I'll be super honest and admit that I never intended to become a Montessori parent. I always thought Montessori was for kids with free-range parents who ate organic. That was, of course, until I ended up sending my son to a Montessori school, sort of on accident. I learned that Montessori was not what I thought it was, and I can now tell you with certainty that there are things only a Montessori parent really knows. In other words, this "accident" paid off big time.
So what is Montessori, anyway? According to the American Montessori Society, Montessori is an educational philosophy that is child-led and child- focused. The basic idea is that kids want to learn, and learn best when you allow them to call some of the shots in an environment designed to give them the tools and the space to do so. Children are given independence, within limits, and are respected as human beings. With this environment, the theory is that children not only learn skills and knowledge, they learn how to learn, think critically, and problem-solve.
So, does it work? While most Montessori parents will be the first people to tell you that it absolutely isn't a good fit for every family, in my experience, it's pretty freaking awesome. There are more messes, and my Montessori kid has definitely started testing boundaries and demanding choices, but he's also gained confidence and independence, which is so totally amazing. So if you're a Montessori parent, you already know. But if you aren't, well, join the club already.
There are so many messes in my life. So many. And that number has steadily increased since my partner and I became Montessori parents. But, I am slowly getting used to my kids jumping in puddles, having paint in their hair, and coming in the house with muddy boots. Kids make messes, and while it's annoying, I think it's a pretty much a byproduct of allowing kids to be kids, instead of expecting them to act like miniature adults.
My partner and I have a beautiful play structure in our back yard that our kids rarely used as intended. Instead of a swing set and slide, it's a clubhouse, a bear cave, a mountain, and a pirate ship. My kids choose their own adventures, and aren't afraid to take risks. They explore the woods behind our house and create their own magic. As a Montessori parent, I understand that conformity is not a value and life is an adventure.
Early on I realized that giving my kids a reasonable amount of autonomy about things like clothes, food, and extracurricular activities, lets them feel in control of their own lives. Kids don't get to control a lot of what goes on in their lives, and as a result, well, they tend to throw tantrums or get angry. Montessori taught me the value in prizing the end result over process. I would rather have my kid wear a funny outfit than throw a tantrum over clothes. Why should it matter if they make it to school on time?
While some people think Montessori means letting kids run and play all day, that's so not the case. Rather, Montessori parents know that some kids learn better in a desk with a teacher standing at the front of the room, and other kids learn better by doing a hands-on activity or writing a story about a topic. I love how Montessori respects each kid's unique approach to learning and problem solving, fosters interest in different subjects, and makes learning a child-led, and not an adult-led process.
So many times in our culture, we talk about respect as something kids should have for their parents, but I've learned that kids deserve their parents' respect, too. They are human beings who thrive when they have their needs met and when they have a certain amount of control over what happens to them.
Montessori doesn't require that kids stretch to reach the information in a way that doesn't work for them. Rather, it meets them where they are at. By teaching kids to think for themselves and how to learn, Montessori gives them way more skills they will need for life, than approaches that require them to fit their square peg in a round hole. As a mom with a special-needs kid, this is even more important.
When you respect your kids, they will respect you. I was raised to believe that you needed to "respect your elders," but I never really felt respect for my parents and teachers. Rather, I feared them or the consequences of not conforming or complying. I don't want my kids to fear me. As a Montessori parent, I have learned to offer my kids respect for their bodies, interests, and preferences, and model good behavior. When I can accomplish the aforementioned, they have rewarded me with learning how to make good choices. It's amazing.
I remember being so surprised that Montessori wasn't a "free-for-all" like I had assumed it would be. Rather, the teachers really got to know the kids, their interests, how they liked to learn and explore, how to generate enthusiasm, and let kids lead the way. One day, I picked up my son to discover that they designed a week-long experiment to learn how much water weeds need to grow. I mean, that's amazing.
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