Practical Life Rationale

Learning What Practical Life is all About

Practical Life

The October blog post of the 2021-2022 school year explores a Montessori concept called normalization. Normalization may seem like a mysterious term. For clarification, you can find the October blog post on the IMS website.


This December, let’s explore practical life, another intriguing Montessori term. Read on to learn about practical life and its relation to the planes of development theorized by Maria Montessori. You will also learn about practical life activities incorporated at each IMS level and how families can integrate practical life at home.

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What is Practical Life?

Practical life is a unique area of emphasis in the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy. In this area, students engage in activities that promote self-care, independence, connection, and the education of the hand. The activities explored at each IMS level correspond to the students’ developmental planes theorized by Montessori. Practical life exercises take place across the IMS campus, using real-life objects and enabling students to independently and communally explore practical tasks.
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Planes of Development

Montessori theorized that development occurs in planes categorized by age ranges. In the first range, birth–age 6, a child's absorbent mind is highly active as they learn from watching and manipulating their environment. Therefore, physical independence (e.g., care of oneself and one's environment) is a characteristic interest. In the second plane, ages 6–12, students become interested in social and environmental connections, so abstract cosmic education ensues. While children in the second plane want to think independently, adolescents in the third plane want to socialize independently. Students older than age 12 are in the third plane, characterized by an interest in deepening connections beyond their family, friends, and school community. Across campus, IMS teachers and staff guide students in these three planes of development.

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Practical Life at IMS

At each level, the preparedness and challenges of the IMS learning environments are developmental. These levels are the Children’s School (first plane), lower and upper elementary (second plane), and middle school (third plane). All classrooms are intentionally prepared so that practical life works and activities meet students' unique needs and development.


Children's School

According to Montessori, children learn by using their bodies to discover their environments. Therefore, IMS preschoolers and kindergarteners are supported in engaging with real-life objects through motor movements and sensorial experiences. However simple they may seem, classroom activities like walking in a straight line and carrying objects of progressive weights enable students to strengthen skills that carry over into a multitude of daily activities.


Elementary and Middle School

Students in the second and third planes of development are naturally interested in learning more about each other and the world around them. As such, cosmic education – which imparts the view of interconnectedness among all humanity and the environment – is woven throughout lessons, including the practical life area. IMS elementary and middle school teachers plan activities and projects that utilize executive functions, practical skills, and holistic experiences. In turn, the students progress to organizing their own projects like field trips and service learning outings. These activities are rooted in the students’ natural interests while also providing practical opportunities they may continue to explore as adults.


Across campus, activities range from washing dishes and self-grooming, caring for plants and animals, and spooning and pouring works; to hands-on explorations of interests and independently organizing class projects or activities; to participating in internal and external service learning.
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Extending Practical Life to Home Life

How can families guide the development of practical life skills?


Children's School

Home-based practical life activities like folding clothing strengthen motor skills while imparting the ability to categorize textures and colors. Also, at-home activities can integrate higher learning related to following complex routines such as grooming and dressing oneself or preparing a meal and cleaning up afterward. Furthermore, sweeping the floor or raking leaving can strengthen children’s motor skills needed long-term, holistically.


Elementary and Middle School

To incorporate practical life at home, families can keep the interests of their children in mind. For example, children and adolescents interested in artistic endeavors may enjoy woodworking or weaving. Families can extend academic interests, too. For example, astronomy can be further explored by creating a sundial for one's yard or a shared space. Furthermore, families may want to go camping or visit local attractions that inspire further exploration. These opportunities can lead to discoveries of careers, stewardship, and mentoring.


In providing children and adolescents with practical life activities, families help support intrinsic interests and longitudinal development.

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Conclusion

Practical life activities are purposeful in not only the educational setting but also in off-campus environments. The Montessori approach guides the application of practical life activities that are developmentally aligned and challenging. Whether at school, home or in the external community, students benefit from using real-life objects that guide the development of motor skills and from taking part in activities that dually provide independence and connection to the outside world.
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2021-2022: Year of Roots

Each school year, Island Montessori School (IMS) focuses on a school-wide theme. This year, IMS is reflecting upon our roots: our school mission and Montessori practices. You can join us by visiting the school website and reading the head of school's newsletter and instructional coordinator's academic blog.

Island Montessori School

The mission of Island Montessori Charter School is to enable children of diverse backgrounds to learn and grow at their own pace by offering a developmentally appropriate and challenging academic Montessori environment that models grace and courtesy and fosters a peaceful community of lifelong learners.