Most of my family doesn’t get any of this. They don’t get the desire to homeschool, they question the Montessori Methods, and they just don’t understand the different values and expectations that I am raising my daughter with. Our toys are boring, I let my daughter do dangerous things in the kitchen, and — to top it off — it doesn’t really look like she’s learning anything.
Miss G is a mere 3 years old, but already she is reading, cooking on the stove, can self-serve any snack she desires, and is fully independent in all self-care, including dressing, bathing, and grooming. Her favourite Montessori works at the moment are the binomial cube and long division materials. To the outside world, and to my family, I look like an indulgent, potentially negligent, mother who is spending an absurd amount of time and energy implementing the Montessori Method when really a few workbooks and some iPhone apps would probably be more relevant.
But what they don’t see is the day to day, and how our life is better and enriched for the alternative choices that I’ve made. They might see a 3 year old who has spilled her fair share of food from self-serving herself in the kitchen, but what they don’t see is how proud and capable she feels when she gets it right, and how all of those spills have created a responsibility for “cleaning up our messes” that extends past just physical messes. They might see boring toys, but they don’t see how our days are void of the meltdowns that accompany over-stimulation from noisy, battery-operated toys, and how creative their play becomes when it’s kid-powered. My expectations and allowances might seem high, but they are informed by a deep knowledge and trust for my daughter, and I have never felt like that trust was misplaced.
So, how do I get them to understand it? Especially when they just can’t see the benefits that are so clearly in front of them?
I point it out.
I talk openly and honestly about how we are both thriving with the Montessori Method. And on the days where I question my own sanity, I don’t go to them yet. (Maybe one day I will, but those are conversations I think are more productive to be had with other homeschooling mamas.)
I brainstorm and get excited about how I’m going to figure out how to make that DIY material, or come up with the money for another material, and I try to get them to see the possibility in it, too.
I bring them into our little family celebrations — if Miss G just learned how to make pancakes, I’ll invite them over for brunch!
And, most importantly, I pray. I pray that God will give them insights and give me strength, and that we will be guided through our journey and I will be open to sticking it out or ending it, should that ever be what’s best for Miss G.
When it comes to the more serious objections, which have happened, I’ve had to learn to be confident in standing up for my beliefs. It’s nothing new to me as Christian, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve found when I can confidently express why Montessori is so important to me, in the face of that judgement, it matters a little less to me if they are on board, while also having the ironic effect of instilling confidence in them. When my dad was convinced that a 2.5 year old cooking on the stove was dangerous and negligent, I went over the safety procedures that we had put in place, the care that Miss G and I were putting into the activity, and allowed Miss G to express for herself how confident and proud she was in her accomplishment. He was still not on board, but the situation became a difference of opinion rather than an all-out show-down.
My family has come a long way, they do see that Miss G is thriving, but they still question the Montessori Method occasionally. They’ve stopped buying crazy toys because they know that I will just return or donate them, and they’ve seen how Miss G enjoys her imaginative and more aesthetically pleasing toys, and how the “other kind” really does have a somewhat negative effect on her behaviour. I don’t know that they will ever stop questioning the little things, but we’ve slowly figured out how they can voice their concerns, and how they can listen to reasons. With my mom, I worked with her to give her scripts to follow so that we could have productive conversations rather than confrontations.
It takes a very interested family member to be willing to read a Montessori book or blog, but you can always keep a list in mind of notable Montessori graduates — like the creators of Google! Have cute anecdotes or “get off the hook” comments at the ready, and most important, be confident and graceful. A non-chalent “non-answer” works wonders compared to a defensive rebuttal.
How have you brought your family closer to understanding your Montessori life? Please share any insight or tips — or let us know where your family is struggling, we can work together for solutions.