So what’s my Monte-story?
I am in awe of the multi-lingual. This capacity, to jump seamlessly from one realm of expression to another, appears to me to be a sort of magic. It is commonly accepted that those most fluent in a language (or two, or a few) are those who have been exposed to those words from an early age, in their natural environment. The child who has organically absorbed language grows into an adult who speaks with a fluency that is rarely rivalled by the latecomer. Those who attempt to learn a new language in adulthood find the task much more laborious, the old habits harder to undo, and the subtle nuances more difficult to achieve. It is for this reason that I consider myself immeasurably lucky that the language of Montessori surrounded me from infancy. This gift has allowed me to switch seamlessly from communicating in English to expressing myself in the inimitable language of Montessori. There was no point in my life at which I made the conscious decision to learn Montessori, it simply surrounded me from my earliest moments and, as such, is embedded deeply in my mind and my heart.
I know many wonderful Montessori educators or parents who have undertaken the noble and effortful task of learning such a comprehensive and complex philosophy in adulthood. I enormously admire their perseverance and intellect for doing so, yet it also reinforces to me just how fortunate I was to have had the power of my ‘absorbent mind’ when I first encountered this beautiful approach to life. And this is, indeed, what I believe Montessori to be. It is not just pedagogy limited to application within the walls of a classroom. It is a way of looking at the world, a set of principles that can guide your interactions not only with children but with life itself. I hear the wise words of Maria Montessori in the back of my mind in a variety of situations and I feel enormously lucky to be able to borrow her wisdom as I make decisions each day.
The subject of borrowing wisdom from incredible women brings me to the true hero of my “Monte-story”; my mum! It was my wise and conscientious mother who went out of her way to make proactive choices about her parenting, rather than relying on her ‘default’ settings, and it was on this journey that she discovered the Montessori philosophy. She found that this approach aligned comfortably with her fundamental beliefs about childhood and parenting and she also discovered that where she felt herself lacking or unsure the Montessori method offered guidance or reassurance. Mum began utilising Montessori principles in her parenting style, then found a Montessori school for my older brother. When that centre closed just before I was due to start my mum was devastated and expressed this sadness to the outgoing Director, who asked “well then why don’t you start your own centre?”. These simple words sparked a journey that has resulted in my mum opening 4 Montessori schools, running a Montessori consultancy company and travelling the world to learn and to teach about this wonderful methodology!
So my mum’s intentional effort to learn the language of Montessori created the conditions in which I could naturally absorb it from the earliest moments of my life. So for the ease and fluency with which Montessori quotes and qualities spring to my mind I must thank my wonderful mother! I will ‘pay-it-forward’ by continuing to offer Montessori-inspired respect and nurturing to my niece to my students and, perhaps one day, to children of my own.