Meet a Montessori Family – Kristin, Oliver & Eleanor (+ Matt!)

Today, in my series Meet a Montessori-family,let me introduce you to Kirstin and her family. I follow Kirstin on Instagram on @o_e_and_me

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?

Hello! My name is Kristin. My family includes my husband, Matt, and my children Oliver (3) and Eleanor (6). We live in the US.

I was a kindergarten teacher before going back to school for Speech Pathology. Most of my work as a therapist has been with adults in medical facilities or in the home environment. Before children I was interested in swallowing disorders and cognitive-linguistic deficits. Since having children my interest returned to child development.

How did you first become interested in Montessori? What is it about Montessori that really resonated with you and how did you learn more about it?

When Eleanor was 12 months old I didn’t know what to do with her. I turned to Pinterest and I searched “What do I do with my 12 month old?” Initially, I was drawn in by the beautifully organized Montessori works and that I could DO something for her. As I continued, I read blogs, books and started following many people on Instagram learning as much as I could about the philosophy and how we could do Montessori at home. Do it in our home beyond focusing on just works to do, but what was meaningful work to our family unit. With further learning I became more drawn into discussions surrounding respect and purposeful work.

I personally prefer DIYs getting creative with materials we already own to model creativity, reduce excessive purchasing or material use, and demonstrate that items can potentially be used beyond their initial purpose. If I want my children to use downtime to get creative I wanted to model doing the same myself.

What changes did you make in your parenting style since you have discovered Montessori?

Initially I focused a ton on “the child” and “the environment.” I have a really bad habit of putting myself last. The last year and a half I have been working on “the prepared adult.” I have a ton more work to go, but I have gotten better about personal boundaries and leaving space for myself. I find that I cannot be prepared adult my family needs if I do not make myself a priority at times. It can be further learning taking courses, taking time to read a book during the day, baking by myself, calls with friends, etc. I just needed to know I was carving out time for myself. In doing that I found I had more focus and joy while observing the environment and my children.

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?

This is an awesome question.

 1) Tag Toys Tumble Down Pegs- I really wanted to love this one. My children were more interested in seeing how the pegs dropped down than pegging or number sense. While exploration is wonderful, they didn’t really explore it for a long period of time or often. For the price, it was a miss for us.

2) Texture boards- so many options at home.

Talking about “materials”, what would be your must have items?

Books (we focus on reference material now for my older child), building materials (I believe everyone needs blocks for the math aspect and problem solving, we also love magnatiles), gross motor item(s), art supplies, stools and child sized kitchen supplies for independence and practical life, and lots and lots of nature.

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? 

I would definitely say Montessori inspired. We definitely have some mainstream toys that are well loved here. For us, it is more important to cultivate our home to foster independence, model respect for oneself and others, and create an environment supporting our child’s interests (purposeful work).

What are your future projects regarding your child’s education? 

We are adding in more Montessori materials with our current situation. The area of greatest interest for Eleanor is science, so, lots of books to read and some hands on science works. She wants to learn about food webs and food chains, so, that is first. I am also providing math to cement number sense for her and language to help continue her love of writing and build confidence with reading.

Oliver mostly has unstructured play, but we are adding in some sorting works, sensorial works, and sound games. He loves working in the kitchen right now and asks to make cookies.

If you are not planning to homeschool, how do you see yourself keeping the Montessori principles relevant once your child attends school?

This is usually our situation. We focus the most on practical life and grace and courtesy. We also focus on whatever our children are interested in learning more about.

Do you have a favourite resource, such as Montessori book or a blog that inspire you?

My favourite books have been The Montessori Toddler, Montessori Read and Write, The Whole Brain Child, Nurture Shock and Siblings Without Rivalry.

My favourite blogs are The Kavanaugh Report, Jasmine at 3MM, Montessori Doashi and Age of Montessori. 

For resources I love 

I also love Instagram. I love the pictures and seeing ideas created!

What would be your tips for a parent who has just discovered Montessori?

Observe. I wouldn’t toss anything. Observe your child and write down interests, behaviours, items used the most, how could I help the child become more independent in my home, etc. I would still hold onto what we have, and reduce what is available toy-wise only leaving out the ones that garnered the most interest. Observe again and make changes. I love the post Nicole had recently about using observations to make toy/work selections. It had a couple great visuals to help understand why one would select an item if needed verses just buying something someone else had in their home. Montessori isn’t cookie cutter. What works for one child at home may not work for your child. The purpose is to Follow YOUR Child (within boundaries, of course).

Thanks you so much for answering those questions!

I hope the interview was an inspiration for you all!

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.