Montessori with Mother

Making mistakes so you don’t have to. How to imperfectly practice the Montessori method at home

If your child already attends a nursery setting, you have probably already been introduced to the parallel universe whereby your child is an absolute angel at pre-school. So polite, the teachers may coo, so well-behaved and always very helpful.

You look down doubtfully at your child, double-checking this in fact your offspring. But she was wearing a saucepan on her head this morning and screaming blue murder because you cut her toast into triangles, you think to yourself. What black magic is this?

Peer pressure. The answer is peer pressure. We were always told it’s a bad thing, but in fact it’s the single best thing about socialisation. It boils down to the fear of being publicly shamed.

In the Montessori classroom, this may be instilled through vertical grouping (older children role-modelling good behaviour) and reiteration of the ground rules (kind hands, walking feet, sit on your bottom, return the activity to the shelf.) If they behave well, they fit in just fine. Which equates to keep your head down and you won’t get shanked in the toilets.

At home, it’s completely different. At school, I’m patient, organised and quietly-spoken, the epitome of decorum, grace and courtesy. At home, I can’t find my print-outs, the glue has dried up and I’ve run out of paint. And I’m tired, frazzled and still got to clean the bathroom.

Children are completely different at home. Of course they are, it’s completely obvious when you think about it – they’re on their own turf, they know they’re safe and they can test boundaries as part of their development.

But even knowing this, it’s challenging when your child has no interest in the activity you’ve painstakingly researched and prepared, won’t put toys away and absolutely refuses to brush her teeth.

The good news is that lots of Montessori principles and ideas can still be applied at home, they just need a little tweaking. Just don’t expect your child to look at you with wide-eyed wonder like they do their teacher. And do expect them to bargain ten minutes of educational activities for forty-five minutes of role-playing pirates and cries of ‘NO YOU ARE NOT DOING IT RIGHT, MUMMY!’


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