Meet this Montessori Family - Northern Ireland
Today I want to introduce you to a beautiful Montessori family from Nothern Ireland. Ted was a Montessori child, then a Montessori teacher and now a Montessori Mum! I've never met someone with such strong links to the Montessori philosophy. Ted has two children, a toddler and an infant, and she is hilarious, possibly the funniest Mum I know! So it's a given that I want to share her story and experiences with you.
Can you introduce yourself, your family and share a little about where you live?
HI, I’m Ted! Wife to Fred and mum to Alfie (July 2016) and Indi (May 2018). Alfie is an energetic, animal mad little boy, he’s never happier than when he’s outside running around the garden with our two dogs and his flock of tiny chickens. Indi’s still coming into herself but so far is a little bundle of joy.
We live in rural Northern Ireland (on the island of Ireland but actually part of the UK). Before I became a Mum I was a primary school teacher, with a specialism in Modern Languages and Montessori, before that I was a children’s librarian.
What does Montessori look like in your city/town?
Montessori is virtually non-existent in Northern Ireland. There are very few educational options here apart from the state run schools. Most parents have never heard of Montessori and few even consider an alternative to the school system and curriculum available here.
What does Montessori look like in your home? When your children are older do you plan to homeschool or is Montessori schooling an option?
Montessori has influenced every aspect of our parenting and how we’ve designed our home and garden. Since our children are so young we try not to focus on the materials and instead focus on the aspects of mutual respect, independence, creativity and curiosity that are at the core of the Montessori method. There is a play or workspace in all the rooms that the children need to use, Alfie’s bedroom, bathroom and playroom has child sized furniture and he has his own kitchen unit, cupboard and fridge.
We are focussing on practical life and communication at the moment which means that right now Montessori is mostly modelling, chatting and reading. In terms of toys we try to be quite minimalist, for the most part we choose toys that are natural, open ended and relevant to one of Alfie’s interests. We also try to be unhurried in our approach to play and we spend hours outside every day – whether I want to or not!
We don’t plan to home school past the age of 5, there is no real homeschool network here and I feel it would be too socially isolating to keep Alfie and Indi out of school. When the time comes we do intend to supplement school with Montessori work at home. I haven’t quite decided what that will look like yet! It might be weekend mornings, it could be afternoon sessions, I’ll follow Alfie’s lead!
How did you find or discover Montessori? I believe you went to a Montessori school as a child?
Yes I did! Montessori was a no-brainer for me! I was in a Montessori school until I was about 9 years old. I had such freedom to pursue my interests and talents there. When I switched to mainstream school I no longer had that freedom or opportunity to self-direct my learning. As an adult looking back on this experience I realised that this shift was responsible for a loss of confidence in my abilities that lasted throughout my teens and early 20s. I became a teacher so that I could give children the gift of confidence and self-knowledge in childhood that I had lost.
As for bringing it into our home my husband and I were very keen to choose a parenting method that we could be united on. More than anything we wanted to build a relationship with our children that was a relationships of equals, we wanted a home based on cooperation where our children would celebrated for their capabilities.
What is your greatest or most current parenting struggle and how are you dealing with it?
One reality I’ve had to face and accept is that Alfie has a favourite parent and it’s not me!
What are on Alfie’s and Indi’s shelves right now, what are their current interests?
Alfie is really enjoying symbolic play at the moment, he has a toy farm and some Schleich animals that get used ALL DAY! Seriously, we can’t leave the house without at least one animal! This has helped him practice indoor play and to stretch his concentration. As a result I’ve been able to introduce some matching and categorising activities which he loves. His main work is in the area of practical life; caring for pets, chores, cooking etc. We’ve just finished potty training so that was a big focus!
Indi enjoyed moving through the visual mobiles and currently spends a lot of time with the tactile mobiles. As she’s teething she’s obsessed with anything that fits in her mouth! We love the Plan Toys butterfly teether and the Monkey. She gets great use from rolling around in a pile of play silks too!
What are you reading right now?
I’ve actually given up reading parenting books for a little while! I was drowning in my children’s lives and their ‘perfect’ development timelines so I’ve given my free time back to myself! Also, I had found myself making ‘best practice’ decisions instead of the instinctive one I would have made without so much advice in my life. One of my favourite books is The Conscious Parent and Self Esteem The Key To Your Child’s Future.
What is Alfie reading right now?
Alfie’s favourite fiction book right now are Friends by Kim Lewis, Hello Horse by Vivian French, The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers. He goes through phases of enjoying different books, we recently went through a wordless book phase and frequently go for days only ready non-fiction books, I far prefer the fiction books but I’m going with it!
Does Alfie like to cook or bake? Do you have a favourite recipe you could share?
Alfie LOVES to cook! At the moment we’re both learning how to bake! We’ve started nice and easy with Irish Soda Bread.
- 170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
- 170g/6oz plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 290ml/½ pint buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6. Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
I’d love to know where you source your Montessori materials from, including furniture, toys and practical life materials?
I believe that the Montessori philosophy of care of others and care of the environment should extend beyond the shelf so we try to make ethical shopping choices and to buy from locally owned physical shops. That said when we can’t shop in a store we go online. Our furniture all comes from The Great Little Trading Company, most of our toys are bought in R.Nook in Dungannon or Nimble Fingers in Dublin. When we go online we try to pick independent businesses like from BabaMe, Etsy, Manine Montessori (for EVERYTHING) and baby items from Beginning Montessori. Miniature practical life tools and trays can usually be found fairly cheap at Sostrene Grene.
What a delight!! Thank you so much to Ted for sharing with us. Hello Horse has the most gorgeous pictures and we will definitely try to make Irish Soda Bread. You can read more by Ted at Fred, Ted and Company and I recommend following her on Instagram here.