Thoughts on Montessori All Day

By Ginni Sackett

AMI trainers are having spirited discussions about this topic and I feel that everyone should feel encouraged to explore and experiment as to what ‘Montessori All Day’ can be in a culture such as ours in the 21st century. An important thing to always keep in mind – when thinking of program design or communicating about this (with parents, for example) – is that this is not a change or new design; this is returning to the original design of classic Montessori; the compartmentalized day of ‘before school’, ‘after care’, and ‘extended day’ was in fact a compromise (particularly driven here in the US) and a detour from the original model, as is a narrow definition of ‘work periods’ as something that happens only indoors in the specific prepared environment; as well as arbitrary time limits for work periods. Many factors have contributed to promoting a rather artificial division of the day. I know those models evolved from the best of intentions, but as always when we focus on quantitative indicators, qualitative outcomes can be sacrificed.
So the first thing I invite all of you to contemplate is to see the entire day as a ‘work period’ – if by work period we mean something like this:

  • a mixed age environment
  • organized according to Montessori principles
  • with adult guidance
  • which functions according to free choice of meaningful activities matched to the children’s developmental needs and interests
  • and which supports normalizing conditions and optimal child development  

Developmental needs and interests do not turn off and on according to time of day; they motivate children continually throughout the day (and even when they are not in a Montessori environment!). Therefore we do not arbitrarily turn support for that development on and off either. Every activity of life can be seen as ‘work’ if it is organized in an environment as listed above – indoors (that’s the one we’re good at); outdoors (either on a schedule or – even better – with free-choice access throughout the day); lunch (preparation – serving – consuming – clean-up); rest (this too can have a prepared environment or can happen right in the child’s casa). Similarly, presentations can be given at any time of day – even, say, 4:30pm!
So we already have the answers to how to have Montessori all-day: same principles and same adult roles as we already apply indoors. That probably sounds cavalier, but in my mind it’s the only place to start to offer children an integrated, coherent experience. If you read accounts from the early days, you find many indicators of this. Margot Waltuch's video from NAMTA ‘Reminiscences from a Montessori Life’ has lots of images for this (France 1930s); Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s book ‘A Montessori Mother' also describes this (Rome 1911). Those are some places I would start for calming inspiration.

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Ginni Sackett is Director of Primary Training at MNW. She is passionate about advancing the international Montessori movement and bringing the benefits of Montessori education to children worldwide. Don't let her sweet smile fool you, Ginni is a third-degree black belt in the Indonesian martial art of Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen.

Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources.