This year, we have extended the Primary day to include eating lunch together. It has been wonderful to have the chance to share a meal together as part of our day. We've also enjoyed the chance to work for a complete uninterrupted three hour work cycle, just as Dr. Montessori suggested.
Each child has brought in their own napkin and napkin ring, and we provided place-cards, glass plates, cups and real silverware. You may be wondering why we offered breakable dishes to children who range in age from 2 1/2 to 5. Part of the reason comes from a level of trust that we have in the children. They tend to use the dishes with greater care and respect as a result. It adds an element of beauty to our lunches that we would not have if we used only plastic plates, cups and utensils (we love how environmentally friendly we are as well).
If something happens to break (and things do), we are able to help the children learn to clean it up without it becoming a big deal. Usually, other children quickly jump to the aid of the child who has broken a dish, and offer a broom, dustpan and brush to aid in the clean-up process. The same process happens if someone spills water or part of their lunch.
To set up lunch, most of my oldest children share in doing the jobs by doing a range of tasks, such as setting out the table cloths, placing cloth napkins with place-cards, silverware, glass cups and pitchers of water. The children also make our set-up more beautiful by adding flower arrangements made by the other children and special candles. During lunch, we enjoy listening to classical music and lately our favorites have included Mozart and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Eating together has offered a wonderful opportunity for practicing our Grace and Courtesy lessons. We offer these lessons to the child at a neutral time -- ideally prior to the actual need and in a short (three to five minute) small group lesson. Through Grace and Courtesy lessons, the child is learning different ways to interact with one another more peacefully and can apply this knowledge to situations outside of school. Some of our Grace and Courtesy lessons include learning how to pass by a tight space, asking for help, offering help, introducing oneself, walking up to someone to have a conversation (instead of talking across the room) and offering comfort to someone who is not feeling well. And some of our Grace and Courtesy lessons for lunch have begun with learning to place our napkins in our laps while we eat, waiting until everyone is ready before starting to eat and asking to be excused when finished.
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!