Montessori reflections with a parent hat on!

By Amy Johnson – Kōwhai Head Teacher – Preschool

I was thinking the other day about how many of us wear multiple hats in this community. Many of us are parents/teachers /PTA members/administrators/Board members/class parents and/or relief staff here at Wā Ora. It is interesting to see this community and this system of education from lots of different points of view.

Before I became a parent, I was a directress in a Montessori environment for eight years. I was leading parent education evenings, on the board of directors and was head of school for seven of those years. I gave a lot of guidance and advice about children’s needs and phases of development, long before I had children of my own. I am sometimes asked if having my own children has changed the advice I give parents? I have found that actually, my explanations and advice have changed very little. My understanding of how challenging these lofty goals are in the real world however, has changed a lot!

In harmony with the Montessori philosophy, we strive to give our children time and opportunity to pursue their interests and passions, to try and fail, and try again without judgement. We provide clear, consistent, developmentally-appropriate boundaries that allow them to explore and we do our best to be in the moment with them as they stretch themselves and discover wonders. All these opportunities are incredible gifts to both our children and ourselves. Before I had children, I was practising these things while I spent hours in an environment that was specifically (and scientifically) designed with these purposes in mind. Let me say that again – our classrooms are specifically (and scientifically) designed with these purposes in mind! These special environments have been modified and honed over the last 110 years to serve exactly the developmental stage your child is at right now. Incredible, right?

But the rest of the world? Outside the Montessori environment? Yeah, not so much.

Ever wonder why it sometimes feels so difficult to parent at the grocery store or in the car or the mall? None of those places were designed with children in mind. I have learned as a parent to continue to strive for all of these ‘ideals’, but also to keep in mind that this is not ALWAYS possible. And that is OK.

Another corner stone of Montessori philosophy is something called “friendliness with error” and it is exactly that; a feeling of warmth and friendliness when things don’t quite work out as we would like. A forgiveness that allows us to learn from the not-ideal times or attempts at something and lets us learn from the experience and try again. And again!

So to make a long answer short, I often reflect that my advice didn’t really change after I became a parent, but my understanding of the monumental and yet enjoyable task that these ideas present, became much, much deeper.