By Barbara Isaacs
Montessori recognised very early on, that connecting with parents, and helping them understand what the Montessori environment offers their children, was an essential element of her approach. This is evident in the several short pieces she has written specifically for parents, all of which are tied together like a bunch of flowers in the slim volume published by Montessori Pierson in 2017 under the title Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents. In my view this accessible and very readable book is a must to be shared with all parents interested in Montessori. It is an offering full of reverence for the child highlighting the need to respect and trust in children’s capacity to engage spontaneously with their environment and learn from it. It does not advocate creating Montessori classrooms in the home, instead it urges parents to take time to get to know their children through observation.
Over the past thirty years, Montessori environments have witnessed a significant shift in relationships with parents. Not only have we invited parents into our classrooms to observe their children during the work-cycle, or help with a project, read a story or celebrate their festivals, we have also often provided guidance and support for parents. This has helped to foster a relationship reminiscent of the help our parents or grandparents may have received from a member of the extended family.
There is no doubt that children benefit from these positive relationships as parents grow more confident in their parenting. The teachers and whole nurseries and schools also benefit from these extended interactions as they come to better understand the cultures and social conventions of the diverse group of families who are the recipients of their provision. If we listen carefully to the family stories, we gain a deeper knowledge of how they “work”, what is important to them and what they value. This approach allows us to demonstrate to each child in our setting that we value their home culture and appreciate their unique way of living, that we are a caring community supporting one another. All these aspects enhance the children’s sense of belonging and well-being, the strands of the New Zealand TeWhariki early childhood curriculum.
In the next week’s webinar, we would like to share with you three diverse and innovative approaches to creating positive family relationships, where teachers hope to create a community, as mirrors are offered to children to reflect their lives, whilst doors are opened to feel and experience the richness of the lives of others. We are looking forward to welcoming Kate Unsworth from Unity Montessori Nursery where efforts are made to approach all family relationships in a non judgemental way, which, as you know is more difficult than it sounds as we are all cloaked in levels of prejudice and often quick to pass judgements; Charlotte Awdry of Enriching Environments, will share her experiences of introducing the Montessori approach to toddlers in the Mon Ecole French setting in UAE, where supporting the family includes embracing multilingualism and navigating the hierarchies of relationship which include nannies, parents and often also grandparents. She uses the same multicultural and multigenerational approach when working with individual families on one to one basis in their homes; and Laura Perfetti, from Playhood, will present us with her experiences of working alongside parents for whom the nursery building is also their workspace, where participating in the life of the nursery is part and parcel of the day; something most working parents would welcome, as being separated from their children often results in a sense of loss and guilt.
Join us on Tuesday 8 March at 19.00 (UTC), as our three presenters weave a mat of complex yet warm and welcoming family relationships resonating a little with the New Zealand TeWhariki approach. Register here.
Montessori M. (2017) Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents. Amsterdam:Montessori Pierson Publishing Company
Style E.J. (1988) Curriculum as Mirrors and Windows https://www.wcwonline.org/WCW-Blog-Women-Change-Worlds/On-the-30th-anniversary-of-emily-style-s-curriculum-as-window-and-mirror
TeWhariki, Early Childhood Curriculum, New Zealand https://www.geteduca.com/frameworks/te-whariki-ece-curriculum-new-zealand/