Updated: May 8
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, Sarah, what's your Montessori story?
I first came across Montessori when I was informally studying child development. My little boy, Danny, was 16 months old. Before I started implementing it at home I informally studied the philosophy by reading Dr. Montessori's own books, and looking up various resources online. I properly began implementing the method at home when Danny was around 18 months. He is now almost 3.
The first changes I made was preparing the environment to allow better freedom of movement, encourage independence in areas he was interested it, and making the house as child friendly as possible.
I began including him in practical life things he showed an interest in rather than trying to "keep him busy" with toys. He loved doing laundry, and emptying the dishwasher at that age. Practical life is still a keen interest of his now.
I changed his play space and included low, open shelves, a child table and chair, and art at his eye level. I swapped out the over stimulating, and super bright mat for a more neutral one, so the materials would be the focus. The super bright mat was overstimulating, the neutral one brought more calm to the space. The difference that these changes made could be seen instantly.
I began really observing Danny during play, and began a toy rotation based on his interests, repeated patterns of behaviour, and where he was developmentally. I reduced the amount of materials available to him in a bid to not overwhelm him with choice. I slowly transitioned out flashy, light up, passive toys for more simple, child powered toys.
I also set up a little cosy reading nook with cushions, and easily accessible forward facing books. Danny loves reading, so this was a huge hit.
Has Montessori affected your lifestyle and how you chose to parent / care give?
Yes, it has absolutely! Dr. Maria Montessori's words changed my life. Learning about the method gave me the tools to understand Danny, and helped me to be a better parent. Her book, "The Absorbent Mind," played an integral part in all this. I can see him now, I mean REALLY SEE HIM - the work he does, the intent behind his actions.
Please share a Montessori success and / or unsuccessful attempt story that has stuck in your mind.
A Montessori success story I'd like to share is where I used one of the core principles, Follow the Child, to help with Danny's speech delay, when he was 2.5yo.
Danny LOVES vehicles, so I followed his lead and used this as a way to develop his speech - naming vehicles, repeating, action words, colour recognition, sorting, matching, etc.
When a child is interested in something their ability to learn and absorb language is heightened. Danny began saying 2 word phrases, which is a huge turning point in speech, and guess what his first 2 word phrases were?
"Big truck" and "Blue Car"
Perfect example of how using Montessori strategies can help all children, and just how important it is to follow the child.
What’s your favourite Maria Montessori quote and why?
"The child has a different relation to his environment from ours...the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself the whole world about him that his eyes see, and his ears hear." - Dr. Maria Montessori.
This is my favourite quote because I have always been fascinated with the mind, and how experiences from our childhood shape who we become.
Children's minds are different to adults. Their minds are like sponges, soaking up every sound, every image, every experience. Through Dr. Maria Montessori's studies she noted the importance of age 0-6; the period of 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘼𝙗𝙨𝙤𝙧𝙗𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙈𝙞𝙣𝙙. This is when the child is constructing himself to become the person he is going to be.
Think about just how amazing their absorbent mind is - they learn how to speak 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙗𝙚𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙖𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩, they learn how to move their body 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙗𝙚𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙖𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩. They learn everything through what they hear, what they see, and what they feel. Children are not given enough credit.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of Montessori at home?
I think it's hard to pinpoint one aspect as at the core of Montessori is 3 key elements - The Child, The Prepared Environment (including materials), and The Prepared Environment. Without one of these aspects the method does not exist.
In saying all that, for me personally, when it comes to principles, I would consider following the child and respecting the child to be the most important.
What one piece of advice would you give to others starting out on their own Montessori journey?
READ. READ. READ.
AND THEN READ SOME MORE.
I encourage anyone starting out to really get an understanding of the approach first. Montessori is more than pretty shelves, and fancy materials, it's a philosophy that can be implemented on any budget when you really understand it.
You can find out more about Sarah by following her Facebook and Instagram accounts:
Instagram - @montessoriandus
Facebook - Montessori and Us
Interview of Sarah Swan by Mie Mari Sløk Rusdal and Jude Saffron
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