Montessori Moods: The Book That Started My Montessori Journey

The book that started my interest in Montessori education was Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. I started reading Barbara's blog, Mommy Life, at the recommendation of a friend. Barbara had ten children, three of whom have Down Syndrome, two of those being adopted! I wasn’t even married yet, let alone a mom, but her life was fascinating and she wrote in an engaging way. At that time, much of her blog was devoted to Montessori and implementing Montessori in the home. She was a trained Montessori directress, but at some point had decided that having her young children at home was more important than having them in a Montessori school. And she realized that she could do Montessori with them herself at home. I loved her blog and I loved all her ideas, so I bought a number of her books. mommy teach me pic Mommy, Teach Me! made the Montessori method seem so logical and accessible. At that time I didn’t see how anyone could not want to use it. It was allowing your child to learn how to be a human being - following their interests and showing them how to live life. It seemed so natural and obvious and Barbara was so encouraging. Anyone could teach their child preschool. Everyone had things in their home they could use to teach their child.

The first four chapters of the book lay a foundation of why you can confidently teach your preschooler at home, how to teach them, how to encourage them to learn and how to prepare and understand Montessori activities. The rest of the book (chapters 5 – 11) describes specific activities in detail: how to prepare and present them, what your child is learning from them, as well as, appropriate age ranges for each (which I find really helpful!). It is a wonderful, laid-back introduction to Montessori education and a confidence builder for moms at home with their little ones.

Barbara is a Christian and she talks about her faith in this book. It’s not a dominate topic, but it comes up at relevant moments. I found it to be authentic and not distracting. If you’re an atheist, it might be annoying.

I still go back to this book when I get discouraged. The world of Montessori can be overwhelming with techniques and manipulatives and having to do things the “right” way. Mommy, Teach Me! reassures you that you don’t have to be perfect or do it perfectly, you just need to know and follow your child.

Note: Barbara passed away last fall, but her blog is still up and you can search the archives. Most of the Montessori posts are from years ago. She was active in the Catholic church and active politically and those two topics kind of took over her blog in her later years. Don’t let it scare you away. She wrote some wonderful posts, it just takes a little digging to find them.

Check back with the blog this Friday for a special giveaway featuring this book!

Montessori Moods: Floor Scrubbing (or How Montessori Makes Me Crazy)

The “work cycle” in a Montessori classroom is approximately three hours. My understanding is that they typically have some kind of group time, but the majority of the time the children are self-directed: choosing their own activities, concentrating and being baby geniuses. I get excited if my children will work on anything for more than 5 minutes.

Part of doing Montessori at home is missing the positive peer pressure that happens in the classroom. I’ve also missed the formal training that apparently turns one into a perfectly patient and sweet Montessori directress. So my children have a 15 minute work cycle and I correct them (and direct them) more often than I probably should and in a not-so-sweet voice.

Some reading I’ve been doing lately suggests that focusing on practical life activities helps to restore (or develop) a lack of concentration. I have been neglecting these lately since my older son turned four and I felt like I needed to push him into more math and language activities. We also do “practical life activities” everyday without really trying.

All to say that today I decided to show the children how to scrub the floor. Montessori tends to do these types of activities in a more old fashioned way, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You just need to make sure everything you use is safe for your kids. I forgot to take a before picture, but in the basket was a roll of painters tape, a pair of scissors, two buckets, a scrub brush, a bottle of dish soap and a sponge. I cut tape and made a square on the floor, had my oldest son get water in the buckets, and put a little dish soap in one of the buckets (should have done this before adding water). I showed them how to scrub with the brush and soapy water in small circles, starting at the top left and working to the right and down. Then we wiped up the soapy water with the sponge wet in clean water.

It all sounds very nice, but it resulted in a very wet floor, since unlike the baby geniuses, my children don't usually get things right after the first presentation. DSC_0776 And transitioned into table scrubbing (another actual Montessori activity that I’d shown my oldest before). DSC_0779 This then devolved into toy truck scrubbing. DSC_0780 All of this is very good and fine and I was “following the child,” but then I ran out of all my sweet, patient, untrained Montessori-ness and decided they just needed to go outside and wash toys.

(I was inspired by this blog post, although I don’t recommend using baking soda unless you’re sure your floor can handle it. You also want to be sure that your child is mature enough not to sprinkle it on her head/face or inhale it or anything.)