Eli was having one of those weeks. Maybe two year molars were shimmying to the surface. Maybe he was still recovering from the over-scheduled Thanksgiving week. Maybe he’s just human and allotted rough weeks now and again. Whatever the case may be, there had been a lot of throwing. Like glass dishes and weaning chairs kind of throwing. There’d been a lot of meltdowns. Like he wants to simultaneously stay in and get out of the bathtub kind of meltdowns. And there’d been a lot of “no”-ing. Like he forgets “yes” is an option to yes or no questions kind of “no”-ing.
And then, like every week, we walked into the Montessori parent/child class we attend at The Studio June in Houston, and I was mentally prepared for a rough class, but Eli’s rough week was left at the door. He chose work. He focused on his work. He asked for presentations. He moved with purpose. He patiently waited his turn or for work to be available. He cared for materials. He listened and appropriately responded to instructions.
It’s weeks like these when I am extra thankful for this Montessori haven we both have. As his guide, Sarah, described to me: children may struggle at home with changes or disruptions in schedule, but they come to school, and they know what to do. The expectations are the same, the environment is the same, the people are the same. That, alone, creates a great sense of peace.
And that would be enough, but this class gifts us so much more. It provides:
Another guide. Brian and I were Eli’s first guides, but I’m so thankful we aren’t his only ones. I cannot even express the joy I have when I watch Eli with his guide. Here is another adult, a patient, respectful adult, who is demonstrating and working with him. All the while, he’s absorbing that he is worth eye contact, worth questions being addressed to him, worth patient reminders, worth kind assistance and clear communication. And all from an adult who is not related to him. That’s a very big deal. And Eli thrives on this positive adult interaction: he asks her for presentations, and he is the first to volunteer to help her with snack preparation.
Another prepared environment. It’s not easy to find places that are specifically prepared for small children. Besides our home, The Studio June is it for Eli. And he clearly knows it. From the start, he easily engaged with the environment: independently washing dishes, choosing and returning work, setting his place for snack, etc. I love that this prepared environment reinforces what we have tried so hard to create at home: sense of independence, healthy boundaries, care of self/others/environment, and respect.
Undivided observation. There are no phones to answer, dishes to unload, or dogs to let outside. I’m gifted an hour and fifteen minutes of undivided observation of Eli. I get to know what works he is currently drawn to; I get to watch him work and communicate with another adult; and I get to witness his progress in ways I don’t always see at home. When stripped away from all possible distractions, it’s amazing how focused I can become on watching Eli. My mind doesn’t even wander. It’s beautiful.
Parent support. Gosh, I hadn’t really thought about this aspect of the class when I initially signed us up to attend. I thought it would be great for Eli, but I hadn’t thought about how much of a support it would be for Brian and me as parents. I’m able to ask questions and get feedback from an experienced AMI guide, which alone is invaluable, but I’m also able to talk with other Montessori or Montessori-inspired parents. Weekly, I’m rejuvenated, encouraged, and reminded why we have chosen to live our lives using the Montessori method. Talk about a great use of an hour!
A stepping stone to Montessori school. In less than a year, Eli will enter a primary class at a Montessori school, and I am so thankful that our parent/child class has provided Eli an opportunity to spend time in a Montessori classroom with a Montessori guide before then with the comfort of having me close by. A parent/child class requires parent participation, but the older Eli gets and the longer we attend class the more I’m able to step back, mirroring the independence he’ll have at school. There will be new things for Eli to acclimate to, for sure, but the similarities will hopefully make for an easy transition.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a Montessori parent/child class, I highly recommend attending. I’m so thankful to have this time with Eli before he heads off to Montessori school alone. You know, when I’ll be a sobbing mess at home, wishing desperately I could be a fly on the wall. Ha! But seriously.