I have been a fan and follower of Simone Davies since I was pregnant four years ago. Her blog, The Montessori Notebook, is one of the most valuable resources on parenting and not just an education on all things Montessori. Her modern approach to parenting is refreshing and uncomplicated. She breaks down real-life examples and offers practical tips that are easily doable and rewarding. Her inviting spirit convinces you that it IS possible to be calm and a parent at the same time. Imagine that!
Simone, originally from Australia, has been a Montessori teacher for over 10 years and founded the first Montessori playgroup for parents and children in Amsterdam, where she still lives with her own family. She was very generous and kind to contribute to this interview. I thoroughly enjoyed our correspondence and her positive energy is evident throughout her remarks. Thank you, Simone! I’m honored to share this interview with my readers. Enjoy !
JG: What are the benefits of Montessori? We have so many choices of schooling these days – Catholic, Jesuit, Waldorf, or a non-denominational Goddard style. What would you say to the new parent who is contemplating this decision?
SD: There are many different educational approaches to choose from and parents should choose one that aligns with their values.
For me the Montessori approach encourages children to:
- make discoveries for themselves through hands-on concrete learning
- take responsibility for their actions; and
- take care of themselves, others and the environment
The Montessori approach does not say, “let’s fill a child with facts.” Rather, “let’s work with a child’s natural desire to learn.” Education becomes effortless, interesting and engaging for our children. They learn to solve problems in creative ways, which is really what we want education to address in the 21st century.
JG: In the US, many children enroll in Montessori for preschool and kindergarten – attending the 3-6 year old group class. However, there aren’t many Montessori schools that educate beyond these younger years. What advice would you give a Montessori parent who has to transition their child to a new system – public or private? Is it important to keep a Montessori home despite changing schools?
SD: I still see a lot of benefit to children having Montessori education in the early years even if there is not a Montessori school after 6 years old.
In the first 6 years of life, the child is developing their personality. Their exposure to the Montessori approach in these years can already have a big impact. They will learn respect for themselves, others and the materials; they will develop their will and free choice; and they will learn how to learn and love learning.
Most children transition easily from Montessori schools to other schools. Just make sure you explain the differences to your child to prepare them, visit the new school, and, yes, continue a Montessori approach at home.
Types of things you can continue to do at home:
- Involve your child in daily life – for example, show them your love of food by growing your own vegetables and/or involving them in the preparation of food
- Instead of rewards and punishment, encourage effort in your children and work with them to help them take responsibility when things go wrong
- Spend a lot of time in nature
- Find out answers together in practical, hands-on ways
- Slow down and spend time together (without screens)
JG: Regarding a Montessori home – what is the importance of fostering one at home while your child is enrolled in Montessori? Many parents new to Montessori are a bit intimidated by “jobs” and letting the child lead. How can we empower ourselves to create a rich home environment for our child?
SD: It is ideal to also apply Montessori in home when your child attends a Montessori school. Then the child will benefit 24/7, not just when they are in school.
At school the child will have a lot of freedom but within well defined limits. It is much clearer to the child if they have a similar approach at home. If there is too much freedom at home, they may struggle with limits in the classroom, such as not interfering in someone else’s work. And if there are many more rules at home, they may find the freedom in the classroom difficult to handle, behaving wildly without as many rules.
At home, we like to involve children with jobs around the home. However, it doesn’t have to be scary. The younger you start with your child, the easier it is. They can help empty the washing machine, or wash some vegetables for the meal. They are learning to be a valuable member of the family.
I would never force a child to do jobs, just make it attractive and inviting for them to join in. My kids enjoy cooking with me, but they don’t choose to every day. Then when I ask for their help, they are usually happy to oblige.
It also helps to make things accessible in the home. For example, have plates and glasses in a low drawer where children can reach them to set the table or prepare a snack. I always encourage families to have hand mitts, mops and a small broom at the ready to clean up spills.
I also love the expression, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” This helps children learn where things belong – the young child is better at this than us adults. So we can set things up so they can pack away their toys, their clothes and their belongings.
JG: Finally, and this is a bit of a personal question, but I have an only child, who is fairly independent. At home, I become her solo play companion. How do you encourage her to self-play and engage in activities/ jobs on her own?
SD: There are a few things you can do to encourage independent play. The first thing I encourage parents to do is to observe before stepping in. At first, your child may need some help to choose and then step back (not necessarily physically) and let her keep playing without interrupting or adding anything until she looks to you. Then give just a bit of help to allow her to continue and then step back again. Let her lead the play, rather than taking over the play.
Be really present while you play putting away your phone and really engage. This will fill her emotional bucket. Then when you need a break, you can tell her you are going to make a cup of tea or do some of your work. She is always welcome to come along, or she can keep playing.
You can also set up the play space so she can see what is available. By observing her, choose activities she is working to master and place them on a low shelf so she can see what is available. Each activity can be in a basket or on a tray with everything she needs. Making fewer activities available which are inviting and beautiful are more likely to help her play independently.
A BIG Thank You to Simone Davies for her thoughtful advice and encouraging insight that I know will benefit ALL parents.
You may find some of Simone’s posts incredibly useful like I have:
- On tantrums
- Activities for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
- How to stay calm: The ultimate guide for parents
- IKEA picks for Montessori kids
- A perfect little video on the question: Is Montessori right for my child?
This post is the second of a two-part series in paying tribute to our teachers. #ThankATeacher My first post on this topic is here.