I first met Karla many years ago when I was looking for some suitable aprons for Caspar. I loved the aprons in her Etsy store so much that I bought more than one for our own home and started buying them for friends. I remember featuring Karla's daughter Ruby here and I eagerly awaited another opportunity to find out more about this Montessori family.
If you are skimming this post please stop and watch the video of Ruby washing the dishes. Essential viewing for parents with toddlers!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family, and where you live?
I am a stay-at-home Montessori mom. I have my AMI Montessori Primary training for ages 3-6 and have started the AMI Assistants to Infancy training for birth to age 3. I discovered in my training that I have a passion for making Montessori materials. I sell my materials in my Etsy shop Handmade Montessori. I live in Austin, TX with my husband and our 2 1/2 year old daughter Ruby. We have a Montessori home and Ruby attends a Montessori toddler community.
When and how did you become interested in the work of Montessori?
I became interested in becoming a Montessori teacher when I was about to graduate from college with a degree in Computer Engineering. It was my last year of college and I had begun the process of looking for an engineering job. I was very unenthusiastic about the prospects and really had no clue what I wanted to be doing with my life.
I went on vacation with my two younger cousins and had a blast hanging out with them. We talked about their troubles in their traditional school and I just knew in my gut that they were being treated with no respect for their emotional needs. That’s when I realized I wanted to work with children.
I started remembering my own childhood experiences in Montessori school - I went to Montessori school through 8th grade. I hadn’t thought about my Montessori experience in years and had never really thought of it as being different or special. But the differences between my experience in Montessori school and my cousins’ experiences in traditional school were clear.
I graduated college and worked as a Computer Engineer for two years. It was not a fulfilling career, so I went for it and took my Montessori Primary training. I worked as a Montessori teacher for 7 years at both private and public Montessori schools.
How have you applied Montessori at home?
When my husband and I decided to have a baby, I knew I wanted to know more about the Montessori approach for birth to age 3. So I started my Assistants to Infancy training. I took the first summer of training, which covers birth through the first year. I also worked as an assistant to a wonderful Montessori toddler teacher. I got to experience a beautiful community and see first-hand how very capable these young children are if you trust them and provide a beautiful environment with rich opportunities.
We have modeled our home environment from what I have learned through all of my Montessori experience. Ruby has had a floor bed since birth, she has low shelves with interesting activities available to her at all times, and low tables and rugs for her to use independently. We try to set up everything we do so that she can be involved in some meaningful way. Here are a few videos of her participating in the care of our home.
I also love creating Montessori materials for my daughter. The possibilities for Montessori activities are endless, but it can be very hard to find good materials. I make a lot of her toys myself, which allows me to really follow her interests. She loves dogs, for example, so I created this dog breed language set which has little plastic dog figures and a set of photos to match. She has learned the breed names of the 12 dogs in the set and it has inspired her to learn the dog breeds we come across in real life too!
Ruby is still very young and her needs change frequently. Our home has been a constant work-in-progress since she was born. From infancy, to crawling, to walking, to potty training, to now there have been a lot of new developments and changing needs. Montessori is about creating an environment - physical, emotional, and spiritual - that meets your child’s needs wherever they are in their development. Its a lot of work to keep up with her, but definitely worth it to help her become a confident and capable young person.
Are there any books, websites, blogs that you could recommend?
Montessori From the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen is a wonderful book about Montessori from birth to age 3.
Aid to Life is a great website with lots of information and videos for birth to age 3.
Edison’s Day is a video of Montessori in the home. You can buy it here or ask your Montessori school if they have a copy to borrow. It is amazing to see all the ways a 20- month-old child can really be involved in and contribute in meaningful ways to the daily life of the family.
Where do you find inspiration?
Two of my favorite recent books:
Thank you Karla and her family for this wonderful interview. The video of Ruby washing the dishes and the matching dog set are just fabulous!
P.S. If you think you spy Henry in the above photograph, I think you might be right.
If you have children at a Montessori school have you ever wondered how they would adapt to a traditional school environment?
Like many Montessori schools our school is primary only, it runs until the child is twelve and ready for high school. This means that at some stage my children will transition to another school.
Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah. Leah is a fun filled twelve year old and is a recent graduate from Canberra Montessori School. She has just finished her first term at Canberra Girls Grammar. I wanted to ask her a few questions about her Montessori schooling and her transition to a traditional high school.
How was your first term at Canberra Girls Grammar?
The start of the term was hard as I didn’t have any friends. But then in the second week I found lots of friends and it was fun and it wasn’t that hard really.
Do you have any favourite subjects? Sport and Maths.
What is it about Sport that you like? Sport is just fun doing stuff and you don’t have to do any work.
What is it about Maths that you like? I have a really good teacher and he’s really funny.
What are the biggest differences you have noticed between Canberra Montessori and Girls Grammar?
At Grammar there are a lot more people and there is more opportunity to do things. You have more facilities and it’s a bigger group so it’s really different.
What is it that you have struggled with leaving Montessori and transitioning to high school?
Not knowing anybody for the first week and then changing classes and getting homework.
In which areas do you think you have excelled? Is there an area that you think you do better because of your Montessori schooling?
In science I can answer a lot of questions that other kids can’t because at Montessori we do a lot of demonstrations with the teachers.
Have any of your teachers commented about your learning style or how it is different from the other students?
Not really but one teacher, since I work differently she thought that everyone went to the junior school and they didn’t. When I didn’t understand things she wondered why.
How do you think your transition from Montessori to high school could have been improved?
I think it would be better to have more tours of the school so you weren’t as lost walking around the school.
I think it would have been better if we could have had a few more introductions to the school so we could have met more people at the school.
Do you have any advice to students that are in a similar position, currently attending Montessori and transitioning to a traditional high school next year?
It’s good to be really organised. It would be best to get a map of your school so you knew where to go and mark the spots where you need to go at the start and during the day.
What do you miss from your old school? What are your greatest memories from Canberra Montessori?
Well, what I miss about it is not having the freedom to do the work that you choose to do.
My greatest memories are going on all the goings out that we could go on and organising them ourselves.
What were some of your favourite places to visit?
The zoo, six of us went and we split into two groups. My group went to the aquarium and looked at all the fish.
Do you notice any differences between you and the other students that you can attribute to your Montessori schooling? Do you think you approach your work differently?
Probably, in maths I do the fractions differently by drawing a pie and breaking it up into bits. Everyone else does it in another way.
How have you found homework?
I think homework is useless, when they give it to us we don’t really learn anything from doing it because when we hand it back in they don’t really mark it and tell us what we’ve done wrong with it, so we don’t know how to fix it if we’ve done it wrong.
What does Montessori mean to you? When someone says Montessori what do you think of? What images come to mind?
I think of the classroom and the teachers and all the different materials.
If someone asked you what is Montessori – what would you say, how would you describe what Montessori is?
It’s somewhere where we get to do the work that we choose to do. We don’t get recess or homework and we don’t have to wear a uniform.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
At Montessori I made lots of really, really good friends. Some of them I have been with for ten years. We also never had a canteen at Montessori - that would have been fun.
You mentioned having to be more organised, have you had to organise your work differently?
You have to be really organised. I have all these different folders for every subject, which is what most people have. But some people they don’t have folders and they just throw all their work into their lockers and it’s a lot harder for them to get ready for class as they can’t find their books and they can be late. So it’s better to have everything a lot more organised.
You mentioned in science you have been able to answer some questions that the other student’s haven’t because you did some hand on experiments with the teachers, are there any in particular that stand out in your mind?
God with No Hands. They read us a story about the solids, liquids and gases and about how the particles cling together in solids and how they just buzz around in gases and sort of flow in liquids, so I could answer questions about particles.
Can you tell us about your recent Calisthenics competition?
I came first in Graceful, which is sort of like ballet but without the point shoes. If I get in the top four at the next competition I can go to the nationals.
Congratulations Leah, thank you for the interview and best wishes for Calisthenics and Term 2!
If you think Leah looks familiar I interviewed her Dad here. I loved Leah's story about God with No Hands! If you are new to Montessori - look it up, it's one of Montessori's Five Great Lessons for the elementary years.
I love the concept of Sunprints and have given them as gifts many times but until now have never used them myself. I ordered the Super Sunprint Kit and was surprised at the size, these sheets are around A4 size.
Caspar and I did this together although once he is famiilar with the process he could do it independently. After assembling the kit we place our items on the blue paper and place in the sunlight.
Once the paper fades almost to white we remove the items, rinse and leave to dry.
It's like our Polaroid - the fun part is watching the image develop.
It really is a lot of fun and slightly addictive. They make an interesting display.
If you are wondering why you haven't seen this book before it's because it's a new release. Published in 2013 I suggest this is already a Montessori classic. Books of this calibre don't come along very often. I ordered it immediately knowing Susan's other publications The Joyful Child and Child of the World (Michael Olaf's Essential Montessori Series). This book is essential for all Montessori school and parent education libraries. Even for those well versed in Montessori this is a must read because it contains so much of Susan's personal experiences (from around the world) and her valuable insight.
Child of the World is divided into four parts; Age 3-6, Age 6-12, Age 0-24 (Stages of Development) and Parents and Teachers. I found Part One, Age 3-6 the most valuable. It contains so much practical information for school and home. I love this section and I took pages of notes. I particularly appreciate the information on selecting toys, activity suggestions and the discussion on screen time.
Part Two, Age 6-12 is less about what to do at home and more about the 6-12 Montessori school environment. I found this very useful as the mother of a five year old and knowing very little about the next cycle. If you have a child in or approaching 6-12, at a Montessori school, this section is extremely valuable.
I felt a little lost in Part Three. This section contains Montessori theory about the stages of development. It was so refreshing to read about Montessori adolescence and even adulthood, so rarely mentioned in other texts. Perhaps I'll be more engaged when my own children near this age.
Part Four, Parents and Teachers is too brief. This section provides some background to Montessori education, covers the basics and it a nice way to finish what is an excellent resource.
Child of the World is perfect for all parents including those new to Montessori, although it is quite different (in a good way) from existing books. It's not at all prescriptive but if you read the entire book you will have all the information needed to create a Montessori home environment. I would recommend this book to parents of children from the toddler years up. It is a strength of this book that it covers such a wide age range. After reading Child of the World I have fresh ideas and am inspired to make changes to our home!
Those pages of notes I mentioned, I thought I'd share some of them with you!
Child of the World is a complete resource for Montessori in the home for ages three and up.
Have you read it yet? What are your thoughts?
Expecting a baby? Having a baby shower? Attending a baby shower? Here are a few Montessori-ish baby gift ideas. This post contains some affiliate links.
Understanding the Human Being. A great Montessori book for pregnancy through to the first year. The best price I have found is via NAMTA.
Montessori mobiles. This is a Bell on a Ribbon.
Baby Hair Brush. This one has a waxed beech handle with soft goat hair bristles.
Bodysuits that open at the front.
Baby Blankets, wraps and wipes.
Nursing Necklace. A beautiful gift!
Books. Because newborns like a story too.
Munari Mobile. Find one online or make your own. Image from Montessori in Motion.
Walker Wagon (not really furniture I know)
What a fun list to compile! I love shopping for babies!! I would love to hear your suggestions. What do you like to give at baby showers?
Edited to add that all links should be working now!
Today we gathered with some of our dearest friends to celebrate Otis's second birthday. There was magic and balloons.
This guy is fabulous! Otis's favourite part was the cake. This is our first party since we've committed to wholefoods. I think we did ok.
Happy birthday Otis. We love you.
More photographs at photo of the day.