Interview Series: Interview with Kathleen from Real Life Montessori

Welcome to the very first Interview in my Montessori and Simple Living Families Series! Recently I had the pleasure in interviewing the lovely Kathleen from the Real Life Montessori Blog. I hope you enjoy reading her responses as much as I did.

Q1. Dear Kathleen, would you like to share with us a bit about yourself and your family?

Hi Olivia,

Thank you so much for hosting this interview! I am an AMS certified, early childhood, Montessori teacher and I have been a directress for almost five years now. My husband and I welcomed our son into the world two years ago and our lives have changed for the better in so many ways. One of the biggest ways has been the way we organize our home.

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Visiting a horse farm and laughing as the horse eats my hat and hair.

Q2. How did you first start on a Montessori path and what does this journey mean to you and your family?

I got started with Montessori after volunteering at a Montessori-based school during my time as an undergrad. I had no idea what Montessori was, but after being in the classroom, I new something very special was happening. The children were sitting in various positions, like on the floor, or at a small couch, or at a large table near their classmates. The classroom felt like a home and the children felt safe enough to ask questions and take academic risks, like making up an experiment or choosing their own research topics. I was so taken with the freedom of movement the children had and that all of the children were not required to do the same thing at the same time.

 From there, I decided that instead of going to graduate school for a masters in cultural anthropology, I with-out-a-doubt wanted to become a Montessori teacher. I enrolled in a training program and quickly became a directress at the most wonderful Montessori school. I can honestly say that I LOVE my job.
When M was born I was so torn about leaving the classroom that I had built from the ground up. The classroom environment almost felt like my first child (emphasis on almost). The school was so supportive and allowed me to share my all-day job with another talented teacher. She and I have been co-teaching for the past two years so that I can have the afternoons at home with M.
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Using a classic Montessori material.
While I was pregnant, one of my favorite books was Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard. I loved setting up M’s floor bed, low mirror and mobiles. The Montessori approach is such a guiding light for our family as we seek to empower our little one. My husband and I love Maria Montessori’s deep respect for the young child’s intelligence and Montessori’s focus on independence and the inclusion of children in family tasks like cooking dinner and doing laundry. We are also extremely committed to raising a child that respects all creatures, great and small. We love the Montessori peace curriculum and Montessori’s commitment to activism for women’s rights and peace.
While I LOVE setting up new Montessori works for M, our Montessori journey is not only about works or materials. It is about being curious, diligent, kind, independent, resilient, peaceful and joyful.
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M misting our terrarium.

Q3. How is your parenting influenced by Montessori (or other methods/philosophies) and what have you found to be the most challenging part? Do you have any tips for others?

My parenting is influenced by Montessori is so many ways. My favorite philosophical ideals from Montessori are learning through the hand, empowering children to be independent, observation, freedom of movement, love of nature, the prepared environment and following the child. I am also interested by Waldorf education for the beautiful play spaces, the seasonal activities and celebrations and the emphasis on art and music. I am also a huge fan of Janet Lansbury and RIE parenting.

The idea of the prepared environment is so wonderful because it takes the pressure off of parents to constantly entertain children or to constantly set limits. I love that our home is set up so that M can move safely and freely throughout the rooms. I love offering M an organized play space with age appropriate materials that provide opportunities for him to build his concentration and coordination. We do not give M toys that light up and make noise because we have noticed that these types of toys encourage M to be passive rather than active. We love to see M take action with his toys. I like the Waldorf idea of offering children very simple toys so that children can use their imaginations to envision more details like sirens for a firetruck or hair and eyelashes for a babydoll. Because we have taken the steps to make our home safe for a toddler, we can, when M is comfortable, fade into the background and observe what he does with his toys and what he is really interested in.

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Our Living Room shelf.  M has been interested in throwing things lately, so I included some soft plastic balls.

One of the most challenging parts of parenting has been pairing montessori parenting with boundary setting. I love the Montessori principal of “following the child” since following the child’s interests and following the child’s readiness for various things like toileting and weaning are wonderful ways to connect with our children. However, we must help our children learn to have freedom within limits. I often have to tell myself that I am not being mean when I follow through with M. Recently, he was having such a good time playing in child-sized car at his grandmother’s house. I knew we had to be somewhere soon, so I let him know that he had 5 minutes left to play. At the end of 5 minutes, he was still having so much fun, but I decided to envision an image that makes me feel calm and loving, which was a vision of the daffodils blooming for spring. I took a deep breath and with only love in my heart, I told M we had to go and I picked him up out of the car and carried him to our real car while he kicked, screamed and cried. I felt bad, but then I remembered one of my favorite quotes from Paula Polk Lilliard that says, “ Adults’ role is to teach children limits with love, or the world will teach them without it.”

Q4. What inspires you? Do you have any goals or Intentions for this year or the next that you would like to share with us?

I have always been inspired by nature, but my interest has grown even bigger since having M. My goals for the summer are to grow sunflowers and to start a compost bin. I have enrolled M in a local gardening club for toddlers and we will take lots of trips to the community garden to check out all of the beautiful plants. Another goal for this year is to do a better job protecting our unstructured time at home. We are so lucky to live in such an exciting community, but I will literally be calendaring our stay-at-home days.  One last goal that I am thinking a lot about is creating an outdoor tent for M to play in this summer. I want it to be really tall and hung from the trees so I will probably be asking my dad for some help with this project.

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M feeling proud of his Daffodils.

Q5. Are there any books or resources you would like to recommend, Montessori or other?

My favorite parenting books are:

1. Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard

2. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline without Shame by Janet Lansbury

3. How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

My Favorite blogs are:
     1. How we Montessori
     2. Frida be Mighty
     3. Elevating Childcare from Janet Lansbury
     4. Every Day Begins New
     5. Our Montessori Life
     6. The Kavanaugh Report

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