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Intentional living: Here's how to prepare your home environment to reflect Montessori philosophy

Posted December 20, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

Montessori teachings work best when they are implemented both in school and in the home. (casezy/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, the Montessori School of Raleigh.

Montessori teachings work best when they are implemented both in school and in the home. However, it is easy to get lost in the conflicting messages that surround us about what is actually best for children.

Cathy Bocklage, Montessori School of Raleigh's toddler directress and a mother of four, believes it is possible to implement Montessori methods in the home while also maintaining your sanity.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on parents, especially, to be perfect," Bocklage said. "And when you combine this pressure with all the beautiful Pinterest moments you see, it can be so easy to go, 'I'm not that.' And I can say that might be the actual first step — going 'I'm not that. But here's what I am. And here are my goals for my child.'"

Here are some easy, non-stressful ways Bocklage suggests to implement the Montessori method at home, so that you can live a simpler, more intentional life while also raising a family.

Observe

Look at your life and identify your goals for your family, then observe your child. Everything Montessori does is based on observation.

Perhaps you notice that your toddler is interested in water. This means that they may enjoy washing vegetables for dinner or helping with dishes.

The key is to give children real tasks, not just busy work. Children seek validation; they don't want fake work. They want to actively contribute to the life of the family.

If you make an observation that doesn't work out, don't abandon the task completely, just give it some space. If you assumed your child would enjoy doing dishes and they end up being uninterested, come back to the task later. For now try something a little different, like guiding the toddler to water plants.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

We always start with a prepared environment. It's not fair to expect success from a child if we haven't constructed the space in a way that they can be successful independently.

For Montessori method, this means two things: creating spaces that fit your child physically and reducing the number of choices available to them.

Consider the height of things in your home: Can your child reach their shelves? Do they have silverware and dishes that are an appropriate size for them? Are they able to get to items they need, and are they able to put those items away?

For example, consider your child who is getting dressed for the day. The blog Montessori by Mom suggests only showing them clothes that are appropriate for the season and occasion, and avoiding clothes with clasps or buttons until you know your child is up for the challenge. Above all, let them harness this independence and avoid overcorrecting.

"If your child works for 15 minutes at putting on her shirt and it's backwards, let it go," author Kim Edwards writes. "Her sense of pride is worth too much to point out what she did wrong. She may even realize her own mistake and fix it independently."

Create Quiet Times

In the modern world, it can be difficult to unplug and turn off the noise of everyday life. However, creating these moments are important for cultivating a better home environment.

Bocklage recommends finding a time for everyone in the family to read or partake in another quiet activity – adults included.

Bocklage said unplugging fosters in children the capacity to find something engaging for themselves and discourages the need to expect others to entertain them.

Give Yourself (and Your Child) Grace

Ultimately, the most important aspect of implementing Montessori methods in your home is understanding that it looks different for everyone, and allowing both your family and yourself to make mistakes.

Validate feelings. Bocklage suggests if a child is angry, say, "I see you're angry." But validating feelings does not mean the adult provides whatever the child demands.

An important aspect of working with a child's emotions is allowing them to feel respected through eye contact and a calm voice. Ultimately, it is important to remember that you are raising an independent free-thinker and understanding that not everything is going to be perfect.

"We all have bad days," Bocklage said. "We have great intentions and we honor those intentions, but parents must give themselves the grace to start over everyday and refine the approach … that is also what we allow children to do."

Education starts in the home, and whether your child is a student at a Montessori school or not, Montessori methods have a universal appeal that can apply to everyone — you can pick or choose what you want to implement for your family and your lifestyle.

This article was written for our sponsor, the Montessori School of Raleigh.

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