Exploring the Essence of Montessori Parenting – Jasmine Chong

I’m excited to bring you the next interview in the Essence of Montessori Parenting Series. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to go back and read the past interviews after reading this one. They all hold so many nuggets of wisdom. I connected with Jasmine over Social Media and love reading her posts. If you don’t already follow her, you can find links to her blog and Facebook pages at the end of this post. Ok grab a cup of tea, or wine or just water, put up your legs and enjoy 🙂

Tell me a little about yourself.

My name is Jasmine. I am a Singaporean mother of two children who’s just returned from London, UK. I trained as an Assistant at Maria Montessori Institute, London, and hold the AMI 3-6 and 6-12 Certificates. My husband did the AMI 6-12 Certificate as well!

How did you discover Montessori ?

Blogs. I was obsessed with reading how schools and parents had implemented Montessori as well as Dr Montessori’s own writings, but I realised that I needed more. So I signed up for training.

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

Montessori parenting means authenticity. Being authentic to oneself is the first thing- we do not put aside our own personality and needs to become a servant to the child. We instead bring our own interests to the fore (I love art and reading) so we can create lasting family legacies.

Being authentic to the child is the second thing. This means stripping away much of the artifice and “performance” that is typically expected of children, and instead enjoy the person he is right now. I also try to avoid “labelling” the children, not just in their presence but in my mind, because my labels affect whether I perceive their actions in a good light or not. I have noticed lots of euphemisms recently to describe children e.g. “energetic” replaces “cannot sit still”, “strong-willed” replaces “disobedient”. May I suggest that perhaps there is a developmental urge that the child must honour. Perhaps the child needs more gross motor, or more purposeful work with the hands, or vocabulary. Perhaps the child needs nothing but someone to sit with him. And perhaps, like even the best of us, the child just woke up on the wrong side of the floor bed. Labels do not give us the answers we need to support

 our children; observation does (but of course it’s always easier said than done!).

With modelling and speaking respectfully as a given, the clearest way to implement Montessori is really through practical life. I am a mediocre cook, but the children gain so much satisfaction working in the kitchen, so I try to find things I am more confident with like growing herbs, making kombucha or tea or preparing snacks. I don’t think they have to eat it all themselves, it’s very much about the process rather than product, so we may share it with our guests or pack a “care package” for a friend. Last week my daughter helped me coat a bottle of almonds with dark chocolate and only ate one (that I saw)- what a great exercise in self-control!

I now run Montessori workshops in my home, which is all sorts of vulnerable for me, but I think it’s important for parents to see with their own eyes that a Montessori home is not very difficult to achieve. It’s not stylised or staged, but it just works for everybody living there. I even took an Interior Design course at Central Saint Martin’s because I really wanted to discover how to put together a prepared environment on design (rather than decorating) principles like traffic flow, light, space planning etc.

How did parenting and Montessori parenting change from 1 child to 2 children?

It was rough. The Montessori principles remained the same, but I gave myself a lot more grace when I couldn’t do certain things or keep certain commitments anymore. I didn’t assemble any trays for them for the first nine months of my younger child’s life, and on hindsight that was probably the beginning of my journey towards minimalism.

How do you foster your children’s sibling relationship using Montessori principles

Grace and Courtesy. The most important materials are often the ones NOT on the shelves, and in this case, respect for the sibling’s work is an invisible but important lesson; when one is working the other may look but may not touch. (And yes, this may take an eternity for the

siblings to internalise. I still need to step in from time to time, for they are in the process of developing their self-discipline, but it helps create a more peaceful atmosphere at home.) This applies just as much to the younger sibling too, their work is equally vital! I remember first reading on your blog a suggestion to use restricted containers for the older sibling’s work that he could open easily but the younger could not and thought that a brilliant idea of tweaking the home without having to say “no no no” to the younger child.

What would you say is the most important aspect of Montessori parenting? What is the most challenging part of being a Montessori parent

The most important part is also the most challenging part: it is to not offer help unless it is necessary, and even so, only offer that precise amount of help and no more, for any more and I become an obstacle rather than a guide to the child’s independence.

Any tips for new Montessori parents?

I wanted to write some tips here about easy ways to “Montessori” your home, but I think the first change must be internal. It is to put aside what society expects of children or of parents (for often too little is expected of children and too much is expe
cted of parents), and to let your child show you just what he or she can do. When you follow your child with loving limits and sincere communication, you cannot go very wrong, even if you have zero budget or space.

Are you a screen free household? If yes, Is this in following Montessori principles or a personal choice? Has it been hard to stay screen free? What do you do in place of TV?  If no, please share with us what screen time looks like in your home.

We have been screen-free for 5 years (since my eldest child was born). What Montessori learnt through physical observation decades ago, we now can corroborate with science. Children learn by engaging all five senses; they cannot help but touch that item that they are drawn to. They learn by doing and by doing they refine their learning in a virtuous feedback cycle. I do not believe that the child’s concrete thinking and sensorimotor explorations are best served by screen time, interactive or otherwise. We have never had a struggle about screen time because we have no screen time and I plan to keep it that way until my younger child turns 6 or 7, and enters the second plane of development.

In place of screen time, I prepare the environment. By that, I do -not- mean fill it with open-ended wooden toys and Montessori classroom materials, amazing as these all can be. I mean I observe my children and prepare activities to meet their interests. As they get older and more interested in socialisation, more of these activities could take

 place outside the home and within the community: cooking a particular Asian dish with Grandma, choosing and paying for their own yoghurt, the courtesy of greeting the garbage collector and postman, or collecting brochures from the train station.

Instead of letting a television do the imagining for them, they now have the tools, the time and the space to set their imaginations loose. They even have a community who can teach them things I can’t! I have donated my televisions and a vegetable poster now hangs in its place.

Why do you Montessori?

Because it has transformed my parenting and any other way now seems odd to me

Do you have any Social Media accounts that you would like to share with us?: blog, Instagram, Facebook page?

I would love for you to visit me at my blog and my Facebook account. Thank you if you’ve made it to here, it was a long read I know!

Three Minute Montessori Blog

Three Minute Montessori on Facebook


My favourite part was the tip for new Montessori parents. “The first change must be internal.” This is so true. How does the change happen though? I’ve been thinking about it a lot and one of the projects I mentioned in yesterday’s post has to do with this so stay tuned! What was your favorite part of the interview?


Thank you so much Jasmine for taking the time to answer so thoughtfully!

 

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