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Friday, January 20, 2012

EPL - the innovation of Montessori

EPL -Exercises of Practical life - of a Montessori House of children ( also called as pre-school) is the best example of the benefits of education, when activities in a school are 'embedded' in the daily life of a child. 

EPL are daily activities of a child which include three distinct nature of activities: a> taking care of environment (such as brooming, gardening, washing) b> taking care of one self (such as fastening buttons of a shirt, pouring water in the glass, tying shoe lace, washing one's hands, walking on a straight line, carrying objects of different sizes) and c> social behaviour (like greeting, how to interrupt others, how to yawn, cough or sneeze, how to offer water/tea to others). Because EPL activities are embedded in a culture in which the child lives, EPL activities vary according to the location of the school. EPL activities in Netherland Montessori pre-school will be different than in Indian or a British school.

Many parents ask me 'why EPL is important for a child of 3 year of age'. One line answer to that question is that the direct aim of the EPL exercises is to help the child acquire 'independence' in true sense. Unless a child learns to 'pour water without spilling', how can he be confident of 'giving water to his parents'? Until the child manages to walk on the line, she keeps on 'bumping' against objects in the house. However, despite knowing the importance of these activities to the 'psyche' of a child, no educational method has taken the effort to 'help' the child to 'master' the coordination of his movements.  

Montessori method is the only method where every activity of EPL ( 100-150 activities are roughly available in a Montessori pre-school) has been analysed in details so that every moment of an activity ( such as pouring water) is 'shown' to the child, who can therefore 'repeat' it in the same sequence. When 'coordination of movements' is not helped, the child performs an activity and keeps on repeating it without success. When we see such a child, we wrongly call such a child 'hyperactive'! If the child is unable to 'master his coordination' for a long period of time, it may also lead the child into fantasy or day-dreaming or unreal imagination, a deviation.

Although the direct aim of EPL is to help the child become 'independent', it is the indirect aim that is more important in the development of child. When the child can successfully execute his desire(the Will)of 'pouring water in the glass' by coordinating his movements and intelligence, he is integrating his personality ( Will, movement of muscle, and intelligence) with every 'attempt'. For better understanding of this integration, read this.

EPL exercises are therefore not simple muscular gymnastics like a game. A game is just an adhoc activity, that if designed properly may help the child coordinate his movement and intelligence at the most. But the game for less than 5 year is rarely designed to help the child integrate his  'Will'. You will therefore observe, that a child rarely engages in a game for more than 2/3 days. No sooner she has played it, she loses interest in the game. When Dr Montessori tried to introduce 'toys' to the child in her school, she discovered that the children rarely touched those toys. 

If you observe a child of less than 5 year old in a public place like Airport, Railway train or bus, who eats without spilling anything, or who uses 'tissue paper' to clean his hands, and who seems 'composed and graceful', please ask his parents the name of the school he is in? In 2 out of 3 cases, you will find that the child has been in a Montessori pre-school. You have to remember that in pre-school education ( some even say that in secondary and primary education), development is more important than learning

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