In one of my MBA classes, we were discussing entrepreneurs who had founded amazing companies, and, naturally, the founders of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) were mentioned. As I began to do more research into the pair, I found a YouTube video hosted by Barbara Walters where they credited attendance to Montessori schools as the basis for their creative thinking.
As a mom to young children, this caught my attention. I had heard murmurs about Montessori schools, but knew nothing about them. As I began to look into the Montessori method, I found that the list of Montessori graduates was impressive. It included such diverse talents as Julia Child, Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, actress Dakota Fanning, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to name a few. I wanted to learn more about what Montessori meant.
I decided to begin by learning about Montessori principles so I could implement Montessori at home. I began by learning a little bit from Maria Montessori herself. To begin with a little background, Maria Montessori was an Italian Physician born in 1870, a highly unusual profession for a woman in that era. She specialized in pediatrics and psychology and later got a degree in philosophy. She advocated for the rights of children with intellectual disabilities and established a school based on her teaching philosophies in 1906. Maria was a phenomenal woman in many ways.
She wrote several books that have been translated to English. I’ve read two of them: Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook (which is available free for Kindle) and The Absorbent Mind (which is available for Kindle for less than $2.00). If you prefer audiobooks, you can listen to Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook as a free podcast. These books are a little dry, but well worth the read.
The very distilled version is that learning should be led by the child’s natural interests and curiosities. Toys and activities should be open-ended to allow for the use of imagination and growth, and practical life skills such as dressing, cleaning, and taking care of themselves, should be the focus for children under the age of three.
My children were 18 months old when I began to implement Montessori at home, so my focus was teaching them practical life skills, which mostly required me to offer them enough independence for them to learn things at their own pace. In other words, I had to get out of the way.
The first change that I implemented, was allowing open access to a limited number of toys and books. Prior to this, I kept all toys in a closet and only brought out a few at a time. (That was my personal solution for controlling the mess.) This new method allowed them more freedom of choice, but also required me to let go of control to some extent. I tried not to leave out so many things that they were overwhelmed, but enough that they were stimulated. Striking this balance took a little time.
I placed a shelf in my son’s room and made sure that each space was designated for a different toy so they could easily select what they wanted and also learn to put things back where they went. The toys I chose were simple in nature. If you look up Montessori-based toys, you will find many of them to be extremely expensive. I was not in a position to spend $100 on a single set of blocks, so I mostly made do with the things that we had already. They weren’t perfect substitutes, but I wasn’t looking to be the perfect Montessori parent. My goal was simply to create an environment in which my children were peacefully engaged.
I made a few other changes around the house to help the children feel as if they had more control over their environment. I got rid of their high chairs and they began eating at a table that was their size. I allowed them to help me in the kitchen. I gave them rags so they could help me dust. I let them water the flowers. I got them a mop and broom setso they could join in when I was sweeping the floor. I taught them how to feed the dogs.
After implementing a little Montessori at home, I began to notice that they were more content. They no longer threw their cups or food for attention during meals. Their attention spans began to increase. They were less fussy.
I do not pretend to be the perfect Montessori mom. We still live on a tight schedule. They still sleep in cribs. We watch a little bit of television here and there. As a parent, it is your job to determine what works for your family. For us, it’s been a blend of techniques. A little bit of Montessori-inspired living, some Simplicity Parenting, Signing Time, and, most recently, 1-2-3 Magic. I would say that Montessori has played the biggest role in helping us find activities to do everyday.
In the next blog post in this series, I will share specific activities and toys that we use as well as the blogs and websites that I depend on most for Montessori-inspired ideas.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like these as well:
Living Peacefully with Toddlers: Introduction: The first installment in the Living Peacefully Blog Series.
Living Peacefully with Toddlers: Cultivating a Peaceful Environment: Using techniques learned in the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne to create a calm home environment.
Living Peacefully with Toddlers: Post-KonMari Home Tour: A tour of our home from top to bottom.
Hello there! I’m Krysta. If you’re new to The Thoughtful Mom, welcome! And thank you for stopping by.
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