Kids in the Kitchen - the book!
Peeling a banana the Montessori way?

Interview with Kids in the Kitchen co-author Sara Cotner

Henry making tomato:basil:mozzarella sticks

Sara asked me many months ago if I would co-author a book with her. I said yes without even thinking about it. I wanted to work with Sara because I admire her ability to think big. We think alike when it comes to Montessori in the home but that's where the similarities end. My aim is to bring Montessori to my children. Sara's aim is to bring Montessori to all. Yes, she thinks big like that. Let me tell you she's going to make it happen. 
Sara's son Henry (pictured above) is only a month or so older than Otis. It's so nice to know a Montessori family with children the same age as my own. It's like we are sharing the journey. I've taken the opportunity to ask Sara a few questions.
I know many Montessori teachers struggle to implement Montessori in the home. Do you feel teachers face particular challenges transferring knowledge to a home environment?

What an interesting question! I'm trained to work with children ages 6-9 years old, so I found it difficult to implement Montessori with my son when he was born because I wasn't sure what Montessori looked like with infants. There isn't a lot of descriptive information about how to set up the nursery in a Montessori way, how to implement the mobile series, how to introduce foods, etc. However, the principles of Montessori are the same at every level. We honor the child by respecting who they already are; we do everything in our power to step back and support their independence as they form themselves; and we follow the child and pay close attention to where they are developmentally, what they need, and what interests them. I think practicing those principles day in and day out in the classroom has made it easier for me to implement them at home with my son. When Henry is older, I won't try to implement all the Montessori classroom materials at home--that's what school is for! Instead, I will provide a home environment that is connected to nature, calm and orderly, and reflective of Henry's interests. 

I am always interested in what goes on in Montessori classrooms. I know there is a focus on practical life activities in the 3-6 class but what about beyond that? Is cooking considered part of the curriculum in older age groups?

Yes, practical life activities continue to be part of the curriculum at a Montessori school. That's one of the amazing things about Montessori! In my class of 6-9 year olds, for example, we had a class garden. We grew things like sweet potatoes and made French fries and lettuce to make salad. The children harvested the lettuce, made the salad dressing, shredded cheese, chopped carrots, and even made the croutons. The children also take more responsibility for planning class celebrations. One year, my class decided to throw a Pancake Party to commemorate the end of our year together. We ground the wheat from scratch, made pancakes, squeezed fresh orange juice, and even made syrup and whipped cream from scratch. On a day-to-day basis, children take responsibility for taking care of the classroom pets and plants, arranging our flowers every week, keeping the environment clean, etc. They also start planning "going out" excursions to visit places in the local community that help extend their learning beyond the classroom. In the older levels of Montessori, there is an emphasis on doing even more complicated work, such as running a farm and running businesses. It's part of how Montessori schools help educate "the whole child." 

What about Henry now at sixteen months, what are his favourite things to do in the kitchen?

We've had a Learning Tower in our kitchen since Henry was 12 months old. At this point, he can climb into it completely independently. He can also get down by grabbing onto the top and swinging down. It's quite entertaining to watch him. He is usually around while we cook dinner. We try to find little ways for him to help. For example, he can help make our salads by putting lettuce into the bowls. It's much harder for him to help put the dried cranberries on top; he just wants to eat them! Henry also helps us empty the dishwasher by putting the Tupperware away. He feeds our dog every morning and evening, and he carries his own breakfast and snacks to and from his weaning table. He can also clean up spills with a towel and tidy up a table using a sponge. The first skill in our Kids in the Kitchen series is washing fruits and vegetables, so I just bought a kid-sized colander. I'm eager to introduce it to Henry and work through the series of skills. I can't wait until he's ready for the recipes! Right now, I'm slowly making our kitchen more kid-friendly, based on the advice in the book. It's so refreshing to have a step-by-step guide about how to implement Montessori at home in the kitchen.

Matt, Sara and Henry

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of our book Kids in the Kitchen. Proceeds from the book go directly to Sara's organisation Montessori for All. You can read more about Sara at her blog Feeding the Soil.

Can I take Austin off my world clock now?

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