitions she states, and I am trying to just keep on following my child. So, part of my current re-organization, I try to keep in mind an important fact that happens at this age: the beginning of abstraction.

Abstraction is the possibility to imagine something that you can't see, the capacity to truly understand the difference between real and not real, to plan ahead in your head, to visualize, to invent, because you can imagine it, even if you don't see it.

For the 3-6 age span, Montessori stated that work should be presented to a child with all the components being all together in a tray, basket or other mean of presentation. This is because the child is not able to think ahead to what is needed to perform a specific activity; thus the beautiful classroom filled with well thoughts activities, carefully organized allowing the child to see them, which is necessary to spark the interest to that particular task.

But this changes as the child crosses the 6 yo mark, as I am experiencing myself with X.
He is starting to ask me for things he will need to complete a task:

"hey mom, I want to clean the table, but I want to put paper on the table after, so I need a towel to dry it off and I can't find any."

After that sentence, (and after collecting myself off the floor), I knew that I needed to update our environment to suit my (clearly) growing child. He has shown me that he is now starting to be able visualize a simple task before it has started it, analyzing what material he needs to accomplish it. (or get what he wants, here, not to wet his paper)
Granted, this is only the start of it, but this is something that I do not see with my Dd. She would put her piece of paper on a wet table to realize after that it is wet.

Since washing and cleaning is a daily part of our life, this is the area that I decided to tackle first:

Welcome to "under my sink"

THis is the place where all the cleaning material reside. As you can see, with the exception of the polishing tray on the bottom right, there are not trays that are all ready to go. There is indeed the caddy, but that holds brushing material and sponges (that were in use while taking this picture) . All the material are laid out so that it is easy to see and take what is necessary to perform a cleaning task: Polishing cloths, cleaning cloths made of old prefold diapers, and window washing cloths. Under is the bowl for dishes with the material needed inside it (for the benefit of M, who enjoys dishes more then X). ON the right you can have a glimpse at cleaning products. These are the one that the children can use. They are identified so they know which one to take.

A picture of our polishing cloths for Kylie (if you haven't checked her blog, go right ahead!!It is absolutely worth it) They are made of fleece and are 10x10 cm.

The wooden tray seen on the right hand side of the photo (on it's side):

can be taken to assemble a cleaning tray, and I have 2 caddies on order from Montessori services to add to this. One of them will remain free, so that X can use it when he needs it, and will be able to choose what he puts in there according to his purpose. (the other one will be assembled for practical life activity for my 2 youngest)

The polishing tray

is also there for the benefit of my DD, which is 4 yo.

and yes, my 11 month old too I guess...


  1. Your cloths are picture perfect! I was wondering what you polished thinking it might be brass or sliver. We have only ever polished timber/furniture and shoes but am on the look out for other ideas. I really like the idea for older children having a tray spare for them to select their own items for use.

  2. I found a little bit of information on the older age groups and Montessori applications here: under the Learn tab. And here: and here: I was looking into something regarding teenagers a couple months ago and found those resources helpful. Gives me so much to look forward to. Kind of off topic but I think you would enjoy this blog. It's another Montessori mother. She has 2 boys and is homeschooling. Her blog is fabulous: Have you see it?

  3. Thanks Charissa for those links!
    The Micheal Olaf ones are my fav up to now. I have been reading their blog and site for so long, and have both their joyful child and children of the world book - they are amazing. I've always found answers to questions I have been having over there.

    Thanks for the other link you provided! I love to check out new things!

    We started polishing silver, because it was easy to know where you are at. Since silver becomes white with the polish, you know where to polish to make it silvery again.
    But after (so now) the thing we polish the most are the wooden toys we have. From our farm (that is just like yours if I am recalling it properly) to Ostheimer figures, to trains, and the bowls we use for snacks, these things needs polishing, and I like the progression: The long and even surfaces of the barn to the crannies of the wooden figures and the inside parts of the train. PLus it really shows the kids to take care of their play toys, and encourage caring for all things.
    Mirrors is also something done frequently. The one that gets polished to most frequently is E's. SInce he plays in it and point and touch, it gets all dirty, and so we clean it off regularly. Again, I like the fact that they do something for a younger then themselves. When they polish handheld mirrors, then I get out the qtips and other smaller material to really polish around the side. This is more of a fine motor skill activity.
    We did a session of polishing yesterday, I'll post about it later this week.

  4. Have you seen this? Open source albums for 6-9 Montessori lessons.

  5. Charissa
    Yes, I have read those. But there are another set even better out there. Let me know if you are interested in them!