Montessori in the Home: Session 1 takeaways

Andrew: I decided to jump on the bandwagon and get myself educated in the Montessori philosophy after hearing so much from Jasmine! We both signed up for the “Montessori in the Home” course run by AMI and attended our first session today, which was extremely enriching and thought-provoking.

Unlike the Montessori Assistants Course that Jasmine attended, this course is directed at parents and specifically looks at how parents can ensure a home environment that supports their child’s Montessori’s experience in school. It’s more interactive and allows parents to raise questions about how to translate these principles into their own homes and share the diverse experiences with their own children.

Here’s a summary of my key takeaways from the first session:

1. The home is your child’s first learning space.

This was one of the first points that our trainers made which struck a chord in me. Now, this is different from saying that the home is a classroom or the home is school – which I will elaborate on later.

What the trainer emphasised was that the home is the child’s first learning space and builds the foundation for the child’s learning in school and for life. As such, ‘home life’ should be just as developmentally rich and supportive of the child’s learning.

The ‘0-6’ phase is the most important one as it serves to build the foundation of your child’s learning. The child is born with 1,000 billion brain cells, 75% of which are waiting to be stimulated. Every time they experience something new, a neural connection is formed and that connection is strengthened once the experience is repeated. Given that the home is the space the child is most commonly in from 0-6 (admittedly not for all cases), the home thus plays an important role in building those first neural connections.

2. Practising Montessori at home is more about the principles than the materials. 

An important point the trainer raised was that practising Montessori at home isn’t about replicating your child’s schooling experience at home. The home should be consistent and complementary to the school, rather than identical to school.

Many parents have the misconception that practising Montessori at home is very expensive, because they often look through catalogues and buy all the Montessori materials. However, practising Montessori at home is more about applying Montessori principles to everyday momentsIn fact, the Montessori materials were not designed for a home environment, but for many children in a classroom. Some of the materials were designed to replicate the home such that the classroom would become a ‘second home’ for the children, hence the name of Montessori preschools for 3-6 year olds as Children’s House.

3. Practising Montessori at home is actually a lot of ‘common sense’. 

The trainers emphasised that as we learn about how to practise Montessori at home, we will find that a lot of it is just common sense. However, this ‘common sense’ has become less common nowadays because parents get caught up in the pressures of modern day parenthood and educational testing. As such, practising Montessori at home doesn’t necessarily require rigorous training and extensive techniques, but just a return to what makes sense when raising and relating to your child.

4. Following Montessori principles at home is essentially about trusting and respecting your child. 

While it isn’t expensive to practise Montessori at home, following the principles of Montessori requires a lot more time, patience and faith in your child. Sometimes people might think you are crazy – it’s always easier to do things for our children; it’s harder to trust them, respect them and help them discover and do things for themselves. It’s essentially about believing that your child is capable and gradually able to do things on his/her own, rather than thinking of him/her as someone who always needs help.

This was actually well supported by an example shared by a fellow participant who spoke about her two teenagers. She shared about how she used Montessori principles to bring them up, like teaching them to dress themselves from young, getting them involved in the kitchen. Now, they are able to self-regulate, and they will control their own TV time and snacking. An important principle she shared was about making tweaks to your routine or home to enable your child’s independence – for example, she shared that she struggled with letting her children dress themselves before school because it was always such a rush. However, a trainer she spoke to advised her just to start the day earlier and the simple act of waking her kids up 10 minutes earlier allowed her kids more time to dress themselves and be independent.

5. The Montessori approach is not about letting kids just do anything they want, but about “freedom within limits”. 

A lot of people have the wrong impression that Montessori is just about letting your child do anything they want, whether it’s in school or at home. However, that’s taking it the wrong way, because the Montessori approach is undergirded by a powerful concept of “freedom within limits”. It’s ultimately about learning how to set clear and consistent boundaries for the child, such that the child learns to exercise his autonomy within those limits.

This wasn’t expanded on in the class yet, but through my own reading up, I found a useful quotation on this powerful concept:

“The liberty of the child ought to have as its limits the collective interest of the community in which he moves; its form is expressed in what we call manners and good behaviour. it is our duty then to protect the child from doing anything which may offend or hurt others, and to check the behaviour which is unbecoming or impolite. But as regards all else, every action that has a useful purpose, whatever it may be and in whatever forms it shows itself, ought not only to be permitted, but it ought to be kept under observation, that is the essential point.”  Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

The above points are rather theoretical at the moment, as the first session was mainly to provide a broad overview. However, it has already prompted a lot of reflection as I think about how I view my children to more practical things like how I can adjust my morning routine to allow Dylan to prepare himself for school. Am looking forward to more learning and will be sharing it here. 

Do check out Jasmine’s sharings from her AMI cert course here!

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