Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why Practical Life?

When we first began our atrium, I was skeptical about Montessori's Practical Life Exercises.  Don't get me wrong - I could see their value in a Montessori setting but I wasn't convinced that we needed them in the atrium.  We began with just a few basic activities, but I quickly discovered the spiritual dimensions of practical life, and now we can't get enough of it!  In fact, I first became interested in blogs as a way of hearing from some of the wonderful Montessorians on the web who write about their practical life exercises.  Setting up practical life, and changing it to meet the needs of the children as their skills develop over the year requires a good deal of observation and creativity, and I have come to enjoy it as much as the kids!

We have practical life activities in all of our atria, but by far the most can be found in the Good Shepherd Atrium (for 3-6 year olds).  Over the years, I have observed a strong connection between handwork and spirituality.  Pouring beans from one pitcher to another, moving water with an eye dropper, arranging flowers in a vase -- one only needs to observe a young child engaged in these activities to recognize the deep concentration, peacefulness and contentment that they can elicit.  Concentration, peace, and contentment are key attributes of prayer and meditation, and practical life builds up these attributes in the children better than anything else. As the child's capacity for concentration and joy in the presence of God grows, so does his or her ability to listen to presentations and mediate on the aspects of the Bible and the liturgy of the Church that we are offering in the atrium.

In these first weeks, practical life will get quite a work out in our atria - and we catechists couldn't be happier!

Click here for another post on practical life with pictures of some of the work on our shelves!


  1. Great post, Leslie! I always found that practical life activities were popular and essential in every setting of my experience – Montessori school, homeschool, and atrium. Here’s a link to a post of mine with a photo of the practical life shelf when I had an atrium in an Episcopal church.

    I LOVE your blog! What a lovely addition to the blogosphere!

  2. I had the chance to enter the level one this weekend by chance and I was blown away (even though I have seen it before) by 8 children who were thoughtfully, peacefully and gracefully engaged in their practical life experiences.

    It was the first day of Atrium since last year and the degree of seriousness and engagement was a site to behold. I walked around the atrium in awe of these young people each engaging in their own work and I felt joyful and proud of our program!

  3. Great post Leslie. It really seems like you have found your niche. I do love the way you utilize pictures. your even getting me interested in this Atrium stuff!

  4. Hi Leslie, This post is inspiring! I have started doing some practical life exercises in our Godly Play services as well, even though Godly Play does not usually include this aspect. I wasn't aware that Catechesis of the GS uses it as well. I have also questioned whether they should be there, because they don't seem to directly relate to spirituality. Nice to know that I am on the right track. : )

  5. Hi Leslie, Just wanted to let you know that I linked to this wonderful post in my latest blog entry!

  6. I saw it Sheila! Thanks so much for the link! Great post!


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