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Montessori at Home: Tips for Working Moms

Introducing your child to Montessori as early as possible can put her on the right path to becoming a confident, self-motivated learner and I'm very glad that more and more families in the Philippines are realizing the benefits of this educational method and philosophy for their children.

Let me just share a quick list of its benefits:

  1. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace (this the what "Follow the Child" is all about).

  2. The environment, materials, and daily routines support your child's emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), toddlers through adolescents. At an early age, Montessori kids develop order, coordination, and independence.

  3. Working within parameters (freedom within limits) set by their parents/guardians and the guides at school, children are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. They become active seekers of knowledge. They are provided the environment and the tools to find answers to their questions.

  4. As children mature, they learn to become more critical and are able to self-correct (the materials and activities in Montessori encourage children to do self-correction, this is what "control-of-error" is for).

We apply the Montessori principles at home to act as a valuable bridge for what Kara will learn from school. Moreover, we help everyone aware of how this is incorporated in our daily lives especially the primary caregivers (Hubby, Me and Kim - Kara's yaya).

Since both my husband and I have jobs and/or businesses to run and we're out the whole day, I gave a crash course to Kim about Montessori. I didn't teach her about all the jargon; I just explained 2 things -- WHY the environment and the activities are prepared as such (e.g. to promote independence, order etc.) and HOW to "present" activities the Montessori Way (i.e. practical life activities always need to be demonstrated, otherwise, a child wouldn't know what a toothbrush ia for, or how to chop for example).

From the very beginning (during the job interview), I already told Kim that we have a specific way of raising Kara. It is very important that she understands our values. I also informed her that we have CCTV's around the house and in Kara's room and this is for their security (especially since we're away majority of the day). After we hired her, I demonstrated the simple steps we do at home to raise an independent, confident, and respectful child, such as:

  1. No spoon-feeding and only let Kara eat at the dining area with no distractions (no toys, TV or iPad).

  2. Not using the words "No" or "Stop that". When Kara is doing something she shouldn't be doing, she is not told to stop but instead, she is shown what she should do (starting 19 months, children already have a sense of right and wrong but you need to SHOW them what is the RIGHT way and not just leave them at "You can't do that because I said so"). For example, when Kara threw her blocks after playing, I told her: "Okay, I think you don't want to play with these anymore, Mama will put these away now." Then, I showed her how to clean-up and she started helping me. Children learn by repetition so this isn't a one time demo - we repeat it until she has fully understood the concept. Now, when she is done playing, she doesn't throw her toys anymore. She'll say "I'll pack up now. Please help me Ate/Mama/Papa".

  3. Grace and Courtesy. We always say "Please" when we ask for help and "Thank You" when help is given.

  4. We say "Excuse me" when we try to pass between two people talking or after we sneeze.

Kara also has a routine (this is posted on one of the wall panels in her room with the insert). It is important to set routine for children. It gives them a sense of security and helps them develop good habits and learn about order, an important tenet in Montessori Philosophy.

Her schedule is simple but specific, and it's not really the timings but the sequence of things that we follow. There is time allocated for "play" so Kara can work on her own if she likes.

We rotate the toys depending on Kara's current interests and what challenges she can already work on. The activities are everywhere (especially for Practical Life) and Kim is the one who guides her as needed. I also posted a list of developmentally appropriate activities that they can do in case they want to try something else.

We also ensure that Kara gets her 11-14 hours of sleep per day which is advised for her age. A well-rested child is not just happy but also more eager to learn.

We are very lucky because Kim (Kara's yaya) really loves and cares for her. Our good relationship with Kim probably stemmed from the fact that we set our expectations from the beginning and carefully explained our house rules in our employee contracts as well as the benefits they can receive. Aside from the Government-required benefits, we provide:

HMO with Dental Coverage (after 6 months of stay)

Salary Loan (can be availed after 1 year of stay)

Retirement Fund (after 5 years of stay)

13th Month Pay (after 6 months of stay)

Fortnightly Rest Day (on a weekend)

Free Toiletries

Salon Day (monthly Mani-Pedi and haircut)

Birthday Leave

School Supplies Assistance (for her nephew)

And most importantly, we treat Kim as family. Kara really loves her ate Kim (she literally says "Good Night, I love you ate Kim!" when it's time for bed). My yaya has also been with us for almost 30 years. She is currently staying with my parents.

There you go! Basically, they key to making Montessori work at home FOR OUR FAMILY is really to have a PREPARED ENVIRONMENT and for everyone to understand the HOW and the WHY.

As Dr. Montessori said in the Absorbent Mind:

“… the first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given him by nature. This does not mean just to amuse him and let him do what he likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the law which decrees that development comes from environmental experience.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8).

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