Meet a Montessori Family : Paula from Montessori Playing

Today, in my series Meet a Montessori-family, let me introduce you to Paula from  @montessoriplaying. Paula is a single mum and lives in Scotland with her 2 years old daughter Stella. She is a school teacher and a "play enthusiast".

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?



Hey! I’m Paula, I’m 31 and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. I am a single parent to my daughter Stella whose 2 and although I co-parent effectively with her dad, he lives in London so- for the most part- it’s just me and Stella and our small but amazing support bubble!
I am an English teacher and have always loved reading books set in vibrant locations then visiting for myself and seeing the descriptions come to life in front of me. Before becoming a parent, I travelled often; my favourite trip was my annual Euro Inter rail, I visited so many countries over the years making the most of my teacher holidays. Pre Covid, I had actually planned to take Stella on her first inter rail this summer, however, I’ve had to put these plans on hold!
We live close enough to the city to visit Glasgow regularly, but we are also surrounded by woodland walks and parks that have given us respite from the monotony of the living room and made the past year bearable!


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




I first read about the Montessori Method when I was training to be a teacher. Although I teach senior school, the Scottish Education system that children ages 3-18 undertake (A Curriculum for Excellence) takes roots in Montessori principles and aims to create: successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.
When I was pregnant with Stella, I found myself reading more online and in print and decided that this was the parenting method I’d loosely adopt. What I was most drawn to was the fact that children’s voices are heard, that decision making and self-sufficiency is encouraged, but most importantly facilitated and supported, from the earliest of stages. I find joy in learning new things, and I love that Montessori education inspires this and encourages us to always be learning from our environment.


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



The biggest changes I made were not so much in parenting style, but in the environment I have created for Stella. Self- care stations, learning towers, weaning tables were things that I never had as a child and do not seem to feature in the homes of my friends who have adopted a more ‘standard’ parenting approach.

 

It’s hard to say, but had I not discovered Montessori, I may have chosen to use behaviour charts. Yet as a result of supportive groups and learning about toddler choice I find that open discussions about feelings work more effectively anyway.
Since discovering Montessori, I do give a little bit more thought to what toys I offer Stella but at the end of the day, if I think she will enjoy something I wouldn’t stop her from having it…even if it wasn’t “Montessori aligned”.

 
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?



There aren’t any toys in particular that I regret purchasing, but the longer I observe Stella the more I realise how insignificant toys can be for young people…so perhaps I regret the volume of toys she has! She is most happy playing with the stones in our garden, or with water in the sink. I think some people believe Montessori has to involve wooden climbing frames and extortionate rainbows when it really is more about the philosophy.

 
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 describe myself as Montessori-ish!
The most important Montessori principle, for me, it to “follow the child” and the area where I implement most ‘Montessori Principles’ is in play.
I love observing Stella and giving her materials that are in line with her current interests, schemas and development. I love that the Montessori approach encourages open-ended play and play that transcends age or gender- sometimes I think I enjoy the activities I do with Stella as much as her!
I also believe we are a Montessori family because Stella is given the opportunity to make decisions for herself daily whether that’s about what she wears, what she eats or whether we play indoors or outdoors. Sometimes she has free choice- “what would you like to do today” and other times she selects from options- “would you like fruit, toast or a yoghurt?” but that choice and independent thought is always there.

 

You are a single mum. Can you tell us a bit about your challenges and how it has impacted how your raise your daughter? I am amazed at how you find time to “create activities” and share them all on Social Media!


Single parenting is hard, there is no denying that but it has also been a hugely liberating and enjoyable experience for me- so far! In the beginning it was really obvious that I was one pair of hands short and at times I have to make tough choices- like letting Thomas the Tank take over for 15 minutes while I have a shower!
For the most part, what I miss is that shared moment of pride when Stella does something for the first time or masters a new skill. I suppose that is part of what led me to share what we do in Social Media. My personality favours shared experiences and validates memories more when they’ve been shared with others. Last year between March- June I had very little face to face interaction with anyone, so the conversations and relationships I forged online were so valuable.
I also have an amazing support bubble in the form of my parents and aunt who help with Stella. My mum knows that I love the hands on
Do you have a favourite resource, such as Montessori book or a blog that inspire you?
I have really been enjoying reading “The Montessori Toddler” recently- it helps make sense of some of the more challenging toddler behaviours.
I have also learned so much from the online Montessori community and love that it spans every continent!

You work as a primary teacher. Does Montessori influence your work as well?


I actually teach English Literature to 11-18 year olds! I do try to equip pupils with strategies to help them learn independently although teenagers are definitely less compliant that toddlers!


Your daughter is a toddler, what are your future goals with Montessori? (maybe you are planning to homeschool?)


I don’t think home-schooling will be part of our plan, however, there will be lots of learning through play and activities at home for as long as Stella wants to participate in them!
Thanks you so much for participating!
Thank you so much for thinking of me and for all that you contribute to the online Montessori community 


I hope you have enjoyed this interview as much as I did.

There are other interviews of Montessori families on this blog, check them all here.

If you wish to participate, let me know in a comment!

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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.

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