As parents there is a chance you have heard of Montessori schooling. But what is it really? Should we know more about it? I am biased, but yes, it is definitely something that is worth a peek. I have been a Montessori guide (teacher) for 10 years, but before I stepped foot in a Montessori classroom I could only tell you that a woman named Maria created ‘it’ and that beautiful materials were involved — and I was previously trained in early childhood education!
I can tell you I was partially correct, but like most parents, there was a lot that I didn’t know. I fell in love the moment I entered a Montessori schooling environment and soon after became a Montessori trained teacher (Guide) and even obtained my Master’s of Education in Montessori (I really went for it and I realize this is not likely to be the path for most of you!). During my training, we were tasked to create an elevator pitch for Montessori. We all struggled with this because it there is so much to mention and the detail that could be given is immense. What I finally came up with was this:
Montessori is a tried and true scientific method of education that enables the child to find in themselves a sense of order, concentration, coordination and independence while thriving in an environment curated just for them; developing a desire to learn.
Yes, I left out the part about the beautiful materials. While in a school setting those materials are crucial along with so many more details that are kept in the complex mind of a Montessori Guide. But the essence of Montessori schooling can be shared outside of the classroom and in your own home with all children.
That mouthy elevator pitch that I came up with years ago does describe Montessori, but does it help you as a parent? I would guess not. This seems to be the problem that comes up time and again. There are a lot of misunderstandings about Montessori. A few being that you need expensive materials, it takes up a ton of time, and you just let your child do whatever they want. When in reality: those materials? They just need to be real, beautiful and intriguing. Your time? It can be whatever you can spare. Your child doing whatever they want? When in a prepared space that is meant for them, they can!
Still not sure? This is where I hope to help! Can I turn around your home routine in one Duluth Mom article? Not a chance! But over time, I hope to answer questions, share ideas and help change your mindset about what it means to raise young children.
Holding the utmost respect for your young child is, in my opinion, the largest piece of the puzzle that is Montessori.
Allowing the child to make choices, space to express their feelings and communicating respectfully with them will be essential. This takes adjusting! We as adults move at such a spectacular pace — we have had our whole lives to get life figured out, and how figured out do we really have it?
Acknowledging the amazing growth your child has done in the beginning years of their life is important to remember and know they are just trying to find their way in this world. Every day is a new experience, and if not a brand new experience, it is part of a continued experiment. Allowing our children to continue their experiments is crucial as difficult as it can be sometimes.
As adults, we might be thinking that the ‘will my shirt get wet and cold if spill water’ experiment for the 124th time is unnecessary, but for the child it might be that 124th time that they can close the experiment up. Maybe this time Mom intervenes, taking the cup away right before the child pours it. Hmm, I wonder if she will do that the next time? One outlier or changed variable can cause the experiment to stay open.
Consistency is key when exposing young children to Montessori schooling. Giving the child space to explore, trusting they are capable humans and communicating respectfully will create a strong foundation not only for your child, but your growing relationship with your child. In this situation, once the water is spilled I would calmly say, “Oh, some water was spilled. Looks like it needs to be cleaned up.” This is said in a matter of fact tone and it will give language to what happened with no blame with a hint for what needs to happen next. When your reaction is calm, respectful and consistent, your child feels comfortable and confident. This is the basis for independence.
Montessori might still feel like something you can’t achieve, but I can promise you that there are aspects that you can add to your life with young children that will bring much joy and happiness to both of your lives. Please leave a comment below if you have specific questions or topics that I can share from a Montessori perspective.