Today, in my series Meet a Montessori-family,let me introduce you to Hannah and her family. Hannah is a Montessori teacher and runs a Montessori toddler group in Aberdeen, in Scotland. There are only a few Montessori inspired playgroups in the UK so I am delighted to feature her.
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?
I am Hannah and have been a Montessori Teacher for 12 years. I left Aberdeen, Scotland at 20 years old and lived in Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, and London, finally moving back to Aberdeen in 2016. I run Love Montessori, which offers Parent and baby/toddler groups. I also work as an online Tutor for the Montessori Partnership, who run Montessori Teaching Diplomas in London and Edinburgh.
I live with my Husband, who is from Papua New Guinea and 7-year-old daughter.
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?
I first learnt about the Montessori pedagogy from my good friend Karen at university in Edinburgh. I graduated in Psychology and wanted to specialise in child development. Karen was going to Study Montessori in Toronto, she persuaded me to go and observe a Montessori School in Edinburgh. I remember the feeling so well, walking into the Montessori setting. The children were so respected, independent, confident and happy. I wanted to be a part of that, so I applied and moved to Toronto to study at the AMI foundation. My trainer Sandra Girlato, was trained and worked alongside Maria Montessori’s granddaughter Renilde Montessori. Sandra is so passionate about Montessori education; it was hard not to absorb her passion. It changed my life.
You are a trained Montessori teacher so how did you training impacted your Parenting?
I was a trained Montessorian before I had my daughter and so it definitely guided me towards supporting her natural development. From teaching and studying I knew what she was capable of (sometimes that gave me mum guilt if I didn’t do everything Montessori). I loved watching her gain independence and explore the Montessori materials I bought/made for her. It’s was a new experience having Montessori at home rather than in a school setting. I really enjoyed it and now she is entering into the next plane of development so am learning about 7+ and Montessori.
When parents first find Montessori, it might be because of the toys or some specific materials, piece of furniture. Are there any Montessori “branded” items you regret buying?
That’s a good question. I always encourage parents to create their own Montessori Activities at home and to buy second hand when they can as there are so many good sites now that you can buy from. I am not sure that I regret any items I have purchased. When it comes to furniture, I have never bought any of the “Montessori” branded items. It can be simplified and made with things you already have. I gave my daughter a floor bed for a bit, which was a simple mattress and I just used a chair for a learning tower (I was always with her so she was safe).
Talking about “materials”, what would be your must have items?
For babies I would suggest that parents provide an area on the floor in their living room, where the children can be free to move and watch the world around them, provide realistic mobiles and a mirror. I loved the space I created for our daughter. For older babies definitely provide treasure baskets. My must haves for home for 3+ years would be the dressing frames (so great for independent dressing, fine motor control and concentration), practical life activities (home-made), Sandpaper letter/numbers and maybe the Spindle box.
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)
I would say the most important part of Montessori is respecting the child and developing the child’s independence. We really try to understand our daughters’ point of view and encourage her to be herself with the knowledge she has our love and trust. I would say that this is how we can call ourselves a Montessori inspired family.
You are based in Scotland where you run a Montessori parents and toddler group. How is the Montessori movement in Scotland?
The Montessori Movement is progressing especially now the Montessori Partnership is based in Edinburgh. More people are interested in becoming Montessori Teachers. I have always had a good amount of parent interest in my groups and have met some lovely families who want more of an educational group for their children than the ‘normal’ toddler ones that are on offer. Unfortunately, there are no Montessori Nurseries in Aberdeen but there are forest schools which is great. I’m really proud of my Montessori baby/toddler groups and can’t wait to get back to them when things get back to ‘normal’.
What makes your Montessori playgroup special?
I create a calm space for children to explore the Montessori activities at their own pace. It’s not to busy or noisy. I offer a wide range of materials, which the children enjoy weekly. The Parents can talk and learn alongside their children and each other. I love that I’ve had some children since they were 2 right until they start school and siblings of previous children. Aww I miss them; it’s been difficult not running them over lockdown.
What do you want the parents to learn when they attend your playgroup?
I love it when parents can learn new activities that they can replicate at home. I want the parents to be able to relax and observe how their children can figure out the activities themselves. If parents can learn to take a back seat a little and give their children the space to learn and grow, then that’s a wonderful gift. I just ultimately want the parents to enjoy watching what their children are capable of at a young age.
Your child attends a mainstream school. It’s the case of many Montessori enthusiast parents. How do you keep the Montessori principles relevant once your child attends school?
I think its part of us now, the way we talk to each other and encourage our daughter to do things for herself. I also still show her Montessori materials alongside her mainstream schooling which consolidates some of the concepts for her.
What is your favourite book written by Montessori?
It has to be ‘The Discovery of the Child’ and of course ‘The Absorbent Mind’😍
Do you have a favourite Montessori quote?
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul”. (The Absorbent Mind 2017 p54)
This quote sums Montessori pedagogy perfectly for me. The child incarnates the world around them and with love, nurture and a prepared environment we can help support this natural development. I wish all children had a Montessori start in life, what a different world we would live in!
Thank you for participating!