There are many blogs and social media accounts out there that call themselves “montessori”. How are parents supposed to know what’s legitimate and true?
(hint: the photo above was posted by a Montessori school on Pinterest advising parents on Montessori toys to choose. There are toys in that photo which aren’t Montessori AT ALL, lol. Those rainbow nesting cups are actually a Waldorf material! Russian nesting dolls are russian nesting dolls, they aren’t Montessori; nor are russian nesting dolls a formal part of Montessori 0-3 curriculum. Only 5 of those toys are legitimately Montessori. Point being, you can’t trust just any social media out there).
I believe that as trained Montessori guides, we have a responsibility to judiciously uphold the authenticity of the information we all paid so much time and money to receive via training. I think we have a responsibility to use information that helps parents, ideally through a sound parent informational resource straight from the trained guides. I feel we also have a responsibility not to deceive people by spreading false, inaccurate, or incomplete information; and to guide parents in how to find accurate information if they seek it.
So as a trained assistants to infancy AMI guide, here’s how I share the method without giving away the actual method.
~ sharing information about what children reap from using Montessori materials.
“Charlie worked on his hand strength, grasp, and controlled release using (insert material name here)”. I don’t tell parents they should go buy them, I don’t tell parents what ages to use them on, or prerequisite skills a child needs, just what they are working on by using the material.
~ sharing parent education for how to support the child away from school; straight from me, to parents, without ever telling parents how to deliver presentations other than how to show their child how to dress themselves. And that may differ from guide to guide.
“Are you interested in toilet learning using Montessori principles? Here’s some information on what we’re doing at school, so you can carry it over at home”. We are trained in training for how and what parent information to share.
~ answering your friends’ and family’s questions if they come to me seeking advice.
“My kid won’t eat at the table. Help!”. “My kid has total meltdowns and tantrums any time he can’t get what he wants. Help!”. For me, this is a mix of some theory, which any person on earth could read in Dr. Montessori’s books for themselves; and bits of personal experiences I have gained from my classrooms over the years. Parents are also super sensitive to receiving “parenting” advice. So we really have to be careful and sensitive, while empowering parents and honoring that there are many ways to skin a cat. There is absolutely no reason I need to start giving them the step-by-step of my training them in order to help them receive some parental support if they ask for my insight.
~ I love giving Montessori gifts to others because I am in fact trained; and in my training we are shown how to curate or make materials– still, without ever showing people how to present materials in a Montessori way.
“Congrats, Kim and Kanye on welcoming another baby into the world!! For your baby shower I have gifted you with this hand-made paper Montessori mobile. Hang it from a hook on the ceiling while the baby is awake and laying on the floor beneath it; and when he’s done using it he’ll start crying or stop looking at it. When he gets older you can shorten the ribbon and hang it out of reach as visual decoration in his room, but I advise not hanging it above the bed or above the changing table. Can’t wait to meet him!”.
I’m not going to give them the complete rundown of every mobile there is, or tell them every mobile in the developmental sequence, along with which ones to present next etc etc– I just give the one gift and let that beautiful gift and the baby do the work organically.
~ I will advise on reading or gift people some of Dr. Montessori’s more simple books for others to read; or books written by other AMI trained professionals whose books I have personally read and trust.
“If you want to know more about Montessori, I would recommend the book Child in the Family. It’s a short and informative read”.
~ I advise people on toys or commercially available items I like in order to meet a particular need they tell me their child has; but the toy need not be a formal Montessori material. Montessori materials are like $50 each. I can’t speak for your friends, but my friends aren’t rich.
“My child is mouthing everything!” me: I like chew necklaces or biberchews so there is always something immediately available to chew on; or “I’m happy to prepare for them a basket of items to mouthe if you want”.
“My child is obsessed with sticking headphones into my iPhone headphone socket… any other recommendations?” Me: let me email you some links of toys that have a similar function, but are safe. I also suggest that you never give a baby access to smart phones or tablets because the baby could break them, so be careful. There are wooden iPhone replicas they might like instead”.
~ If I post on social media, it will never be heavily focused on something from an album. Check out my instagram or scroll through this blog to see for yourself. I may feature a picture of a material, but I won’t disclose any details about the material whatsoever, who to use it with, how to present it, none of that. If I ever post a material in order to share an idea, I promise you it didn’t come from a training album and I’m not going to tell you how to present. I believe that should come from a trainer, not from me.
~ We also often need to bridge the gap between the school and home environments because we are working on functional skills at school; and we don’t want all the learning de-railed or to unravel as soon as the child changes environments. We also want to help parents know what their child is working on by engaging with Montessori materials all day. So I love parent info nights, parent info literature, and I have no reservations telling a parent the name of a material and what skills their child is working on as a result of using something in class.
~ I’m never going to tell them they should run out and buy A, B, and C and use it at home, too. I can’t emphasize this enough: I am constantly telling parents “let home be home, and school be school. If you try to bring materials from school home, it can backfire on us and cause the child to lose interest in being at school. Or if you are presenting incorrectly, it can confuse the child or cause the child to feel aversive towards an otherwise very helpful material. Please don’t feel you need to replicate a Montessori program in your home. Most of these materials cost a LOT of money; and we are serving an entire classroom of young children for over 200 days of the year, for many hours a day. At home, you can relax and play, and do life together”.
~ I also will give direct presentations to the children in my personal family, again, from me, the professionally trained guide, to a child I personally know; because I’m a trained professional. I don’t expect my family members or friends to mimic what I do. They just think I’m “playing with their kid”. I will go to my sister’s /cousin’s / friends’ houses, and spend time with their children using things in the home and present with the same fundamental methodology I might use in the classroom when the child engages with me. But I’m not interested in or trying on purpose to coach or train their parents.
And I’m never approaching it like “hey! Can I come over and give your child Montessori lessons?!”. If the parents pick up a few details through sheer observation of me and their child, that’s wonderful. But to be honest, for all intensive purposes, I’m there to spend quality time with a child in my family. Once I’m playing with their kid, the parents usually go off and have some well-deserved personal time to do other things. Or us adults are socializing and the kids are there, too; and there might be times they need help with feeding, diapering, changing clothes, etc.; and I’ll do it the Montessori way.
~ I also have no qualms about advising parents on what toys to buy— read it right though– toys. Toys from a toy store like Toys-R-Us, Target, Amazon, and boutiques. I don’t ever tell untrained adults that they should run out and stock their child’s rooms with Montessori materials from the Heutink website. But again, because I’m trained, and have worked in the classroom for a few years, I have developed the trained eye for curating and selecting educative toys, commercial items for baby care, and books that are appropriate for particular ages. Based on personal experience, I also know which toys and products are winners for most babies and young children, and why I recommend them.
~ I’m obsessed with Montessori parent information concerning everyday experiences with babies and young children. I have no reservations about helping parents from my classrooms, or my family members with kids, have successful experiences at home and away from school. But I don’t need to give the method away in order to do that. It’s the simple things like how to put shoes on, changing clothes, being courteous, and helping out around the house.
And I will be honest with you– most parents don’t want to hear from an expert how to parent, because no parents like hearing what they’re “not doing right” or “haven’t been doing right”, especially from someone who isn’t a parent yet (I’m not a parent yet). So I always let parent friend and family come to me. If they have questions or challenges, they know I’m always there for them, and I’m happy to offer my advice and wisdom. But they need to seek me out.
Sharing the method with others, without giving the method away is still incredibly helpful. It allows you to support people without showing others the “how to” of the method itself. It also inspires curiosity about the method without coming across as a know-it-all. To me, it’s about supporting people in helping children when the trained guide isn’t there any more. Providing simple but practical nuts and bolts for the reality of living with a young child, or sending a child off to Montessori school when you aren’t trained and don’t know what it’s really about. Let’s keep the method pure and accurate by sharing our wisdom responsibly (: