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December 10, 2018

Celebrating Advent with Children - How we Use an Advent Spiral

With Advent here, our family is focusing our attention as much as possible on preparing for Christmas. For us, this means preparing for Christmas in the religious sense. Maria Montessori recognized the great connection that children had to God and their great capacity for a religious life. Even from a very young age (our formal religious instruction begins at 3), children have an immense capacity to know and understand God. 

"The child must be permitted to penetrate into his supernatural life in his own peculiar manner. Even in the presence of God the child must remain a child...Respect for the child's nature, which God himself demands of us, compels us to search most carefully for those conditions in which children can abandon themselves most easily to God." Maria Montessori, The Child in the Church 

But, as Maria said, children are still children. So we must find a way to reach them in religious instruction in their own specific way. And, for us, this includes making the celebration as rich, real, and concrete as possible. 

Using an Advent spiral with children in our Montessori home

This Advent, here at home, this has meant introducing an Advent spiral. This Advent spiral is a piece of wood (it can also be DIYed!) with a hole for each day in December. The hole can contain a candle or other decoration. We have decided to mark ours with 4 candles (one for each Sunday in Advent) and one daily candle that moves. 

At the end of our spiral is our traditional Advent wreath, where the children have made beeswax candles to mark each week (we used this kit to make them.) Along the path are a few decorations. I hope to add Joseph in a future year, but this was an investment, so it will wait. 

Instead of using the spiral to create a tight circle, we have used it to create a path, one which Mary walks throughout the month of December. Each day, she moves one space along with the daily candle. This ritual is not only a great way to mark the time that is passing as we move closer to Christmas, it's a great reminder that we too are on a journey this Advent season. It's a path for all of us, and this is a great way to have that conversation with our children. 

Each day we read one page from this book to help us with our preparation. I like this book because it gives a manageable amount of reading from the bible (a short quote) for all ages. Then, depending on my children's mood we can read more about our work. Each day includes something to think about, something to pray, and something to do. So far, everything has been reasonable for a busy family and for small children. 


"Principles for Religious Teaching: 1. It is necessary to have a special environment in which the religious life can develop - remembering that the child is a human being with the dignity of a human being. 2. This religious life develops by means of activity. 3. We must remember that the inner creative force in the child is much stronger than we usually think. 4. The teacher must endeavor to arrange things so that the child passes all his time in a religious activity. 5. Going from difficulty to difficulty and overcoming them. Each difficulty is presented in isolation through a manipulative material." Maria Montessori, The Child in the Church 

I think this work here at home, this work complements the work that my children do in their Atriums (Montessori religious education space.) And, it's been really engaging and a beautiful way to mark each day this short Advent season. I'm so happy we've made this a new way to mark our Advent season here in our home, and I can't wait to see how it evolves as my children get older. 

How do you mark Advent with your children? Have you used an Advent spiral? 

Using an Advent spiral with children in our Montessori home


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