If you see Montessori as a way of life then yes, you can have a Montessori approach at home even if your children do not attend a Montessori school.
Learning does not happen only at school.
Children spend an average of 6 hours a day in school, over 39 weeks. We still have the most influence over our children – at least until they are in secondary school when peers tend to be more important.
Technically, we have time to stay connected with our children. We have time to enjoy activities together. Of course, you may work full-time and pick up your children from the after-school club at 6pm. Whatever your “working situation”, the time you spend with your children will have a big impact.
Let me share with you 10 tips to live a Montessori lifestyle!
Respect and understand your child.
What transpires when you read books written by Maria Montessori is her immense respect for the child. For centuries, children were seen as less valuable than grown-ups. Parents were not encouraged to be attached to their children. Chances of survival past early childhood were slim until the 20th century. All that changed at the time of Maria Montessori. She, like other educators and psychologists of her time, started to value children. Maria Montessori said that, as adults, we tend to exert authority on our children when they interfere in our life. This is why we talk about the “terrible twos”. So, keeping in mind my child’s development, what they are capable of, focusing on respecting your child, on seeing them as human being who deserves the same respect as we deserve is really something that guides me every day in my parenting.
Simplify your life and slow down.
Montessori emphasizes following your child and letting them explore at their own pace. That does not change as your child grows. After-school clubs and extra-curricular activities can be a rich experience. However, after a day at school, most children need to slow down and relax in the safety of their home. Enjoy the mundane, the slow pace, the repetition of the day-to-day routine! Give your children time to get bored. When children are bored, they find way to create!
Look at your extra-curricular activities, play dates, and weekend activities. Do you achieve a right balance or is it too much for your family?
Despite that the fact that your child’s school might implement a reward system and classic behaviour control discipline, you can still discipline the Montessori way. Focus on having clear limits. Discuss your family rules.
When my children were little, I would state the rules. Most rules were based on safety. As my children grow, many rules are also based on respect of others and of the environment. For example, tidying up their bedroom is not really linked to safety, however they can understand that their belonging cost us money. They have to respect that.
Keep preparing the environment.
You may not have a specific Montessori shelf, or a specific drawer in the kitchen. But your children will still need to have access to what they need. Children in the second plane can be very messy and disorganised. Their bedroom becomes their “private domain”. I find that having less on view in their bedroom help my children to keep their bedroom tidy. It’s also a great age to set up a desk and/or an art area.
More purposeful practical life
More and more grown-ups joke about “adulting”. In the Oxford dictionary, it is defined as “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially in the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks”. The greatest thing you can teach your children is everyday skills. As your children grow, they will enjoy the end result more than practising the skills. Plan and cook a meal together, teach them to sew a button, show them your budget excel sheet, ask them to fill the tank when at the petrol station… If you struggle with some of those skills, it is time to learn and to role-model. I have recently started to cross-stitch!
Hands on learning
You can still choose toys and activities that are in line with the Montessori principles. Favour natural, practical, hands-on toys and materials. What about learning woodwork? Electronics? Gardening? Children still like to learn in a concrete way!
Support their interest!
When my children express an interest, we find ways to encourage them: borrow books at the library, do online searches, etc. Whether they are interested in learning the piano, football, or collecting of Pokémon cards, we keep encouraging their spontaneous interests!
Encourage your child to spend time outdoors
This is definitely the weak point of any school system. Children do not spend enough time outdoors. If we had to focus on one thing, it would be on spending as much time as possible outside.
Nurture free thinking
One of the main attractions of the Montessori philosophy is the idea that children know, from the start, what is good for them. Each child is born with a potential. When we give freedom to children, with few limits to protect their safety, they will flourish. This includes giving them the freedom to think by themselves. We believe our children should form their own opinions and beliefs. As adults, my husband and I have our own values and beliefs. We want to make sure that we don’t impose them on our children. We constantly promote diversity. We have never imposed our religion. We often say, “some people think”, or “I believe that…” followed by an open-ended question “so, what do you think?”. My children are 9 and 13 years old, and we have interesting conversations about religion, ethics, and politics. I can see them developing their own values and it is, in my opinion, one of the biggest wins of the Montessori way of life!
I hope this blog post will help you keep living the Montessori way at home.