I thought I would begin our regular parent profile feature with a profile of our family and how we (try to) embody the Montessori philosophy. That way when I ask to interview you about your family you know what to expect. 🙂
Tell us about your family
Tom and I met at work in 1997 and were married in 2003. We have three kids – aged 7, 4, and 2. We live in an 1283 sq ft three bedroom condo in the heart of Kerrisdale. Frances is in grade 2.
Honestly what we wanted was a school of choice. We wanted to join a community of parents that had chosen the school for reasons other than geographic location. We were living in Mt Pleasant at the time but in a two bedroom rental apartment that we were outgrowing so we had the freedom to apply anywhere and move closer.
Once the application process got under way we went to the open houses at Tyee and Maple Grove and the more I saw and read about Montessori, the more on-board I got. Part of my enthusiasm was that I felt it would be a good match for the personality of our child (though I now believe that it’s a good match for the personality of any child). Luckily Frances was accepted at Maple Grove.
Describe your experience at Maple Grove so far
Our experience has been fantastic. Frances caught on to how everything worked fairly quickly but for me there was a learning curve. In Kindergarten I had a hard time because Frances is not a ‘reporter’ so everything she was doing for a most of her day was a black box. And when she did tell us things I didn’t always understand (the ‘stamp’ game? Whaaaaat?). YouTube became my friend and I learned how to ask specific questions (‘What did you choose for work choice today?). I feel blessed that we had teachers that I trust absolutely and it was clear that Frances was growing both socially and academically.
Our middle one is a reporter and she starts Kindergarten next year so I’m excited to see how different that experience is.
What do you like best about Montessori?
I don’t think I can pick one best thing. I love that the children are taught to respect their community (manners, classroom jobs) while simultaneously being respected as individuals. I love the multi-age groupings that allow children to grow into leadership. I like that concepts are introduced to kids at the right time for them to absorb them and that they are allowed to explore the materials in a way that makes sense to them and their learning style.
How do you embody the Montessori philosophy at home?
Honestly, we don’t necessarily embody as much as I’d like, for sure. We have always had a ‘rule’ around no plastic (or only high quality plastic, e.g., Lego or Magformers) silent toys that encourage open ended play. We have a place for everything (or most things) – in a small apartment we have to! (Although the craft cupboard is out of control!). Tom is great at teaching our children and letting them ‘help’. Our littlest loves to help him cook and our middle will sweep and they all will help with beds and laundry. I used to better but now I feel less patient about it…
I think the biggest thing that we’ve done is had whole heaps of unscheduled time for the kids. We’ve always had quiet time which evolved from nap time — I was home full time and needed the break. The deal is that the kids can do whatever they want in their room as long as it’s quiet. This means that if the kids are working on something (reading, writing, drawing, knitting or the other million things they get into) they have the time to work on it and explore independently.
Most of the above didn’t really evolve this as part of any kind of particular parenting philosophy but it ends up dovetailing with Montessori concepts nicely.
What aspect of Montessori do you struggle with?
I mentioned above that I am less patient with the helping. I know that it is important and that for preschoolers in particular it is a window of opportunity but I get frustrated with the time it takes to do things with ‘help’.
The biggest thing I struggle with as a concept is intrinsic motivation. I feel like I spend my entire life bribing or threatening. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get my kids to jump up and set the table because they recognize that they are part of a family unit that they need to contribute to.
I should clarify that I still struggle with that one because I think it’s important. There are other aspects that I no longer struggle with because I’ve given up. 🙂
Oh, and respecting the child. I really really want to respect my kids all the time. But when we’re running out the door and my oldest is wearing weather-inappropriate footwear and my middle is having a meltdown because I used an incorrect word ten minutes ago and my littlest is asking me (over and over and over again) what I packed for the snack that we will eat in two hours…. sometimes (or maybe all the time) I lose the thread of that particular philosophical argument and just yell.
But I do take comfort in Maria Montessori’s assurance that “Of all things love is the most potent” and we do have plenty of that around here.