Why we Montessori: Cecilia and Paolo
Here begin a series of blog posts "Why we Montessori" by parents.
Discover, in their own words, why they like the Montessori approach, what they don't like, how they adapt their house to the Montessori pedagogy and many more points which parents share in these testimonials.
Why we Montessori: Cecilia and Paolo
Cecilia and Paolo were the first parents to enrol when we started Nido Montessori Center back in 2015. Their son Gabriel, now 5, was at a nursery in the city and they were looking for something different. Perhaps it is no surprise then that when I asked parents if they could tell me “Why they Montessori”, Cecilia and Paolo were first to reply!
The couple both work in multinational companies in Barcelona and are a multinational, and multilingual family. Cecilia is from Mexico and Paolo from Italy. They have two children, Gabriel who is 5 and Gaia who is 2. They were first attracted to the Montessori pedagogy for the respect and freedom that it allows.
Montessori is often misunderstood as a pedagogy that allows complete freedom. In actual fact, it is better described as freedom within limits. These limits are very clear and ingrained within the pedagogy. From the moment a child enters a Montessori classroom, these limits are learnt implicitly through the layout of the space and the different activities they complete. A surprise for many new Montessori parents of 4 and 5-year-old children is that their child does not immediately get stuck in to learning spelling or math activities but spends some time just learning how to move around the classroom and take care of themselves. During those first days, they learn to roll and unroll a mat, carry a chair or table and, put on and take off their shoes / jacket, which many haven’t learnt to in traditional schools. Walking on the line is also a popular activity, where children practice walking quietly and upright (using a beanbag on their head). This may seem very traditional and old fashioned, but when we look at many young people with back problems or a lack of confidence, perhaps learning to hold one’s posture should be given more importance. Likewise, learning to tuck in a chair, quietly, without scraping it on the floor, teaches the importance of not disturbing others and the value of caring for objects.
Cecilia explains that they have tried to adapt their house to make it more Montessori-friendly, but like many parents, the theory and practice don’t always go hand-in-hand. Gabriel has a floor bed and they do their best to keep everything ordered and clean. Montessori aims to work with children’s natural desire for order. We have all seen toddlers making long lines of their favourite toys. An ordered environment helps children to develop what scientists refer to as Executive Functions, in particular attention, inhibition and working memory which we now know are crucial for later success at school and in work.
Two areas which Cecilia says she feels proud of are that her children both enjoy helping out with meal preparation and are very able to get themselves dressed and undressed, no easy feat for a two-year-old! She says that these activities have helped them to grow independently and take responsibility for themselves.
However, Montessori is not without its struggles and Cecilia is very open with an area that she and Paolo both struggle with. Montessori requires that children do things for themselves at their own pace, and it is tough to combine this with our busy, modern lives. She says she struggles to give them the time to do things for themselves, and her and her husband have to control themselves in order to not interrupt or correct. One of the beauties of the materials found in Montessori is that when children make an error, they are able to see it for themselves and do not require an adult to point it out. This is deliberate, as Montessori also teaches us that correcting children’s errors causes children to feel incapable and does not help learning in the long run. Following the Montessori principles at home is not fool proof and balancing the demands of our lifestyles with the needs of our children is never easy. The important thing is being ready to learn and change our behaviours based on what we learn, something which Cecilia and Paolo are very willing to do.