I discover Jasmine, through her blog 3 minutes Montessori, 3 years ago. Since we have been in touch and we have lots in commen, a quest for a decluttering life, a love for home design and embracing the Montessori principles for our family. It was a pleasure to chat with her, live in the Facebook group.
Here is for you that interview.
You can watch the replay here too:
1. Hi Jasmine, and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Tell me more about yourself and your family.
My name is Jasmine, I live in Singapore with my husband and two children aged 3.5 and 5.
2. How did you discover Montessori?
I discovered Montessori when I was searching for something that resonated with my parenting beliefs. I had never quite agreed with coddling or hovering over the children. As babies, I often thought that despite an outward appearance of helplessness, they could do so much on their own, like looking intently at something that piqued their interest, or gurgling or smiling in response to me- even when they couldn’t talk, they could and would communicate! As a new mum, I believed in the innate capacity of the child and wanted my child to be independent, self-directed and to grow up believing that they could. Montessori fit the bill: it didn’t prescribe what the child should do compared to other children but offered a more commonsensical, intuitive approach of following the child and letting his natural development unfold on his or her own terms. I also particularly love that idea of unfolding, as it brings to mind the image of a butterfly. If we force a butterfly out of its chrysalis before he is ready, we would injure him. The butterfly has to go through a struggle to free itself from its cocoon (which we may feel uncomfortable and impatient watching), and only the butterfly itself would know when its wings are ready for flight.
3. I have noticed that the way you incorporate Montessori into your family life has evolved over the years to a more simple, minimalist way of Montessori. Can you tell more about why it has changed?
An international move from Singapore to London meant that we were without learning materials for a stint- and yet how the children unfolded their sensitivities for language and numeracy without any of those things! The period of going without, doing without, showed me that the ability to learn, the natural curiosity to discover— all these reside within the child, not his toys or materials.
4. You live in a small flat in Singapore so can you share tips to make it work in a small space?
Declutter. The Konmari method has been the only method that has helped me stay organised for a year and counting. If you have fewer things, you need less storage. If you have less storage, you have more floor space- and young children spend a lot of time on the floor, whether it’s rolling and crawling as infants, or making tents out of blankets and kitchen stools. Also, I strongly believe that form follows function. This is something I incorporated from my Interior Design summer studies at Central Saint Martin’s when we were discussing space planning. Instead of worrying about aesthetics, we should simply observe what our children do, and set up areas according to how they use the various spaces in the home, and activities. The aim is not to have a picture-perfect home but a prepared environment that meets the needs of every family member, adult and child.
5. Your children attend a Montessori school so you don’t have Montessori material at home. How do you complement their Montessori education at home?
I do have a few classic Montessori materials, but I only bring them out when the children have long holidays, summer break for instance. When I did my AMI 3-6 and 6-12 Assistants training in London, I heard that duplication of materials could cause children to opt for “easy” work in the classroom because they had more challenging work to go home to. It’s also important to remember that home is not a classroom, home is so much more than a classroom. We can give our children the real-world, hands-on, utterly individualised experiences that even the best Montessori classroom cannot provide. For example, I used to dread taking my children to buy groceries. But I realised how rich it was in sensorial impressions, opportunities for food education, language, making good food choices. Now I bring them with me almost weekly.
6. I know that you have a very relaxed family life, with no after-school activities scheduled, which is rare in Singapore. Why that choice?
We often speak of the space that is the prepared environment, but the element of time is also key because the child needs long, uninterrupted periods of time in order to concentrate. In order to give our children that, I do my best to free their afternoons for play and self-chosen work. I do think that this would look different for different families and that there are some really great classes springing up that are respectful, creative and child-led! However, what works for our family is to have a pretty basic weekly rhythm (as opposed to a fixed schedule), where we might arrange flowers to mark Mondays, eat sushi on Fridays, but otherwise we don’t commit to any weekly enrichments or extra classes and won’t until the children start showing a serious aptitude or inclination for something. This gives us the flexibility to step out of that rhythm, and when we do, it’s special. I think Kim John Payne refers to these special moments as “high notes” in his book, Simplicity Parenting. “Busy-ness” seems to be almost glorified in modern culture, whether at work or in social settings. I kind of feel that the antidote to that, is downtime; loads and loads of time for the child to just be. I’ve heard of many children who have such hectic full-day schedules in preschool, that upon entering primary school (which is half a day in Singapore), they don’t know how to spend that free time. Learning to self-regulate one’s time is a gift of trust from me to my children, and hopefully, a skill that once acquired will stand them in good stead.
7. As a family, you love to cook with your children. Do you have any tips to get started? Maybe some recipes to share with us?
Cooking with your children is one of the best things one can do. (Or if you do not like cooking, introduce them to a hobby of yours, especially if it involves work with your hands.) It won’t be perfect or perfectly clean, but it will give them such a sense of accomplishment! I would like to suggest that (a) any recipe can be made more child-friendly if you break it down into its various steps and then identify just one step that your child can do. Ideally, that step would allow for lots of repetition so that he could really get into the swing of it and concentrate deeply. Chopping veggies, whisking batter, grating cinnamon, are some examples that even toddlers could do. (b) For a start, focus more on simple snacks rather than have the pressure of a whole meal weighing on you. Dark chocolate-coated roasted almonds (with a light sprinkling of sea salt) and parmesan popcorn are two easy snack ideas that you could prepare with your child or have your child do by himself after a few rounds of collaboration. (c) Handling knives safely when appropriate for your child’s age and maturity is possibly the best kitchen skill one can acquire. If the child can respect the power (and danger) of a knife, he can do lots in the kitchen and you wouldn’t need a whole host of single-use kitchen tools (disclaimer: I have those, so I’m speaking from personal experience haha) which clutter up your kitchen. Practical life is also the perfect way to introduce your culture, not just your country’s culture but also how your family does things uniquely. The child will take it all in with his absorbent mind.
Thank you so much for answering those questions and joining us live in our Facebook group!
More info about Jasmine here:
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