Every task in our Montessori curriculum has specific, defined direct and indirect aims. An example would be the Practical Life exercises that have the direct aim of developing a sense of order, fine motor coordination, concentration, and independence. The indirect aims, just as important, include developing left-to-right directionality for reading in English and strengthening hand muscles to control a pencil. The lessons are always directed by those aims.
I saw a striking example of indirect and direct aims on our Kindergarten and Elementary field trip to the Gem and Mineral Show. The direct aim was for the children to experience real examples of rocks and rock cycles. This was an excellent review of concepts they had been studying during the fall. The indirect aim was also very powerful—lessons in handling money. Our children today have absolutely no concept of money. When they have to memorize the coins and their values at school, the students have seldom, if ever, seen or made purchases using money. Nickel, dime, and quarter is a foreign language! When you ask, “What is the change?” they have no idea.
On the field trip, the children brought $10 each that they could spend on rocks, crystals, shark teeth, etc. It was interesting to watch. The older students understood that when the $10 was spent, they could buy no more. The firsts, however, had no sense of waiting and making more careful decisions—the $10 seemed like a bottomless pit. When they had spent the $10, they expected that I could just give them more. With each purchase, I explained that if you pay with a bill of more value than the purchase, the clerk will owe you the extra money back. Not really understanding the value of coins and bills, the children had difficulty grasping the concept of change. One student began to make decisions based entirely on the expected change!
Parents, please give your children opportunities to make small purchases with money-not plastic. Also, give them opportunities to save for larger purchases. Handling actual money is concrete while charging on a card is far too abstract for younger children to grasp. You have probably known some teens and young adults who have not developed the ability to plan ahead instead of acting on the impulse of the moment. Start these concepts with concrete money as opposed to the abstract. Even in our mostly plastic world, there are lessons to be learned about the value of money, careful planning, and the value of saving.