The Prepared Adult
You don’t have to make a career change or go back to school to bring the benefits of Montessori into your home. With a curious mind and a commitment to personal growth, you can become a Montessori prepared adult. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Montessori prepared adults speak and move with careful intention. Young children watch and absorb our movements. When we slow down, they can understand and better imitate our movements, increasing their success.
When we slow down, we are better able to parent intentionally. We take the time to choose kind words and model the behaviors we want our children to imitate. With a slower pace, we can allow our children to practice new skills, like zipping their own coats, instead of jumping in and doing things for them. A slower pace allows us to keep our child’s space clutter-free and beautiful.
Rethink Old Attitudes
The Montessori prepared adult rejects the “my way or the highway” mentality of past generations. You know, when the child questions an adult and the adult replies, “Because I said so, that’s why!”
Dr. Montessori said to put aside the attitude that adults are always right and must be treated as demigods of sorts.
Rethink Your Role as a Montessori Prepared Adult
The Montessori prepared adult isn’t a director of children. Give your child the space and time to choose their own activities. Strive to never interrupt your little one’s spontaneous play.
I know, this can take conscious effort. Have you ever opened your mouth to speak to your child, only to hear your parents’ words fall out instead? Words like, “Just do as you’re told.”
Recently, I sent my child to wash her hands for lunch. She stayed at the sink for ages. For a moment, I reverted back to my pre-Montessori attitudes. With some frustration over the delay, I headed to the bathroom to urge her along. A lecture on the importance of following instructions was already forming on my lips.
But what I found at the bathroom sink stopped me in my tracks. There was my little one, completely lost in wonder, with an expression of fascination radiating from her entire face. She was examining an enormous bubble she had squeezed from the soap bottle. She was filled with total awe as this bubble delicately balanced on the opening of the bottle.
I quickly stepped back and watched. At that moment, she — partly by accident — transferred the bubble onto her soapy, wet hand. She squealed with joy that she could hold the bubble without popping it.
Becoming a Montessori prepared adult can be a constant struggle between the voices you heard as a child and the voice you promise to gift your own little ones.
Voices from our past spill out of our mouths with phrases like “Just follow directions,” “Hurry up,” or “Stay on task.” You have to tell those voices, “Thank you, but I’ve got this. I choose to let her explore.”
Not His Makers but His Guardians
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Montessori says this: “Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”
I just love the phrase “seeking the release of human potentialities.” In Montessori, we don’t view children’s minds as empty. The role of the adult isn’t to “fill” these minds with facts and instructions. Our role is to clear the way for children’s own unique and special abilities to unfold.
Dr. Montessori said that a child’s parents are not his makers but his guardians. If our children were a garden, it isn’t our role to mold the seeds into the flowers we desire. The seeds are already sewn, each filled with their own unique potential. Our task is to watch over the garden, keep it safe, and remove anything that could stifle its unfolding. It’s to allow for the release of human potential.
The Prepared Environment
We hear a lot in Montessori about the importance of a carefully prepared environment. We prepare the environment by providing appropriate and engaging materials. Educational, beautiful materials spark a child’s growth.
We also prepare an environment in which the child is safe to explore with minimal need for adult intervention.
When you carefully prepare your child’s environment, you set your child up for success. In doing so, you set yourself up for success as well, because your goal is to allow your child to be as independent as possible — to allow your child to learn and explore without your intervention.
You can make a child-safe space so that your child can move about as freely as possible. Place materials neatly within your child’s reach or provide a low stepping stool if needed. Minimize, keeping only materials that are valuable, educational, and appealing. Organize your home, so that your child can find and store materials with ease. Remove any dangers, and then give your child as much freedom in this space as possible.
Dr. Montessori said the adult knows they’re on the right path when the child can go about their work as if the adult wasn’t even there.
As a Montessori prepared adult, you’ll strive to be present. Patient. Loving. In the moment. You’ll strive to be gentle and intentional in your words and actions. To be ready to remove what stands between your child and discovery.
Preparing through self-care is an important step in this process. Prioritize rest, good nutrition, and exercise. Minimize unnecessary stress and distractions. This special time with your child is the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. Cherish this journey alongside your child and the rest will fall into place.
Brandi Faith is a freelance writer who holds a Master of Education degree. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in Psychology and Spanish. Brandi passionately applies Montessori principles to her parenting and teaching at home. She loves the way Montessori philosophy encourages children to take charge of their learning and pursue their interests. Her favorite thing about Montessori is watching her kids’ eyes light up with joy and interest as they explore and experiment, and seeing their smiles light the room when they master a new skill.