Saturday, November 23, 2013

A lengthy answer as to why I like the Montessori method

I've been asked by a few people what the Montessori method is and why I am implementing parts of it,
and it's a long answer.

Finding Montessori
Madeleine was 7 months old, and I wasn't getting much sleep with her around. 
Motherhood was going much better
 than when she was under 5 months old, 
but it still wasn't really fun.

That day I was invited to a fall festival.
I went with Madeleine hoping to find a pumpkin patch.
Instead I found a few craft booths and then rows and rows of people advertising for childcare.
"We take children 6 weeks and up!"
"We teach them how to play the maraca while jumping on one foot!"
Each one of these booths gave away free little toys for the children to play with.
Free toys that I didn't have to buy?
I was all over that.
I saw one booth that had a pinwheel.
It was sparkly.
Madeleine would love that.
I walked over and this lady told me that if I want to be a better mother, I should sign Madeleine up for her school.
I was offended.
Who was this stranger telling me that they could do a better job raising and teaching my kid than me?
I was pissed off.
But I put a mental sticky note in my head to look up this Montessori school and see why this arrogant lady thought my child was better off with her than me.

What it is
I went off the library and checked out 3 books about the Montessori method.
I got the original book that Maria Montessori wrote herself, one for teachers and one for parents.
I started with Maria's book.
Instantly I was amused.
It sounded like something my mother would write.
Slamming public schools left and right for forcing children into a system that even adults wouldn't like. (Matt objects and would like to point out that public school worked just fine for him and he's at Princeton.)
She talked about designing a school around the children.
Instead of changing the kids to fit the school, changing the school to fit the kids.
That meant no desk, no teacher lecturing.
She basically said that teachers should capitalize on a child's natural curiosity.
If you give children age appropriate toys,
they teach themselves what they need to know.
   This toy for instance is for infants.

They put the ball in the hole. 

What do they learn from this?
Gravity and object permanence; (the ball keeps coming back no matter how hard you try to make it disappear.)
It also works on their motor skills while introducing them to different textures.

A big part of Montessori method is that the teachers are observers.
Interference should be minimal.
By letting the child figure things out themselves,
they gain confidence, problem solving skills and are motivated to keep learning.

This means children should learn to be independent as soon as possible.
Clothes should be designed so children can easily dress themselves.
Sinks and tables should be their size.

They should learn to feed and clean after themselves.
The area should be clean and organized as a way to show children that we respect them so that they respect themselves.

I thought this all sounded good in theory, 
but I was still iffy about it.
It sounded too much like unschooling,
which I really dislike.

But when I went out to Utah, I talked to my best friend Danielle.
I brought the whole thing up with her,
and asked her what her opinion was.
Turns out she had a lot of good things to say about it.

Why it appealed to me
 A lot of this method was things that I had already thought of,
but felt crazy for doing it or didn't really know how to.
I was already doing baby led weaning for food.
Madeleine can use a spoon pretty well and can sit at a table,
and eat pretty much whatever we are eating, which is very similar to Montessori.
The bed thing I was thrilled for.
The educational goals were straight forward and made sense.

Carrying it out
I pitched the idea to Matt, and to my complete surprise, he raised no objections.
We baby proofed the house to an extreme.
Madeleine can roam anywhere but the bathroom and it should be safe for her.
We made her room designed around her.
We bought her a table that she could eat and sit at.

As for the toys, I had already been buying her toys that were not commercialized.
I wanted her to use her imagination.
Most of her toys are fabric, metal or wood.
I did not go out and buy her a whole bunch of expensive Montessori toys.

I didn't buy the expensive Montessori furniture either.
I based what we got off of what Marie said
"child size", "light weight" and "natural materials."
I'm not sure how natural ikea particle-board is,
but it was cheap and very light weight.

The rest of it has just been tweaking our routine a bit.
For example, while I was making dinner last night,
I let Madeleine play with our unpeeled onion on the kitchen floor.
She had a blast pealing off the papery outside layers.
I make more of an effort to include her now.

The thing I like most about it is it has made being a mom more fun.
I don't feel guilty for letting Madeleine play alone.
I don't feel like I have to watch her all the time because I recognize that interfering with every activity can be detrimental to her learning progress.
It also gives me more time to pursue my own interest.
I absolutely love what Montessori mothers put together for their babies on pinterest.
They are educational and its pretty easy to see the babies progress.

This blog has been my favorite. I love that she shows what they do each month,
reports his progress, and tells what they are working on.

There isn't an official Montessori infant program that is good.
Maria designed the schools for ages 3-7.
The Montessori schools for children under the age of 2, I feel is just expensive childcare.
I've been more impressed with what the moms put together.

I'm not a fan of the discipline method.

It is really expensive if you're not careful.

It works better if there is more than one kid...and I only have one kid...

There isn't a lot of art.
The Waldorf method is another method that has lots of painting and music,
and many parents combine the two methods to give their children a more rounded education.

Lastly, I think this is a great method until 1st grade.
Maria argued making children sit in class was not useful
 because sitting wasn't usually a needed task in the work force. 
Of course, Maria designed this method for poor children back at the turn of the century
 when most children inevitably ended up with manual labor jobs.
Being able to sit is an important skill now.
And regardless of whether it's right or wrong, college generally consists of professors lecturing to a crowd of sitting students, so for Madeleine to be successful, she needs to learn these skills as well.

Disclaimer: There are many different ways to implement the Montessori method, and likewise, there are many other good ways to parent. I don't claim to be an expert.

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