Despite being over 100 years old, the Montessori Method seems to be gaining in popularity. It’s no wonder, though – Montessori has a lot to offer! While I wouldn’t say I’m a strict Montessori mom, there are definitely pieces of the Montessori philosophies that I have incorporated into our lives, even when my children were babies.
What is the Montessori method?
The Montessori method was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. Italy’s first female doctor, Dr. Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini as a way to provide education to low-income children in Rome. Instead of using traditional teaching methods though, Dr. Montessori decided to test her own educational theories in the classroom. These eventually developed into the child,-centered educational theories we now most commonly know as the Montessori Method.
Isn’t Montessori only for rich people?
When I first looked at potentially sending my children to a Montessori preschool in our area, the tuition floored me. I had heard that Montessori was expensive, but yikes…
Deciding I neither wanted to sell my kidneys nor commit wire fraud, I felt the next best thing was to start to incorporate Montessori at home.
It was when I was researching Montessori that I learned about Maria Montessori, developing her teaching methods in some of the poorest districts in Italy. It’s interesting that while modern Montessori schools tend to be pricey, the roots of this teaching style are the exact opposite of elitist.
Incorporating Montessori at Home
In the interest of being thrifty, the idea of going out and buying a bunch of furniture/toys/supplies that was supposedly “Montessori” didn’t sit well with me. This is where the Montessori(ISH) comes into play as I began to incorporate Montessori without going all in.
Keeping Things Accessible
With Montessori, I loved the idea of children being independent and free to learn/explore at their own pace. So even as babies, I let my children guide the way (while keeping them safe, of course!)
By following their lead, they were able to learn in a way that kept them excited and curious. In Montessori, this is called having a “prepared environment.”
What is a Montessori Prepared Environment?
A prepared environment is Dr. Montessori’s idea that a child’s surroundings can be designed to allow for maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.
The 6 main elements include:
- Structure and order
- Nature and reality
- Social environment
- Intellectual environment
Basically it’s the idea that you create space for your child that is meaningfully structured. Everything within their space should have a purpose and nothing should be such that it’s overwhelming to the child.
Do Montessori children play pretend?
Research shows that children under the age of six have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. This is why it’s so easy for children to believe in the idea of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc.
As such, Montessori encourages play to be rooted in reality. Think actually baking cookies rather than “playing restaurant”.
Personally, while I appreciate the concept, this is again where I don’t necessarily go all in when it comes to Montessori.
Here’s a great example of why I think one can pull from Montessori without necessarily being strict with it.
My kids have always been very into playing baby dolls, which is technically discouraged by Montessori, but never by me.
My daughter is now in first grade, and still very much plays with her baby dolls. But now, every day after school and for a lot of the time on the weekends, she plays school with her dolls. She teaches them exactly what it is. She learned in school that week. From her hundreds chart and other mathematical facts to grace and courtesy and being kind to one another.
She is unknowingly reinforcing that which she is learning. Completely on her own…well unless you count the dolls. 😉
It’s a great example of how Montessori and traditional schooling can overlap in a beautiful way.
Discipline in Montessori
I was very blessed in that my children ended up at a preschool that – like me – is Montessori(ISH).
And one of the first concepts that was instilled at this preschool is the idea of positive reinforcement and conscious discipline.
As someone who was raised by a yeller, I knew that was never the kind of mom I wanted to be.
So while I was very cognizant of the tone and words I would use with my children, the Montessori(ish) preschool that my kids went to helped further develop that skill set.
When it comes to discipline within the Montessori method, it’s true in that punishment isn’t a part of the experience. There are no timeouts or groundings. Instead, it is on the parents or other adults in the child’s life to model ideal behavior and gently guide the children back on track should they stray with misbehavior.
Leading by Example
I’ve always found it interesting that many adults seem to hold their children to a higher standard than they hold themselves. It’s this idea of the adults demanding respect, despite not showing it themselves… Which is probably a whole ‘nother blog post in and of itself.
But how can we expect children to self-regulate with their emotions if we do not model how to do such? If we are constantly yelling, why would the children not then do the same? If we name call, gossip, degrade ourselves or others… Children will of course mirror those behaviors.
In that same vein, though, when we lead with kindness, children will follow suit.
And that’s a big part of the Montessori method that I’ve always found to be the most attractive – It’s on the adults to model ideal behavior to children and to use kind, respectful words to show children how to take care of themselves, their possessions, and the world around them.
No matter the age of your child, it’s worth looking into Montessori and pulling from it that which you might find useful in how your parenting. Because keep in mind – Montessori is a collection of theories and principles, it’s not a list of hard and fast rules that you must follow in order to “be the best.”
When it comes down to it, Montessori is about following your child’s lead. Even if you enroll your children in traditional schooling, as I did mine, there’s much to be said about how Montessori can support their education outside of school.
I’m absolutely going to take a minute to brag on my own children, in that they are two of the brightest, most incredible kids. They love to learn. Their reading levels far surpass those of their peers. They are brilliantly creative in ways that blow my mind each and every single day. I fully expect them to have a better grasp on mathematical concepts than I do in the next year or two… Hehe though to be fair, I was in English major, math has never been my strong suit.
You can be Montessori(ish) and still reap so many of the benefits that come with following the Montessori Method. Believe me when I say that doing so will not only benefit your children, but your family as a whole.
Above all else – have fun with it!