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I am a home schooling mom to three amazing kiddos.  We primarily use the Montessori pedagogy to guide our journey.  We also enjoy aspects of classical education and are part of Classical Conversations community. 

I write a Montessori column for Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

I am still a geek at heart and at times miss my former career as an Information Architect/SharePoint Specialist.  I don't have much free time but if I do, it is spent on comic books and video games.
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Two Simple Steps for Practical Life

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On our last post, we talked about why the practical life shelves in my classroom as so small.  



Shredding Sweet Potatoes for Sweet Potatoes Brownies


As I mentioned there, practical life activities are very important for a child.  While I like to incorporate a few isolated activities or works that the children don't get to practice much in the classroom, I love to give as many real-life practical life experiences outside of the classroom as possible.


One of the best parts of incorporating everyday practical life is that it's so simple and doesn't require a large, specialized purchases.  In fact, you can most likely get started today with a little creativity.  In fact, there are only two things you really need:  accessibility and time.

We live in an adult-sized world and while we think of so many of our daily tasks as too difficult for children, the reality is that often accessibility is the true obstacle.  Children cannot sweep with adult-sized brooms, wash dishes at a sink they cannot reach or cut vegetables with a large knife.  When looking at any task, you must think about it from the perspective of a child.  Does the child have properly sized equipment?  Can the child gain access to everything they need to complete the task?  Is the child able to work comfortably?  It's also important to approach accessibility from a readiness standpoint.  While I think most young children can be taught to safely use a sharp knife, dull, plastic knives are a wiser choice for a beginner.

Washing Mushrooms from the Learning Tower

Slicing Mushrooms with a slicer

The final aspect can be particularly challenging.  Using practical life around your home takes time... lots and lots of time.  It takes time for your child to observe and learn a task.  It takes time for them to practice it.  And even after practice, it generally takes far more time to complete a task than an adult.  Unfortunately, our go-go-go society doesn't support this aspect.  Giving my children the time they need to be successful has been a colossal adjustment in my mindset.  Chances are, you'll find a few internal struggles here as well.  Giving your child the time they need to get dressed and care for themselves may mean being late.  Everywhere.  You.  Go.   Help with laundry and dinner prep and easily double or triple the time the job takes.  But, if we are willing to let go, our children will gain an immense gift.  There's nothing like seeing my children delight in a job well done.... even when dinner is an hour late.

Not the fastest or cleanest cookies ever made in my kitchen but someone was certainly excited to be involved.


Sweeping isn't quite effective yet but he loves trying.  He'll get better with practice.


Taking turns stirring pancake batter.

In case you need a few ideas, here are a few things my children love to do at an early age:

  • Vacuum with a mini shop vac
  • Wipe down walls and baseboards with baby wipes
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Fold washcloths
  • Match socks
  • Scrub vegetables and fruit
  • Peel potatoes
  • Pour and stir anything
  • Wipe the table after meals
  • Cut soft foods with a plastic, disposable knife
  • Pour drinks
  • Serve themselves at dinner
  • Dress themselves
  • Use apple and egg slicers
  • Grate cheese (before our dairy allergy)
  • Squeeze juice
  • Spread butter, jelly, sunbutter, etc
  • Dust shelves
  • Feed/Water the cats
  • Plug cables into the computer (non-power, USB, etc)
  • Put stamps on envelopes
  • Water Plants
  • Wipe off filthy DVDs and CDs
  • Sweep with a mini broom
  • Dig holes for planting in the garden


Peeling potatoes

Scooping food onto his plate for dinner.

Squeezing lemons for lemonade.

And if you're curious as to what a full scope to practical life can look like (it varies per album) you can visit the AMI Primary Guide.


Now, if I can just teach someone to change diapers....



And just to see how relevant practical life become for our family at points, here are my children helping with a routine infusion for the little guy.  I've put the photos at the bottom just in case you'd like to skip it.

Preparing supplies after they washed up

Stretching the butterfly needle while daddy oversees

Opening the syringe and gauze

Helping push the factor.  Obviously, we stay in control for this step.

Putting away the supply cart.
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