Today, in my series Meet a Montessori-family, let me introduce you to Sarah from Bright Colourful Kids on Instagram. Sarah has been a subscriber of our Montessori boxes since day one and I love to follow her family adventures!
I see Montessori as a way of life. The name of my business has always been Montessori-family as I am convinced that every family can benefit from the Montessori education. And every family will use Montessori in its own way.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family and about where you live?
We are a two mum family with three sons aged 11, 5 and 3, all of whom have additional needs. We live in a little village on the edge of the Cotswolds with our black Labrador cross Zoe. We have home educated our eldest son for the last 5 years and our younger two children have never been to school or nursery. We love the home ed life and the freedom and flexibility it gives us.
How did you first become interested in Montessori? What it was about Montessori that really resonated with you and how did you learn more about it?
Looking back, my mother had quite a Montessori inspired child-led approach with me when I was a little girl. She was always teaching me to do things for myself, letting me have a go and allowing me to explore my own interests when other parents seemed to be very different. When I was researching various philosophies before we had children, Montessori was the approach that really stood out for me. I bought lots of books on the subject, followed popular Montessori social media accounts and took a couple of online courses. I loved the idea of my children being raised in a way that supported them as individuals, allowed them to make their own choices and develop at their own pace, and cultivate a real joy in learning.
What changes did you make in your parenting style since you have discovered Montessori?
We got rid of the TV! When my eldest was 5 we realised that we had come to rely on the TV, and decided to go cold turkey - we packed it up that day! It was very hard for all of us to make the transition as my eldest who has autism literally had no idea how to entertain himself, but without screens his play skills and imagination began to develop, he gained in focus and concentration and discovered new interests and a talent for drawing. The other big change we made was introducing toy/book rotation. Having only a small number of toys and books available increases the interest level in each one. Rather than flitting from toy to toy, or the “play” becoming just dumping all the toys out, each toy is valued and used appropriately.
When parents first find Montessori, it might be because of the toys or some specific materials, piece of furniture. Is there any Montessori “branded” items you regret buying?
I can’t think of anything that we regret buying, but in a home environment we have found that you really don’t need all of the specially designed Montessori items. You can make a lot of things yourself, or use cheaper alternatives that allow the child to work on the same skill. We did have quite a few of the “proper” Montessori puzzles for my younger two when they were little, but at the same time our “object permanence box” was a shoebox with a hole cut in the top, and they loved it! We have the knobbed cylinders, pink tower, metal insets etc. but the most important purchases for us to prepare a Montessori environment and enable the children to become independent was child-sized tools, table and chairs, and the learning tower to get them up to the height of the kitchen work surface safely.
With my work, I want to show that any family can use the Montessori principles at home with their children. How would you define yourself as a Montessori Family? What are the Montessori principles that are the most important for you? (if you say to someone, we are a Montessori inspired family because we do this and that)
We are not “Montessori perfect” by any stretch of the imagination but I would say that we are a Montessori family because we promote independence wherever we can, we try to prepare the home environment to enable freedom as best we can and we follow their changing interests and developmental needs.
You have 3 beautiful children who all have their own specific needs. Do you think Montessori is specifically useful for children with special needs?
Absolutely, 100%! There is no better approach, each child can develop at their own pace, nothing is rushed, everyone is respected as an individual. When you have a child with additional needs, you start thinking about future independence very early on - will they manage to look after themselves and be able to live independently, will they find fulfilment and joy in whatever they are able to do, and will they be happy? Montessori encourages a child to take pride in their own efforts, to gain whatever independence they can, and to feel good about their achievements with no external motivation.
With 3 children of different ages, a dog, home-schooling them, what is your daily rhythm?
The younger children have a rhythm of shelf work all morning, some table activities (we call it basket work, we have a basket of crafts, devotions, interesting things to look at, a game or puzzle etc. and change the contents regularly) at lunch time, they have a sleep after lunch and the afternoon is more outdoor play/ free play. Our eldest is 11 and prefers to spend a lot of time by himself, often choosing to be creative whilst listening to educational audiobooks. We give him 1:1 time after the younger two are in bed and share read alouds or play a game. We do a few classes throughout the week on Zoom. We incorporate practical life activities wherever we can as they are so good for our children (like sneaky occupational therapy!) - things like cleaning, cooking, gardening etc. are all enjoyed and the children love to feel like they’re helping towards the running of the house.
Do you have a favourite resource, such as Montessori book or a blog that inspire you?
I don’t have a favourite blog but social media has been a huge help to us - we’ve made some lasting Montessori friendships just by linking up with other parents and supporting each other. Our favourite resource has got to be our Montessori Family boxes! We’ve been subscribers since the start and are sad the two years has come to an end, but we can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve!
What would be your tips for a parent who has just discovered Montessori?
Don’t rush out and buy lots of things straight away! Take time to really observe your child without disturbing them, see what they are interested in and what they need and go from there. It’s not an overnight change, and sometimes allowing your child to be independent requires a lot from us as parents, especially if you were raised very differently as it’s so hard to let go! It’s so rewarding seeing your child succeed on their own and know that they can do it.
I hope you have enjoyed this interview as much as I did.