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Montessori Around the World - Meet Renate and Dahlia

Welcome to Montessori Around the World. This is a series of interviews with Montessori families and caregivers from around the globe. Here you get to see the similarities and differences in how Montessori is practiced and read first hand about how it has shaped people's lives.

So, Renate, what's your Montessori story?

I'm 35 years old, born in The Netherlands. Ten years ago I met my husband in Kenya. After a couple of years we decided that Kenya would be the place we call home. We do have a place to stay in the capital Nairobi but we live in a county close to Lake Victoria in a village where we have a small scale farm. We keep different farm animals and grow bananas, avocados and mangos. Three years ago when our daughter was born, I joined Dutch Facebook groups about breastfeeding and from there I got to learn about what we call in The Netherlands “natural parenting”. I really liked the way they talked about respecting the child, no punishment and rewards, children should be outdoors etc. and that’s where people mentioned Montessori schools and such. So that’s when I started to read about it, The Montessori Toddler, many many websites, and that’s how I found out you can implement Montessori at home.

We started with making our house child friendly: we hung mirrors for her, made things like shoes, small broom and dustpan accessible, we created a little washing station in the bathroom. My husband made a wardrobe, small chair and table and a helping tower for the kitchen. So practical life first although this is mixed with sensorial experiences like helping in the kitchen means also smelling herbs and spices or soaking/washing dried beans in water. Our daughter loves to hang clothes on a drying rack, fold underwear, help in the kitchen etc. Thereafter we made shelves in her room. I bought Keys of the World albums and I downloaded Dutch education goals to compare, to see, to make my own informed decisions about our daughters education. Because of Montessori I now know I don’t need to be scared if she can’t read or write at a certain age. There are sensitive periods and some children learn things quickly and others take their time and it’s all ok.

Where we live and also in Nairobi, it’s hard to find materials or it’s very expensive. So when we travel to the Netherlands we come back with many things. Instead of buying official Montessori materials I like to get inspiration from Instagram and Facebook groups about DIY materials or how to teach a concept with simple things and sometimes I buy printables.

Has Montessori affected your lifestyle and how you chose to parent / care give?

Yes, it has. Since the birth of my daughter I have been analysing the patterns in my life. This made me decide that the way I was raised is not the way how I want to raise our daughter. When I told my husband about Montessori, he started to read about it too and he completely agreed to raising our daughter this way.

Please share a Montessori success and / or unsuccessful attempt story that has stuck in your mind.

We were in The Netherlands when my daughter was 2 years and 9 months. One day we were visiting my grandmother. My daughter was playing nicely on the floor. When I mentioned it was almost time to go home she started to clean up all the things she was playing with. Exactly where the toys were before she started. My grandmother was really surprised that my daughter cleaned up everything on her own without me telling her to, I felt so proud. Of course she doesn’t do this all the time but it was wonderful to see that cleaning together at home paid off.

What’s your favourite Maria Montessori quote and why?

The child is truly a miraculous being, and this should be felt deeply by the educator - Dr Maria Montessori

I love this quote because I’m a full time mama, I love to see how my daughter grows up, every small step. I love her face when she is concentrated or when her face lights up when something works out for her. When you say some new words she just looks at you how your lips form, you can almost see how she memorises the words she is really interested in. These moments are definitely the best.

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of Montessori at home?

The most important aspect to me is that my daughter feels like she is involved in family life. Doing practical life together, eating meals together, listening to each other, learn from each other.

What one piece of advice would you give to others starting out on their own Montessori journey?

One piece of advise I would like to give is read, find your own way of raising children. Find out what works best for you. Sometimes you read something interesting and then it doesn't work at home, so you adjust and try again.

Interview of Renate Sande-Visser by Mie Mari Sløk Rusdal and Jude Saffron

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