I read so many amazing blogs from around the world, however not so often I come across a site that looks familiar. It's not the beautiful landscapes, the gorgeous faces of the children but the philosophy by which they live which feels so familiar to me.
Kathleen, Thank you for sharing your family and story with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?
I am passionate about children and a convinced Montessori mum and soon to be a Montessori teacher. I live in Aix-en-Provence, France with Emmanuel, my husband and Hayden, my 2 year-old son. I am French but have spent a lot of time in Anglophone countries growing up so I really feel like a citizen of the world. We had the chance to visit Sydney as a family for a month last December (one of my best friends live there) and we fell totally in love with Australia. What an amazing country! We would love to spend time there as a family.
When and how did you first become interested in the work of Montessori? I am particularly interested in what it was about Montessori that really connected with you and how did you learn more about it?
During my pregnancy, I read a lot about child development, child education and child well being. My husband and I had many discussions about our baby and the choices that we would have to make as parents. We not only agreed that communication, love and respect would be at the basis of our education but we also agreed that it was extremely important to listen to our instincts as parents. I suppose it is pretty basic but it helped us refocus many discussions on our family and on what works for us rather than to listen to recommendations by paediatricians, family or friends. Our first choice as parents was to try haptonomy and it really helped us connect with Hayden very early on and communicate with him in utero.
When Hayden was born, his eyes were wide open. His body was tonic. He was alert and curious. I would look at him and I could feel that he was eager to discover the world. When I came across a book about Montessori education in a bookstore (by Tim Seldin), I immediately felt that this pedagogy was a perfect fit for our family. I loved the idea of preparing the environment and materials for the child and the real autonomy and freedom it gives the child. I started with the mobiles and never stopped. Since then, I fell completely in love with Montessori education, read many books about it and even got proper training. I know one day I will teach Montessori education, hopefully in my own small Montessori school but, for now, my objective is to try and raise an independent-thinking, happy and confident child.
I love your blog - Blog de Maman K because it’s so clear and easy to follow. Parents can easily look around their home for similar materials and feel inspired by your activities – from sink/float to melon scooping it’s really a practical and hand on approach to Montessori in the home. Can you describe your approach to Montessori and how does it impact your everyday living?
In my view, Montessori is like haute couture education. It is made to measure. All the activities I prepare for Hayden are based on the observation of his abilities, his areas of interests, his sensitive periods and our family rhythm. Another child may have a different development and be interested in the activities I propose for him at a later or an earlier stage. However I like simplicity, practicality. All the activities I propose share these elements, they are easy to prepare and they give Hayden the lead.
My approach is also respectful of his rhythm and his level of fatigue. Some days, he just wakes up and feels like running around so I will skip indoor Montessori activities and we will go out for the day. I would hate to overstimulate him. I am very attentive to the element of pleasure and fun. I strongly believe that a child learns more when he is having fun and when he is interested. And everyone needs a day off!
Of course, all of this involves work in the evening to prepare activities, to think of what could interest him, to rotate his material, to make sure his environment evolves with him to look for interesting toys/materials. But, to me, it is not work, it is fun! My greatest satisfaction is to look at him absorbed and focused on what he is doing and I can tell you that it is worth every single minute of my time! I suppose I am very passionate about all this.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? Are there any books, websites, blogs that you could recommend?
I read a lot of books, not only about Montessori education but also about positive parenting (work by French therapist Isabelle Filliozat or Gordon or Lawrence Cohen), child development (work by Catherine Dolto, Catherine Gueguen) and non violent communication (Faber and Mazlish) as I think these areas are intricately linked and all contribute to the ambiance and environment. I also like to find healthy and kids friendly recipes (gluten free or lactose free) as I am convinced nutrition has a great impact on child behaviour and is part and parcel of education.
My sources of inspiration for Montessori are mostly Anglophones (France is way behind but is no doubt in the catching up phase) include books (How to raise and independent Child by Tim Seldin, books by Maria Montessori), blogs (Montessori or just creative or educational ideas) : your blog of course, I love how organised, tasteful and creative you are - blog by mama papa bubba, le journal de Liv et Emy, blog ensemble naturellement, instagram, pinterest, my friends, baby/toddler groups and my Montessori community.
Finally do you have any tips or suggestions for parents beginning Montessori in the home? What are the key elements you have found useful that you can recommend to others?
My first tip would be to take a break and observe. Observation will teach a parent a lot about his child, his needs and the environment he evolves into. For example, sitting down on the floor in a child’s bedroom or in the house is a eye-opening experience and helps see things from a child’s perspective. You may spot that he needs a step to reach the lights, a lower hanger to be able to hang his coat himself or a chair to sit down and put his shoes on. Small details make a big difference. A child will have greater autonomy and self-satisfaction in a prepared environment.
Then, believe in your child’s abilities and let him lead you. He is interested in your keys, why not give him some locks to play with or let him unlock the door/car? He is interested in your saucepans, why not involve him next time you cook? Children are constantly sending us messages, trying to communicate with us. We just need to try and understand them.
There are many Montessori activities that you can put together with materials that you already have in your home. Start with these first. You do not have to invest a lot of money to start Montessori education in your home. For example, you will be amazed at how much a toddler can do around the house and how interested he will be to contribute to what we call chores.
Did you get involved in any other activities with Hayden?
When he was born, we did baby massages sessions and we regularly consulted an osteopath. I believe it contributes to good motricity.
When he was around 10-month old, we also did a baby sign language course and it had an amazing impact on our communication with Hayden. At first, he would communicate with us with signs, then he would repeat the word and the sign. It was simply amazing. By the time he was 18 months, he talked a lot !!
At the moment, we attend English toddler groups and music groups. Hayden is being raised a bilingual kid and he just loves music and singing!
Any other recommendations?
I have banned all screens in the house around Hayden. It is sometimes hard to accept for our families (as they are tempted to do facetime and show him videos) and tricky in practice (as we are all surrounded by technology like smartphones and computers) but we strongly believe that Hayden is too small, that he has time to discover technology and that it is essential for Hayden to anchor his life in reality. He is only 2!
My last recommendation is to make time for your children. Love them, share activities with them, build memories with them! They grow so fast. As Isabelle Filliozat wrote in my book as a dedicace “there are no perfect parents but there is one urgent task for them: love. Love your child now, make time for him now. Tomorrow is too late.”