Saturday, 5 November 2011

on strike.

The frequency of my posting lately is directly proportional the the amount of Montessori we have been doing recently, which is, as you can guess, close to none.

We have been rather busy...adjusting.  I never thought there was a length of time associated with that, I always saw adjusting as a process you go through while you go on with your life.  But I guess, this time around the many changes that we are facing are important enough that adjusting has taken up a lot of our time.

And one of the biggest adjustment came from a situation I never saw coming. M has been refusing to do anything that remotely looks like a Montessori activity. I spend quite a lot of time during the week with her.  We are apart on the sole 2 days that I work.  But for the rest of the week, we are together along with E of course.  We started the year not doing many structured activities together, as I had so many things to go through in the 3 days I had home, that we just lack time. But at some point, when all the hype about X starting school became apparent, I saw her having a hard time.  She needed something special to go on for her too, and she needed some special attention that was scarce.  So I decided to put her together a couple of mini units, and got out  some Montessori material that was put away to try to have her going at something.  And it worked for a while...until it stopped for some unexpected (and not understood either) reasons.

Maybe it has something to do with that big brother of her?  THe one that officially declared one night at our family table that he didn't want to do any Montessori activities at home?  Last year, while he was in kindergarten, he was attending his school part time.  He begged me for more activities on the days he was home, I guess his Montessori cup was not entirely filled after his week was over.  But this year, being a first grader, and being in school from 8:30-16:00, I think he finds that he now has plenty, and needs to see something else when he gets home.  I don't blame him!

And so, since then, we have been adjusting.  Adjusting to our free time that is definitely different then what is used to be. At first, I gave them time.  Time to be free, and do whatever they pleased. Time to cure that soul fever I guess.  And it worked, for some time.  Until I saw how that free time of theirs was starting to be a waist of time.  As much as they seemed happy and relieved at first, at some point, they seemed to loose themselves in that time, and wander aimlessly around the house.  I felt like this was a signal for me to help them engage in something but what?  I had tons of ideas to engage them in so man things, but being Montessorian type of activities, they just didn't pick up on it.  And so I had to find something else.  Not just another idea, but another way of doing altogether.

I spend many days trying to find ideas, trying new things, opening up doors to see if at some point they would take one and enter a new world. It was hard to deal with that amongst all other things, and really, I also felt scared that they were missing out on something during that time.  Scared that we were moving away from what characterize us in our educational philosophy.  No, maybe not a rational thought, but in the midst of all this change we have been going through, this is the only thing that felt stable.

And just like I needed it, my son, atop of his 6 years old told me the words of wisdom I needed to hear:  "Mom, do you know what I love about the way we live?  Is that you let us decide for ourselves what we need and want to do."

Oh gosh! there, he said it in his own way.  Freedom.  (How do they know what to say at the right time to make us feel better?) He is so right.  Being Montessori is how we behave, the choices we make, the decisions we take, the way we see our children, and we act with them, and most of all, the freedom that we allow them to live in in order to let them become who they are meant to be, NOT in the activities we set up for them.  Montessori is deeper then that.
(And BTW, when he said that I was letting him decide for himself what he needed, he was referring to something that happened in the morning while dressing up to go (in the very cold) outside.)

And so I decided to let go, and do the one thing that I have learned to do: to observe my children.

It is crazy the amount of change we are inclined to make for our children.  And most of all, it is crazy how they manage to find a way to make us change towards something that, overall, was a good move, even if we never thought of it that way before.

Yes, it has caught me off guard, but we might just have turned a corner that will lead us to a new crazy fun and unexpected road.


  1. In my understanding, Montessori is all about empowering the children and giving them the skills they need to make good decisions. It gives them practical skills, yes, but in order to let them apply them and become competent, self-sufficient people. So your son's words are in every way, an indication of your success! Wise mama.

  2. I second that, very wise Mama. When I was working as a Montessori Guide/Directress I realized that Guides had a different kind of authority with the children than the parents. I knew right then that I would have a different relationship with my kids (that I hoped to have some day) than I had with my students. With parents the child knows that the parent will love them no matter what with the teacher there isn't that same certainty so there is a different type of respect.

    Before our kids were born, my husband and I discussed how we envisioned raising them. He said that he was very on board with Montessori schools and the method but his preference was home schooling. As I thought about that I knew right away that one of the 6 basic components of the Montessori classroom environment, community life, would be missing in the home school environment. Here's what I know to be beneficial about community life within the M. classroom:

    The development of the children’s community within the classroom is aided by several key elements in Montessori’s method. One of the keys to this is the sense of ownership that stems from their responsibility to their classroom. The second key is the responsibility the children begin to feel for each other. Montessori gave the students freedom in their social relations, only limiting them when they interfered with the rights of others. From this freedom the child’s natural interest in others grew spontaneously. A third key is the inclusion of children of differing ages in each class. Older children are found to assist the younger ones spontaneously and they provide inspiration to the younger ones by the example they set. In addition to the mixture of ages in each class the rooms were not separated by solid walls but by partitions allowing the students to easily access one classroom to the next.

    There were many reasons for me to consider home schooling though: lack of funds for tuition, the desire to be a SAHM/W and my desire to be their Montessori Guide. I could sacrifice my desire if it would benefit them but the money thing was something that we might not have a choice about so I decided that I would let go of ideals and realize the obstacles that may very well come up if I couldn't give them the ideal classroom setting.

    So much of parenting is demonstrating flexibility. Even in the classroom you find that, especially with the Kindergarteners (5-6 year olds). They get antsy and bored especially near the end of the school year. That's when it's helpful to send them to visit the 1st grade class, if there's one nearby. The excitement and nervousness that they used to have when school was new to them returns. They come back renewed and hopeful.

    It's discouraging when the children reject the materials. We want so badly for them to be engaged. When they have their peers to work with it really does help but so often we just have to work with what we have. Boy oh boy, do I know about that.

    Keep us posted. I check your blog a few times a week and am glad to know what's been keeping you busy.

  3. Charissa, I'm so glad to see you around!
    AND I thank you for your heartfelt post. THat has given me loads of insight as of what is going on. Very interesting.

    But whatever is going on, the situation made be have to be creative, and so far, it is paying off. It has added a new dimension to us and our lives.

    I don't see myself as a guide so much now, but as the older student... I feel sometimes that I am taking the place of the slightly older child that the younger are looking at. And I take this role differently. Instead of showing, I do, and let them come to participate(or not). Instead of demonstrating, I make with them. It has change our perspective of each other, it has changed the roles. And I feel more with them, more implicated. Look at my next post I think you'll understand.

    I indeed think that flexibility is the key. And those hurdles that you are worried about will come (they came for me, and yet, my kids are in Montessori facilities...). But creativity goes a long way. Listening to your child AND to yourself as well!

    THank you so much for being here and reading! And, tHank you for your point of view. I feel like I received a tap on the shoulder through the net. :) And I have to admit that they are welcome in times like these!
    I guess it really does eventually pay off to let them be. Although sometimes I don't feel like it. I guess we have, as parents, to believe in what we do!