One of the most common questions parents ask me is "how to choose a Montessori school?"
I have answered that question here.
And I though it would be interesting to introduce you to some amazing Montessori schools from all around the world.
Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to Funmi Rotimi - Ajibola, the founder of Milton Keynes Montessori school in the UK. It's a small preschool led by an amazing team.
I met Funmi online at first and as she is local-ish to me, I had the pleasure to host a Gentle Discipline course in her school for her parents.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your family?
I am a mother of two teenagers - it's a scary stage but also fun. I am enjoying seeing how they develop their ideas and explore big topics. Obviously they have always been with me but I enjoy every now and then almost seeing them with new eyes!
I come originally from Nigeria but have been living in the UK for 35 years now. I schooled in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, then Pembury in Kent, University in London and after living in London for a few years moved to Milton Keynes with my husband and children. I didn't think it would at first, but 10 years later Milton Keynes feels like home!
Could you tell us a bit about your path to Montessori?
I think I would say I stumbled upon Montessori Education. Towards the end of my degree, and after my first job, I quickly realised that this perhaps was not the path for me! This coincided with a period when my 4 year old niece had not been given a place in her school of choice. For some reason I decided that without any prior training in Education, that I would be up to the task of teaching her until she got a school place. Looking back on it now, the most I can say is it wasn't a complete disaster and thankfully she got a school place within a few months. Those few months of researching, trying to find ways to help her had sparked a flame within me. Fast forward to a few years later, I had my son and enrolled him in the local preschool - which happened to be a Montessori. I was always asking the teachers questions and wanting to know more as I saw how my son was developing. Those lovely teachers suggested I train as a Montessori teacher and the rest is history!
You have set up your own Montessori preschool. How was the journey to set up a preschool in the UK?
What would you say to a parent who wants to learn more about Montessori but doesn’t know where to start?
I would say "Don't start with Instagram". I feel very strongly that these images of perfect shelves by themselves do Montessori a disservice. It can become quite unhealthy.
It's about the journey you go on with your child, removing obstacles to their development and giving them freedom with loving boundaries.
I have some parents who have gone directly to Maria Montessori's books (kudos!), and others have started with books such as "How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin.
If their child goes to Montessori school, use the teachers as a resource to learn more- that's what I did many years ago at my son's Montessori!
What are the benefits of attending a Montessori preschool?
Oh so many! There is research that shows that Montessori children attending a good programme excel in terms of literacy and language skills, social skills, executive functioning and creativity. All children are different but I feel so confident in saying that having the foundation of a Montessori Education will have huge benefits for all children.
Another huge benefit is how the child starts to change the dynamic of the family he comes from. Parents start adjusting and learning as they see the way their children are developing. There is a shift in the interaction, a new respect for the child and a deeper, conscious willingness to aid their child.
Do you have a favourite Montessori quote?
"The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence."
I love this quote because I have witnessed it in reality many times. An environment in which children are encouraged to take ownership of their activities and interactions leads to confidence and self esteem. These are the steps to achieving growing independence!
Do you have a favourite Montessori material in the classroom?
The Large Movable Alphabet. I find it simple but beautiful with the contrasting blue and red letters. I love the versatility of exercises you can do with them also:finding the letter, matching the letter to sandpaper letters, building words alongside objects or pictures to building sentences!
What are your future projects for the school?
I would love to see a change where children are able to remain in their Early years settings till at least age 6. It is a shame that most children do not get to experience the whole 3 year cycle of the Montessori primary classroom in the UK.
It would also be great to raise the understanding of Montessori Education in our local area through Parent Education classes.
I hope you have enjoyed this interview.
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