A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving I suggested to my family that we skip the pumpkin pie this year and make something different for dessert. Our pear tree was heavily laden and I couldn’t resist the temptation to bake a pear crumble. Well, the idea was met with groans and disappointed faces. Apparently, I was told, it is a family tradition to bake pumpkin pie and it just wouldn’t be the same without it!
It is a common practice for families to pass down rituals from generation to generation. Some are based in religion; others are treasured cultural customs.
We take part in rituals to express who we are and to bind us together as human beings: What foods we eat to celebrate special occasions; what bedtime routine we choose to quiet our mind from the day; what music we listen to for inspiration.
Studies show that the regularity and predictability of family routines, and the degree to which a routine has symbolic meaning, have a direct impact upon a child’s academic success. In the Montessori learning environment, order and routine is at the very foundation of the program. The intention is to strike a balance between the child’s need for structure and the child’s need for order. To achieve this, the structure of the school day is kept simple, but there is precise organization at the individual level of tasks and routines.
For example: In a Montessori classroom, the three-hour uninterrupted work period allows children to choose their own activities. This structure provides the open-ended time frame children often need for focus and concentration to occur. On the other hand, within those three hours, the individual work children choose is very ordered. Each activity has a precise sequence of steps required to complete the task. This sequencing and repetition become a ritual in itself, and when practiced over and over, forges a deep connection with the concept and skills being taught.
Lunchtime in the Montessori classroom is also a place for routine and rituals, just as mealtime rituals are important in the family home. Table setting provides opportunities for children to layout placemats, silverware, napkins, and a vase of flowers. The ambiance of the formal setting invites grace and courtesy. Children and adults can engage in conversation and share stories as they dine. Together, we create rituals and a comforting environment to learn within.