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By Amanda Thielen
When my daughter was born two years ago, my husband and I were overwhelmed by the abundance of parenting advice floating around the Internet; information came flowing in from books, family, and friends, especially the ones that have children and could tell us how we were going to have so many play-dates together.
If it wasn’t bad enough that there was a staggering amount of information, for each article we found it appeared that we could just as easily find one that was contradictory. We, like many other parents, debated on whether or not to cry it out, how to start potty training, when to cut the cord on the nook; our current focus is developing learning skills.
My daughter, Emerson, is two-years-old bursting with creativity, intelligence, and a budding sense of curiosity and independence. My husband and I have discovered over time that she also harbors infinite qualities of stubbornness, not from my genetics of course, making each new developmental task a bit trickier.
The Montessori Method
With a background in education, and always having felt particularly drawn to Montessori schooling, I began to develop a personal Montessori approach to parenting. Immediately after starting, my daughter began showing signs of advanced development both physically and mentally. The strategies that can be derived from Montessori methods are endless and can easily be individualized to each child.
I began my process by researching the foundation of Montessori, which includes philosophies of common sense; a breath of fresh air compared to the current state of the public school systems in the United States.
After learning more about Montessori, I started selecting which elements I wanted to incorporate into daily activities with my daughter. Montessori philosophy promotes cross-age peer relationships to enhance learning, uninterrupted learning time, and decision-making power of work activities (The American Montessori Society, 2016).
With this foundational knowledge, I created workboxes for skills that my daughter showed apparent interest in. Workboxes are individualized sets of activities organized in containers that are intended to work on a pre-determined skill; I usually use small plastic tubs or drawer sets for easy organization and storage. Her current favorite is a fine motor skill set that I created; it includes four different colorful boards. Each board has is focused on one element of dressing materials; I have included buttons, zippers, laces, and snaps. I’ve even kicked it up a notch and gotten her involved in the process of creating learning materials, which has been another spark for her imagination. Many of the materials we have made use items you can find around your house; get creative, you would be surprised what materials you may find in your recycling bin!
We are still working on incorporating cross-age experience into our daily routine; some ways that I have accomplished this has been through setting up play-dates with older cousins and friends that have older children. This element, in particular, has caused a surge in my daughter’s vocabulary and early academic skills; we often get compliments of shock from strangers when she recites the alphabet or counts to ten. Look around your community for the right group of parents and kids for your family; I have to admit, I have found myself enjoying some play-dates more than my daughter, especially when they involve sitting around the table with friends enjoying what could be described to our children as adult juice boxes.
These strategies have had a profound effect on her development; from the very beginning, my daughter showed an eagerness to learn. Through following her lead regarding the content and materials that we introduce and socializing her with older children, she has become better prepared to begin preschool. What I have termed my “Montessori Parenting Method” has become a catalyst of flexibility that allows my daughter effectively guide the way towards healthy development.
While this strategy takes some creative thinking and effort, it allows me to engage with my child, provides independent me time while increasing her ability to learn independently, and incorporates socialization with older children in settings where I can sit back, relax and watch my little girl grow in amazing strides while enjoying an adult juice box.
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Introduction to montessori method. (2016). The American Montessori Society. Retrieved from: https://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessori
Featured Image by Peter Hershey via Unsplash.com