I am in no way an expert in the Montessori method. I actually never really intended to send my kids to Montessori school. So when I did my kid gave me a crash course in what it means to be a Montessori kid, and I had to change the way I parent to keep up with him. I have to admit, though, that I fell hard-core for the philosophy and the resulting changes I saw in my kid, and I think there are so many things you can learn from Montessori moms. In my case, Montessori moms taught me how to be a better parent, and I'm never going back.
So what is Montessori, anyway? According to the American Montessori Society, Montessori is an educational philosophy that focuses on and is led by kids. Montessori teachers — and Montessori moms — create a child-friendly space, and let kids make choices within specified limits to reach goals. Children are given more independence than is typically allowed in a class room, and are respected as human beings, capable of autonomy, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Sounds great, right? So, while I can tell you that it's not always easier to let your child learn on in their own in order to figure things out, I definitely think Montessori is a good fit for our family, and I've learned so much from Montessori moms that I think you should try.
When I was a kid I got used to being told what to do and to not question authority. Early on I realized that I didn't want to raise my kids that way. So I try to give my kids choices about things like clothes, food, and play time. Kids don't get to control a lot of what goes on in their lives, so whenever possible I try to let my kids make choices, as long as they stay safe and eventually make it to the end goal.
So no one really thrives when they have to try to learn in a way that doesn't work for them. Montessori meets kids wherever they are in their learning. As a mom with a special needs kid, I've learned that I need to help my daughter find ways to do her best, and that might look differently every day and require flexibility on my part, as her mother. I try not to require my child to do the heavy lifting in that regard.
Everyone says that kids should respect their elders, but respect is best achieved when it goes both ways. Montessori has taught me that kids thrive when they have our love and our respect — for their choices and individual needs — which are actually two different things.
Most classrooms involve a lot of talking from the desk in front, but if we want our kids to be CEOs someday, we need to teach them to come up with strategies and take the lead once in a while. This works at home, too. When my partner and I let our kids come up with plans, make dinner, or even decide how to rearrange the furniture in their rooms, we give them leadership skills and self-confidence.
So yeah, different kids learn in different ways, but when we let them choose their own path we give them not only information, but some skills, too. Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills will help them at school, at home, and on the playground.
Honestly, there are so many more messes in Montessori school than there was at my son's traditional preschool. At times it seemed like they were doing it on purpose. Now, however, I see messes as part of life as a mom, and I have started to go easier on myself when it comes to a messy house, too.
While some people think Montessori means letting kids run around, I am so not a free-range mom. Montessori moms know that creating controlled chaos, knowing your kid, and getting that there is more than one way to reach the same goal gives you important insight. What's more is this perspective has given me some important flexibility in how I approach problems — like tantrums — at home. I ask myself, "What is the end goal? Are we headed there?" and let the rest go.
Learning how to be a role model is so much harder than giving orders, but honestly it's so much easier to ask your kid to eat at the table, take turns, use manners, and be kind to others by example, than it is to simply use your words. As a Montessori parent, I try to model good behavior. I sometimes fail, but even then I can teach my children that nobody's perfect, and that's a good lesson, too. It's really win-win.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.