Since moving to Brisbane I've had the opportunity to meet more Montessori people than ever before. More teachers, more educators, more Montessori parents. Recently I had the privilege of meeting Ruth Barker from Toddler Education Services. I wanted to share with you a little about Ruth and her work with young people. I've interviewed Ruth below and at the end of the post there is a giveaway for some of her books!
For those who haven’t met you before can you briefly introduce yourself with a little background on how you came to working with children and the Montessori method?
I started my career with children in 1987. I began wanting to study Consumer Sciences at University. While doing the first two years I nannied some little kids. I knew there and then that it was my 'calling' so changed to a Social Science Degree in Child Development and Family Studies. Three years in I moved to London and worked in Early Learning and as a Nanny. Here is where I came across The Montessori Method. I was instantly hooked - more because the philosophy suited my pedantic and organised personality more than any other method I'd studied in my degree. On returning to Australia I completed Uni and enrolled in a Montessori course. Gosh I loved it! I ran a little program for years at home ... because I was born with Cystic Fibrosis and I deteriorated over time. I needed to keep things simple. I never advertised... they just kept coming! By 2011 my Cystic Fibrosis was so bad I had to close my homeschool down - and I started tutoring Literacy and worked with some special kids 1:1 - whilst on oxygen! In 2012 I had a double lung transplant.
I reopened my tutoring program in September 2012... they all just came back! I loved it and so did the clients. But I didn't want to put myself under too much pressure - so I wrote - firstly, The Parenting 5 - Practical and Independent Little People and then a year later - Sensory Motor Play for Little People. The first book was staunch with Montessori Method. The second, more generalised so ALL parents / carers / teachers of any creed or philosophy could adopt the activities. It is a book filled with so many amazing ideas from both modes of study.
This year, we moved from Adelaide to Bangalow in Northern New South Wales. I am working on concepts for EVERYONE. Montessori is my favourite philosophy but I am not a purist due to my first degree. I am also currently studying Bachelor of Occupational Therapy with a paediatric interest because my love for special needs is what drives me now.
Next year I reopen a preschool. I've been lucky enough to purchase a gorgeous home in the hinterland with the bottom story being accepted by the council as appropriate for a small Montessori Centre. It's called The Hut Child Development and Family Learning Centre. I am delighted! I will work as much as I can (health first) with toddlers 1:1, preschoolers 1:1 or in a small group, literacy basics 4 yrs plus and as a parent and education consultant. I will also have an activity library!
I write books for kids! Social awareness books for older kids - on organ donation and domestic violence and the Baby Morris Series for babies and toddlers... we open a new online gift store on my website today! Baby Morris instigates play in babies and toddlers - the key to great foundation brain development. The first three of six are out now!
You have published the Parenting Five books. What was your intention for writing the books? They are aimed at parents and caregivers but what is the message your wanted to put out there?
There are a couple of very important messages Kylie! The key ones being that between birth and preschool the foundation brain is wired. It is much easier to develop the foundation brain from the start than it is to fix the human later. There is a clear link between brain development in the early years and later life success. Secondly, I want parents and caregivers to provide children with what they need for successful brain development - ample sensory, motor and language activities, lots of understanding about the environments that surround the child and of course an immense amount of gross movement... we want strong kids physically and mentally. I feel so sorry for the little ones who attend 'school' later on and they are so weak and they have sensory issues. Activity and play is KEY TO DEVELOPMENT.
You consult with many young families. Why do they come to you, what problems are they facing?
Most of the families I have worked with as a consultant want to provide the best they can for their toddler. Some have had special needs concerns. Some want environmental changes so they can use 'Montessori' at home.
Each consultation with a parent is done in their home or via Skype. It is no good if I can't see the environment because I believe children are never the issue! It's always what surrounds the child - the physical environment and the way they are 'actioned' within it - commonly known as 'freedom within limits'.
Each family receives The Parenting 5 Practical and Independent Little People - it has a checklist we work through - everything from environmental preparation to behaviour and then practical life activity - the first portal for development.
I've also been known to set budgets for families - using a budgeting worksheet... this is where my Consumer Science part degree has come in handy!
I know you are very busy, what are your plans for 2016?
I really want back at life Kylie! My life is all about helping little kids and their families. I am well now - so I can give. I have so many talents when it comes to little kids and nearly 30 years experience...
Toddler Education Services Pty Ltd will offer The Hut Child Development and Early Learning Centre from February 1 for the local community - inclusive of consultation. I will continue to be available to to consult with families via Skype. The Parenting 5 will continue to be available to families - at only $9.95 each.
Some exciting news with The Parenting 5... books three to five will be available as an all in one later in 2017.
I am also continuing my commitment to Nurture - Australia's Natural Parenting Magazine where I am the Life Skills Columnist. This will include presenting my Practical Kids - Learning for Life Seminar in Sydney in July. I am also open to do my seminar for anyone who wants me to.
Baby Morris and his online gift store for babies and toddlers will grow and grow. He has been so popular and the message of instigating great environments for little ones is getting out! He was released early in August and we have just ordered the second print run. All the products for the gift packs are up online today!
Ruth's books are also available in the US or as Kindle versions here The Parenting Five: Practical and Independent Little People and The Parenting Five: Sensory Motor Play for Little People.
We have to give away three copies of Ruth's books The Parenting Five - Practical and Independent Little People, Sensory Play for Little People and Baby Morris Plop. There will be three recipients who will each receive a copy of the three books. To enter please leave a comment in the comment section below this blog post. Comments will close on Wednesday 16th December at 8pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). Please only one comment per email address, open internationally. Comments have now closed. Thank you to all who have commented. I will be in touch with the recipients shortly.