Why We Montessori : Alba and Oriol

This week we have the pleasure of taking a glimpse at the family of Alba, Oriol, Helena and Carla. 

Why We Montessori : Alba and Oriol

Helena, now aged 4, was one of the first children to join Nido when we opened back in 2015. She has more recently been joined by her younger sister Carla.

Alba explains that when Helena was born she felt ill-equiped to understand the world of childhood education. She says that where she had spent years learning and preparing for her paid job, as director of finances and human resources, the most important job she would do, that of a mother, was one for which she had had no training at all! She begin to read about different alternative pedagogies. The logical and common sense approach offered by the Montessori method was what first attracted her to it. She likes the fact that it focuses on the wellbeing and learning of the children, rather than on convenience for adults.

At home, Helena slept on a floor bed until she was able to climb up to a higher bed, even if most nights she ended up in with mummy and daddy! Their house is tidy and toys have their place. Alba rotates the toys so that not all of them are visible at once. This prevents boredom and also ensures that shelves do not become over crowded.

Cooking is a family activity with the help of Oriol’s homemade learning tower. Helena didn’t start using this until she was two years old, but her younger sister Carla already likes to climb up and join in cooking, washing plates or just simply being part of the activity. Observing older children, parents and guides is another fundamental part of the Montessori pedagogy. Montessori knew that children learn by observation, not by teaching and this is actively encouraged in a Montessori classroom. A child’s powers of observation will be developed throughout their time in Infant Community and Children’s House, and many visitors to Montessori classrooms will see children simply watching others as they complete an activity. This activates their mirror neurons in the motor cortex and primes them for when their time comes to do the activity.

Alba and Oriol both attribute the girls concentration capacity to the Montessori Method. Both girls are interested in doing things for themselves, and Montessori is the perfect pedagogy for promoting this. Montessori believed that the “Internal Teacher” found inside every child drives them constantly to want to do things for themselves. This can be frustrating at times, and particularly in environments that are not designed for young children. Keeping objects which are not suitable for small children out of reach is a fundamental part of creating the prepared environment. Children should only be able to reach what they can safely explore. This is much easier to do in school than at home. However, the fact that Montessori children are able to explore their environment and do things for themselves at school, makes them even more determined to continue when they get home. Alba, like many Montessori parents explains that this is one of the most difficult things she finds about having Montessori children. Our busy lives mean that finding the time on a daily basis to allow children to do things for themselves is a challenge.

Alba notices that she also finds it challenging dealing with a common misconception: "Montessori children get to do what they want, whenever they want". When one begins to explore the pedagogy further, it is clear that this could not be further from the truth. A Montessori classroom falls apart when anyone, be it Guides, Assistants, Children or Parents begin to do what they want, when they want. Freedom within limits is a fundamental part of the pedagogy. This means that a child’s natural drive to explore and do things for themselves needs to be managed. Therefore, you will often notice Montessori children walking around the classroom with their hands behind their backs. This helps them resist the urge to touch the materials which other children are using or which they have not yet received a presentation. Children who want to use materials which they are not yet ready to use will be invited to dust the material. This offers a gentle, yet non-invasive manner in which to fulfil this internal drive.

Montessori in essence is about being gentle with a child’s drive to do things for themselves, and this may explain why Alba and Oriol feel that their children both seem to be very gentle and non-aggressive. Obviously, all this begins at home and having the patience to allow your children the time to grow and develop at their own pace, thereby putting their needs before your own wants, is a challenge faced by parents everywhere. Thankfully, it is a challenge Alba and Oriol are willing to face.

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