We must learn to walk before we learn to run. And, we must learn to fly before we can soar with eagles! Little ones, as young as 18 months, must master a basic skill before they are able to learn more complex things. That is the heart of Practical Life, which begins in Early Primary classrooms, or communities, as they are known at our school.
Practical Life, as the name suggests, sets the stage to introduce, teach, and learn basic, practical skills. In the beginning, Practical Life consists of preliminary exercises, the things children need to know how to do before they transition to Early Primary at age two and a half. As the children grow in age and experience, the Practical Life exercises become increasingly more difficult. Many of the exercises are centered on transferring objects from one place to another. Even at the Early Primary age, between 18 and 24 months, youngsters can learn to clean by wiping a table or chair. In doing so, such an exercise or activity helps the child gain control of his movements while becoming more independent and adapting to the social setting and structure of his classroom. Those exercises are important to develop hand dexterity as a child prepares to learn to write.
Practical Life uses the social setting of the classroom to assist students with acquiring skills for their interactions with others. Some of the exercises develop concentration, thinking in an orderly way, starting and finishing a task, or returning the materials to the right place in the classroom. The children may not readily identify their activities as learning but they are preparing for the next step in their education journey. Another way in which children learn is by mirroring, or mimicking, what a teacher or even another child does. That type of learning continues through the first years of Practical Life, and into the Primary and Elementary years. As the Practical Life activities increase in difficulty, the stage is set for learning to write or do other activities, all of which build a better learning experience.
Practical Life is just one of the ways in which the FMS helps children to be as big as they are intended to be!