Raising a Bilingual Montessori Child
Raising a child in a Montessori environment is becoming increasingly popular for many families. For parents raising a bilingual child, the Montessori approach can be quite complimentary. With many Montessori schools now offering a Bilingual Education, there are more opportunities for children to be brought up bilingually the Montessori way.
What is Montessori?
The Montessori Method of education was developed by Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s. The main goal of raising a Montessori child is to foster independence, responsibility, self discipline, and a love of learning. Dr Montessori’s philosophy is based on respect for the child and their individualised needs. She believed that children learn best by actively participating in real life activities.
The Crucial Period for Raising Bilingual Montessori Children
Maria Montessori believed that the initial six years of a child’s life are crucial for a child’s development. That from birth a child must receive appropriate stimulation. This has also widely agreed by many specialists in language development. A child has the best chance of becoming bilingual by learning a second language as early as possible. Therefore if you want to raise a bilingual child the Montessori way, the best way to achieve this, is by following Montessori principals from birth.
How can you Raise a Bilingual Child using Montessori principals?
“Free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes” Maria Montessori
Follow your child: It is important to give your children choices, letting them choose activities according to their interests within reason.
Bilingual children should be provided with activities in both languages they are learning. There should be a range of different books and activities they can choose from. This way, depending on who they are playing with, there will always be something they can choose to do.
“Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence” Maria Montessori
Give children Independence: Whether it is getting dressed, eating a meal, or completing an activity, Montessori kids are motivated to work independently from the very beginning. Parents are encouraged to let children do things for themselves. Before jumping in, let them tackle their activities alone and see how far they get, helping only when they ask.
“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” Maria Montessori
Activate their own desire to learn: Don’t we all want to raise a child who wants to learn? The Montessori goals promote just this. By providing stimulating activities and conversation, and encouraging your child, they are more likely to be interested in the learning process.
For parents of bilingual children, it is easy to overstep boundaries if your child is mixing their languages, or refusing to speak back in the minority language. The important thing however, is to provide activities they are interested in, and they are more likely to join in. Avoid pushing them to participate in activities that they do not enjoy, instead let them guide them to things they like to do.
“It is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may always be ready to supply the desired help but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience” Maria Montessori
Observe: Watch and observe your child, but make sure to let them do the work. When working on an activity, demonstrate how to do it first, but then let them work alone to complete the activity.
“Everything you say to your child is absorbed, catalogued and remembered” Maria Montessori
Communicate: Communication is an important element in any child’s education, and how you talk with your child is even more important. For a bilingual child who is learning more than one language simultaneously, communication often need’s special attention. Speak with your child and not just to your child. Conversation is a powerful tool in language development. Instead of giving demands, give choices within reason. Remember, children learn by example. How you speak with your child, is how you will most likely see them speaking with others.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences” Maria Montessori
Prepare the Environment: A tidy, well presented, prepared environment ensures that your child will always have the stimuli around them in order to utilise their creativity. The environment should be safe and provide children with freedom to explore independently.
Children should be provided with a variety of toys and activities that encourage them to concentrate and use their imagination. Rather than plastic noisy toys that children will lose their attention on, provide hands on activities, and toys that require building, stacking, sorting, and manipulating.
Most toys can be used in any language, however as your child starts get older and learns to read to write, they will need separate activities in both of the languages they are learning to reach their full potential.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” Maria Montessori
Help only when needed: If your child is trying, let them continue independently. There is no need to intervene unless they ask for your help. It may be an activity they are trying to complete or a picture they are drawing. It could be a book they are reading, or a story they writing. If your child believes they can succeed, let them continue without your help.
If your bilingual child is having trouble remembering vocabulary or struggling to read a word, let them think about it for a little longer. Let them try to work it out on their own, without jumping in and tell them the word right away.
A Bilingual Montessori Education
Many of these Montessori principles can be followed in the home. However sending your child to a Bilingual Montessori Nursery or School will provide consistency. Montessori Teachers are qualified, and have the experience to individualise the learning process for your child.
A bilingual approach works well within the Montessori environment due to the fact that the schools provide Montessori materials in both languages. There are usually two teachers, one speaking each language, following the OPOL method. Children learn the languages living day to day life in the classroom, before moving onto reading and writing. They learn simultaneously in both languages, establishing a solid foundation of bilingualism.
Are you interested in learning more about raising your bilingual children in a Montessori environment?
Here are some useful websites with information and materials:
Multilingual Montessori Discussion Group – A group for parents Raising Multilingual Montessori Kids. By joining the group you will gain access to free Montessori materials in many different languages.
Montessori Nature – Created by an Early Childhood Montessori teacher, this website offers lots of Montessori Materials and Homeschool materials with many ideas and activities for hands on learning.
Uno Zwei Tutu – A Montessori inspired blog with many fantastic arts and craft ideas for parents with Multilingual children.
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