Exploring the Essence of Montessori Parenting – Paije Long

I am so so excited about this series! I will be introducing you to Montessori parents from around the world at different stages of their journeys. They will be keeping it real, and sharing with us honestly their thoughts and experiences with parenting the Montessori way. The stories I have collected so far have resonated so much with me and contain so many nuggets of wisdom.  Some of the posts are long but I promise you – they are worth the read! I suggest you grab a cup of tea and take your time.

Without further ado, the first post features my friend and former course mate, Paije Long.

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Tell me a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m a trained Montessori Guide for 3-6 and 0-3 levels, and am also certified in ART (Autogenic Respiratory Therapy) which is the Montessori birth prep (think Lamaze/Bradley method, but way better). I’m from Texas, and currently live in Austin with my husband and our little love Tula. I am so lucky to get to work at a great Montessori school, Austin Montessori as a Youngest Children’s Community guide working with 18mo-3yo. I took both my Montessori trainings in Portland at Montessori Northwest, and was lucky enough to train along with Junnifa for my 0-3 training. I also have a BA in Human Studies, focusing in on human development, psychology, and cognitive neuro-sciences.

How did you discover Montessori?
I used to work at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired with children and teens who were blind and deaf. Yes, like Helen Keller. A lot of our focus there was helping them learn self-care skills, independence, and giving them confidence to approach a largely uncompromising world. It was there that someone suggested I read the Absorbent Mind. After that, there was no going back. I remember crying tears of happiness at some of the ideas so beautifully put forth in the book.

I had always wanted to go into caregiving, education, or social justice work, but couldn’t find my place with the way that those worlds were currently structured, as well as the way small humans are inherently treated by those systems. Montessori was like an answer from on high. I was instantly touched. That feeling was confirmed and only grew deeper the more I understood and was transformed through my trainings.

What does Montessori parenting mean to you, and what are some of the ways that you have implemented Montessori at home?

I think the essence of Montessori parenting is that triangle of relationship which I learned about in training and guides me in the classroom environment. The child at the top, with the prepared environment and the prepared adult as the two base corners.

It is the adult who provides the physical and psycho-emotional boundaries for the child through their actions and preparation of the environment, and so it is the work of the adult to prepare themselves to make those choices. Sometimes that requires working through our own baggage. Sometimes that requires us seeing our child in a new light (often one we are not ready for – is she ready for food already!!!?). However, it is with this internal work that we can prepare ourselves for the preparation of this environment which will meet the needs of and support the child.

Montessori parenting is also parenting in which we choose to be in touch with ourselves (our motivations, our fears, our joys) and our children (where they are at now, consciously respecting their bodies/language, where they will be soon) and meeting them where they are with what they need.
It also takes us asking – what do they really need? Is this action to save my sanity, to make things easier? Will this constraint or boundary serve them well?

Paijay

Montessori parenting is conscious respectful parenting which acknowledges that life (real, conscious, deserves-respect-life) begins at birth when the family is transformed anew. It is parenting which is friendly with errors (both for child and adult) and so is forgiving. It is parenting which is full of trust and confidence. Believing in your decisions and actions will feel just as good as believing in your childs. To be honest, that kind of trust and confidence just begets more.

Montessori parenting is parenting with respect – slowing down to the pace of the child, modeling how you would expect them to treat you/others/themselves, so that internal mirror displays the valued and respected person. Imagine, if every person’s internal mirror were to show a loved person. How much peace would each person feel inside? Would they feel the need to internalize and externalize negativity or hate?        

Paije Tula bedroom2

So… our Implementations: Well, we live in a tiny space. We prepared our environment, we give her freedom of movement, which is getting more interesting by the day (and takes more forethought!).

We respect her body, not only by modeling consent and waiting for her to be ready as often as we can, but also by respecting her phsyicality – for our family, we choose not to use swings, walkers, bumbos and such. That works for us (though I know that won’t work for every family, no worries). We trust her to move and discover her movements and body in her own time. We never did tummy time, and don’t sit her up. That has taken a lot of habit building for us.

I am personally looking very forward to the time when she is walking and begins to do food prep work, or discovering puzzles and art. Though, I often wish this moment (whichever one we are in) would never end. Then she learns or discovers something new, and I see her wonder, confidence, determination, and independence blossom just a little more. That is what makes it so rewarding – in the good moments, as well as the hard messy ones (yes, montessorians have those too!).

Some say parenting is a thankless job, but I don’t agree. It’s in those moments of growth, your child’s or your own, that the gratitude lies. Sure, one day they’ll be able to speak their gratitude, and sure the privilege you are able to afford them and sacrifices made might be unnoticed – but they only understand the world as they discover it with you. The gratitude is inherent in their discovery, their internalization of the world, which is the internalization of the the love and care you give them.
In the end, the most important part of Montessori in the home is the philosophy. It is a philosophy of independence, trust, respect, and conscious parenting. If you are making choices which honor those aspects, then you are honoring yourself and your child. And that’s the core of Montessori.

What is the most challenging part of being a Montessori parent?
Ha! Well, as always, being friendly with error (your own or others) is very hard. Second guessing yourself seems to be inherent to parenting, and I think that’s good – but in this current American parenting climate that turns into judgement too quickly, rather than the conscious introspection and awareness that could aid us instead.
I personally feel like my challenge is explaining to my family – though for the most part they choose to not question and just accept. That’s easy for now. It’s also a little hard because we are so different than many of our peers in the things we offer and say, and sometimes I feel judged for that.
Something else that’s hard for me is thinking ahead, and making sure I have what T needs. That I am offering her the experiences and opportunities to broaden her world. And that my emotional baggage doesn’t get in the way of me seeing what she needs.

You said you are a guide in the toddler community? Does Tula go to a Nido? If not, who cares for her while you are at work?
When I first went back to work, my husband and I worked at the same school, and his schedule was slightly different – he was able to take T while I was in the class with children, and then bring her to me at noon, as some of the children were departing. After that was our nap program, so I walked home with her, and then returned at the end of the day for the afternoon departure. We are very lucky to live just down the block from my classroom. This year, T will be staying home with my husband, and visiting me for breastfeeding twice a day, once after each departure. She will stay home with my husband until she begins in the other Youngest Children’s Community at my school sometime in March. We feel exceptionally lucky to have this arrangement, and know it probably wont be possible for future children.

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How do you manage caring for so many children all day and still being present with your own child?
Luckily, I’m a very energetic person, and I often have found that I have more patience for children than I do for adults. That certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t get “touched out” or need my space, but I am lucky to have a very present partner who can usually help me through those moments. I’m sure as T gets older, there will be different challenges to this aspect of our relationship, but for now, I really have space for each child I engage with. The returns on love make the heart grow quite large.

How has being a Montessori parent been different from being a Montessori teacher especially in terms of interactions and expectations of the child?
I think that the anxieties and concerns of a guide and a parent can be very similar, but this seems to be that part that it differs for me the most. As a guide, it is easier to find the space for objectivity, and there is a big difference in the way we discover and observe a child versus the way we discover and observe our own child; we /know/ our child inherently, and it is hard sometimes to let go of that /knowing/ as the grow and change and as their (and our) expectations grow and change.

Any tips for new Montessori parents?

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Be conscious of the words you use, both with yourself and your child.
  • Do what is right for your family, and works best for you. If it doesn’t feel like something is serving a need, put it away, and try something else for a while.

Your favorite toy/material for non-mobile baby?
I really loved our bell/ring on a ribbon. I also love the little rattle I made for her.

Your favorite toy/material for mobile baby?
Simple baskets with known objects from around the house

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Favorite toy/material for toddler?
Food prep or a sponge. As soon as a child is cruising introducing a sponge for wiping the floor or table is not only fun, but it gives them such a neat power to feel helpful and to change their environment. Plucking grapes and peeling a banana is a great first food prep work.

Please share some of your Montessori spaces.

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The above space is part of the family living area. It has evolved as Tula has become more mobile

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Paije Tula bedroom

See more of Tula’s room here

And Finally… Why do you Montessori?
Montessori pedagogy and philosophy is like a salve to the soul, especially as every day we see violence and terrifying things from all over the world. With Montessori, I feel that I can light my own corner, that I have a daily positive effect on real lives around me – regardless of whether they are a child of family in my class, a neighbor, a friend, or my own family. I know that the way I am intending to be in this world feels like a positive impact. Now, I’m the first to admit, I don’t always meet my own expectations, but even that piece of humble pie is helpful.

It is with our kindness, our friendliness with error, and our self reflection that we can make a difference in the world, in the daily lives of others, and how we shape the future. That is why I Montessori.

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Don’t you just love that! I especially appreciated the various descriptions of Montessori parenting. What was your favorite part?

You can read Paije’s blog or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

If you would like to learn more about Montessori Parenting, sign up for the Nduoma Education from Birth e-course

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