As I shared when I began this blog, it is has surprised me how living on a farm and living the way we do, has affected so many different aspects of our lives – including our parenting style.
And this is where I will stop for my first public service announcement to say I truly try to respect all different parenting choices and styles. I won’t say I’m prefect at it, we all have room to grow, but what I’m about to share about choices we have made and how they have worked for us may not work for you or be your cup of tea. In these two years, from finding out we were expecting to having a real, living, breathing, pooping baby, I am constantly listening and learning from others and thinking about what might work in our house with our child and what probably wouldn’t. It’s all an exploration of your personality, your child’s personality, and what your lifestyle looks like. And lastly, we’re new at this. I’m not a parenting expert – we only have one child. But, if what we’ve learned and implemented can help you – FANTASTIC! If you think we’re coo-coo for cocoa puffs, that’s totally fine.
Now, on with the show…
Have you ever ventured down a YouTube rabbit hole? One video will lead to another which will lead to another and so on. Well, this is what happened to me and lead to my interest in learning more about Maria Montessori and the Montessori method of learning, teaching, and parenting. I remember learning about Montessori briefly in one of my education classes in my undergrad and again it was mentioned in my Christian Education class at seminary actually. Both of these introductions were brief and treated it as more of an after thought. But, when I found a vlogger on YouTube I enjoyed and felt I connected with her mindset on parenting and she mentioned Montessori, I thought maybe this is something I’d like to learn more about.
In the spirit of public service announcements, here’s your second one…
We are not a true Montessori household. There are many aspects we have not been able to implement, and by able to, I mostly mean we’ve chosen not to. We’ve tried to take on what we think we can do and are constantly looking for ways to expand, learn more, and grow. So yes, while we follow many principles, we could follow them more fully for sure.
And again, back to your regularly scheduled blog…
First, some background. Montessori education is based off the principles developed by Maria Montessori who opened her first school for children in Rome in 1907. She developed her principles and materials while she observed that children are able to understand complex concepts when they’re able to engage all their senses in the learning experience. She took on the practice of overseeing rather than directly teaching. She observed that children showed episodes of deep concentration and multiple repetitions of the same activity. When given the choice, the children showed more of an interest in practical items rather than classic toys and treats and other rewards. The idea is that when children are given the freedom to move about in a prepared environment, because of their natural interest in discovery, they grow to become responsible and independent adults who share a love of learning.
This concept of letting children have the opportunity to explore and discover their world seemed so natural to us. Living on a farm, there are so many opportunities to involve practical life learning and skills to share with RA every day and we want to find ways to encourage a love of learning and foster her independence, so , we wanted to learn more.
There are five major concepts to Monessori.
First: The recognition of an absorbent mind. Infants and toddlers in their first few years of life are taking in so much information. They are watching and absorbing so much of what you say and do. Even though they are not able to replicate everything they are seeing, it is being taken in by their brain and stored. Along with this is the realization that we don’t want environments to be overstimulating. This was the first big ah-ha moments I had when trying to implement Montessori at home. I realized that Romney Ann’s nursery was very overstimulating for her. There were just too many toys and books out to ever expect her to play with one item for any length of time. So this is when we created more storage in her closet for toys and books and started to rotate the toys and books that were out in her room and throughout the house.
Second: The importance of sensitive periods. This looks like a child showing joyful obsession with something. Where they will repeat an action over and over until they have mastered it. We have a small Tupperware container that has four snaps around the sides to close it. When this “toy” was first introduced to her, she would sit for long periods of time, continually snapping and unsnapping until it was a piece of cake for her. She still loves playing with this container and the best part is it might be sitting in your pantry right now.
Third: The importance of a prepared environment. This means things are calm, orderly, and supportive of their needs. Care and thought is given to the setting they are in. With three dogs in our home and with all the chaos that a farm brings, our house is rarely calm, but we have found ways to make it orderly. Every toy has a place. It may seem OCD, but that’s not the spirit of it. It is about having order and respect of the space. We can see when Romney Ann puts her toys away, she puts them back in their place. She is beginning to understand order and it helps create a better learning environment. As far as creating an environment that is supportive of her needs, this is one we’re working on right now. For instance, many Montessori households will have a container of water available for a child to be able to go over and fill up their own cup themselves. We have not been able to fully embrace this part of this concept very well yet.
Fourth: Finding ways to control error regarding all of their environment. This one, to me, seems to walk hand in hand with a prepared environment. An example of this for us looked like eliminating opportunities for Romney Ann to mess up, get in trouble, be told no sort of thing. One silly example is a latch on the pantry door. We just couldn’t find a way to keep everything in there out of her reach, so simply putting a latch on the door made it so she couldn’t get in there, this way she isn’t constantly being told “no,” “get out of there”. The possibility of error was eliminated. Of course we tell her no, but there is an effort to create an environment that is geared toward yes rather than no.
Fifth: Practical life skills. This looks like opportunities for children to develop fine and gross motor skills through real life everyday activities. This begins for many Montessori households with baby led weaning and progresses to children using real plates, cups, and silverware, having a weaning table for them to eat at, etc. This can also look like children putting their dirty clothes in the basket when they’re off, picking between two outfits in the mornings, helping to feed the dogs, brushing their teeth – any ways you can allow them to do it themselves. This one is so hard sometimes because it would be so much faster to do it yourself, but finding these opportunities and scheduling in the extra time really is such a gift to you and your child’s independence.
These five concepts look different in every household, and I’m excited to begin sharing with you the ways in which we’ve implemented these in our house in the future. I think what you’ll notice is many of them you’re probably already doing and if you’re interested in taking on more, it may not take much to alter what you’re already doing.
As I said in the beginning, we are continually figuring out what this Montessori mindset looks like in our house and we are slowly trying to adopt more and more principles for Romney Ann because we have seen it make a difference in her independence, her interest in discovery, and how she is becoming more and more self-sufficient. As always, if you have any questions or ways in which you have seen these practices play out in your household, please share them! The original dream of this blog was to share what we have learned while having the opportunity to learn from others, so please reach out. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!