Finlay's family needs little introduction. His mum, Cathy blogs at the very popular A Montessori Home. When I found out Cathy was a trained Montessori teacher (3-6) I spent hours going over every post. It is such pleasure to have Cathy over to answer some of my questions.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?
Our happy little family consists of myself, my partner Brent, and our 16-month-old son, Finlay. I'm originally from Melbourne, Brent is from Perth, and Fin was born in Auckland, NZ, where we are living right now. This year I started a home-based childcare business and have created a Montessori toddler environment at home.
When and how did you first become interested in the work of Montessori?
I started out as a music-theatre performer and while touring primary schools doing an educational show I realised how much I loved being around kids. I looked into teacher-training but didn't want to go down the mainstream path. As soon as I started reading about Montessori philosophy I knew this was my new calling in life and I enrolled to do my AMI 3-6 training in India. Six years later, I'm still convinced that this is not only the most incredible way to educate children, but it is also the most wonderful way to live life as an adult. My favorite Montessori quote, from Creative Development in the Child:
Children have demonstrated that their joy is found in the continuous work necessary to achieve self-perfection. This is also true of the adult. There must be some special task, some special way of moving towards perfection, and in this alone will happiness be found.
How have you applied Montessori at home? (Big question, I know!)
The most important thing for me as a Montessori teacher was to make sure that Brent and I were on the same page and that he understood why I was so, hmmmmm.... obsessive?!... about setting up our home when we were expecting Finlay. Happily, Brent has always been very interested in the philosophy and has embraced every aspect of Montessori parenting along the way. I think our experience would have been very different if we hadn't been united in this decision.
Our entire home has been set up with Montessori principles in mind (well, except our office, which leaves much to be desired...!). Fin has always slept in a floor-bed (along with co-sleeping in our bed), we have low shelves in each room with Montessori materials (these are constantly changing to meet the developmental needs of Finlay and the other children in my care), low tables and chairs for meals, real cutlery and crockery, books, music, art materials, all available at all times. Recently we have added a food-preparation table and a dish-washing table (inspired by your wash-stand, Kylie!) so that Finlay can take part in these aspects of daily life.
More than anything physical, I think the most important way we have implemented Montessori at home is in our attitude toward Finlay and the deep respect we have for his development. We are always conscious not to interrupt moments of concentration, we include him in our daily tasks and allow him to try new things as soon as he shows an interest (even if this is inconvenient for us at times!). We surround him with rich vocabulary, beautiful music, art and nature. I think these things are much more important than having all the right materials on the shelves.
Do you have any tips for parents creating Montessori inspired spaces at home?
Wow, this is another big question! :)
I think the most important things to consider are beauty, nature, order, function, accessibility and respect. When considering any object, clothing, toy or piece of furniture for your home, ask yourself: "Is it beautiful? Is it made from natural materials? Is it functional? Will it support my child's developing independence? Does it show my child that I respect him/her? Will it allow for freedom of movement? Will it invite purposeful activity?".
All too often we are bombarded by advertisements telling us we 'need' to buy ridiculous things for our children so they will be happier/smarter/safer - stay true to your beliefs and try not to be sucked in by it all!
If you do nothing else, in my humble opinion, the most important thing you can do is get rid of your television (or at least keep it out of sight and only watch it when children are sleeping).
Are there any books, websites, blogs that you could recommend?
By Maria Montessori - 'The Absorbent Mind', 'Education and Peace', 'Creative Development in the Child'.
By others - 'Montessori from the Start' (Lillard & Jessen), 'Oneness and Separateness' (Louise J. Kaplan), 'What's Going On in There?' (Lise Eliot), 'Understanding the Human Being' (Dr. Montanaro).
Blogs: Sew Liberated is a favorite, as well as Meg's former blog, Montessori By Hand. At Home with Montessori, Montessori ici, Montessori in Motion, Wide Open on the Mommybahn, The New Mommy Files and of course 'How We Montessori', are my favorites!
Where do you find inspiration?
All of the books and blogs above are a constant source of inspiration.
I have a new love affair with Pinterest! It's a wonderful way to get visual inspiration from others and create your own inspiration boards.
Most of all, Finlay is constantly inspiring me to re-create our home to keep up with his development. I can see so many attributes in him that I am certain have been nurtured by our Montessori environment - what more inspiration could I need?
Thank you so much Cathy for sharing with us.
Just in case you missed it, Cathy's blog A Montessori Home is a must read.