The Montessori Method is an educational philosophy founded by Maria Montessori. It has since become a popular parenting style, though it was only ever intended for a classroom setting. Montessori is rooted in respecting children, providing them opportunities to be independent and offering choices where appropriate.
Maria Montessori believed planes of development (or sensitive periods for learning) were closely linked to, and were supported by, a child’s physical environment. She coined the phrase die Moebelkinder or (translated from German to English) “the furniture children” to describe children between the ages of birth to six years old; since they spend nearly all their time at home and in school.
In our family, Montessori is a way of life. Montessori-inspired parenting influences the way we talk to our children, the way we set up our home and the products we buy.
I'm a Montessori kid! I went to a Montessori school through sixth grade. I remember Grammar boxes, Fraction Insets and Test Tube Division the most! But I also remember Theme Fairs, class trips to near and far places... that we (the students!) prepped, planned and carried out. I remember eating a slice of pizza at the top of the Twin Towers, meeting senators at the Capitol building and hiking the rain forest in Puerto Rico... all with my Montessori classmates and teachers. I remember writing projects, and eagerly waiting for lessons and genuinely being excited to go to school every day. I loved my Montessori school.
In college, I began substitute teaching in a Montessori Toddler classroom. Right after I graduated, I became a Children's House Assistant teacher and after two years in the classroom, I started my Montessori Training. Then I went on to teach for nearly 10 more years as a Co-Head Children's House teacher.
This depends on your definition of being Montessori. It might mean reading a book about Maria Montessori. It might mean enrolling your children in a Montessori school. It might mean buying Montessori materials for your homeschool. It might mean offering different kinds of toys. Or it might mean a mindset switch to a more gentle parenting style.
Montessori is about respect, patience, independence and choices. Reflect on your past few interactions with your children and assess how they went. Are you on the same team? Do you tell your children what to do or do you model expected behavior and then trust they'll follow? Observe your children at home in your natural environment -- are they independent? Are there small changes you can make to help support their independence? Are you offering activities they like and enjoy and want to repeat? Start there.
Independence is encouraged, but not forced and like everyone, we're a family unit and need to work together to do what we need to do. There are days my children want to do everything themselves and there are days when they can't or don't want to. The object is not independence at all cost but within reason. If the day is hard or emotions are high or we just really need to be somewhere - I jump in.
Remember, anyone can call themselves a Montessori school. "Montessori" isn't trademarked. Things I would look for: Are the classrooms mixed-ages? Are the teachers Montessori trained? Are they using authentic Montessori materials? How is the environment -- clean, orderly, thoughtfully prepared? How long is their work cycle? Are things like freedom of choice, freedom of movement and independence encouraged and supported? What does discipline look like at the school?
And then not specific to Montessori, but equally important: How much outside time do children have? How often do teachers communicate with parents? What does a typical day look like? What sort of enrichment activities or specials do children participate in? Are there opportunities for parents to be involved by volunteering?
Only my own children! Currently, I'm not in the classroom and I don't have plans to return soon. I'm enjoying homeschooling my children.
You can read more about our day-to-day home life on my blog.