Monday, 15 January 2018

Why I Am Not *Just* A Montessori Parent

Just before the Christmas season, a Montessori blogger I follow, How We Montessori, wrote a post about the idealism and reality of Montessori parenting, and one of the things she mentioned really resonated and I have been reflecting on it for the last few weeks.
Reading about Montessori has given me lots of guidance, ideas and inspiration but my personal goal has never been to be a Montessori parent but the best parent I can be at any given time. -How We Montessori
While the vast majority of what I have found within the Montessori philosophy has resounded with me, there are definitely some things about it I question. It has been difficult for me to accept and navigate this, because I think I just assumed that loving Montessori and wanting it for my children meant I had to take absolutely everything about it as law.

It took me reading that blog post to realize I felt this way. And to realize I don't have to.

I can love most of Montessori, but not all of it, and that is okay. If you love Montessori, but not all of it, too, I totally get you. And if you are totally gung-ho about all of it? I totally respect you for that.

As we settled back into our home after the Christmas season, and I observed how my children seemed to sink into the freedom and order of our home with a sigh of relief, I was reminded of my love for the atmosphere of our Montessori-inspired home. It is beautiful to watch the magic of work being used and returned to shelves, to see the children interacting with materials on such different planes. When I was searching for Benedict to get him ready for bed tonight, I found him quietly lining up a handful of vehicles. By the time I had put him to bed and finished nursing Ignatius, Tharin and Jerome had already returned the house to order.

Potty learning with the Montessori emphasis on respect for independence and autonomy, the prepared space, observation, and natural reward, brings so much peace and gentleness to a process that can be so dreaded. Our play space is always ordered at the end of the day (despite how it may look during the day) because I have prepared the space with a place for everything, and have carefully considered all that is available to the boys.

Attempting to parent with gentleness and understanding, with respect for my children's very real needs and feelings, is paramount to me. I cried when I read Maria Montessori's beautiful words about the importance of childhood in shaping the future and feel it is so crucial for me to raise my children with this belief.

So What Is the Issue Then?

My hesitation toward any Montessori teaching or expectation has generally been pretty minimal, really. But hesitation there is, and I thought it might be helpful for me to share.

When we found out we were pregnant I knew I wanted to incorporate Montessori with this baby from birth, and I poured myself into creating mobiles and collecting wooden toys, learning about Montessori infant care, and donating items I felt were incompatible with what I learned (such as our Bumbo chair, and our plastic baby toys.)

However, I could not bring myself to donate the brand new swing we had received as a gift when Benedict was a baby. As I convinced Tharin to build me a beautiful co-sleeper and sold our bassinet, I found myself unable to do away with the swaddles I had found to be so helpful in comforting my previous babies.

Our boys know who Lightning McQueen and the Paw Patrol are as we are not screen free. I definitely limit their choices and the frequency of screen time, but feel there are times when it is appropriate for our family, as well as unavoidable. We own many books that would be considered fantasy based and these are some of our favourites, like How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad and The Gruffalo.

We own a play kitchen, because pretending I was a chef or a mom in my own kitchen was one of my favourite games to play as a child, and much as I would like to include my children in baking and cooking and the practical opportunities rife in the kitchen, I believe there are equally valuable opportunities to imagine in a kitchen all their own.

But if the Montessori philosophy tends to frown on screens, fantasy-based literature, using a high chair, and batteries, doesn't the presence of these things in my children's lives make me a Montessori fake?

If it does, then I guess I am.

But what I definitely do not want to be is a hypocrite. So here it is. I do not know everything there is to know about the Montessori method, and we definitely do not run a purely Montessori home. As often as my children are doing something amazingly Montessori, they are probably doing something amazingly not Montessori, like refusing to return a work to the shelf or playing with a totally commercialized toy.

So, I'll Just Be Over Here Doing My Thing

In my parenting journey, I know there will be many aspects of the Montessori philosophy which will continue to feel absolutely right and true for my family, and I will continue to write and share about Montessori because I truly love it. Just know I am not setting out to be a Montessori-purist just for the sake of consistency, but am, instead, aiming to be true to my instincts (many of which align with Montessori anyway).

So if you see me posting a picture of Ignatius swaddled, or I recommend a book that is not Montessori-friendly, realize I have made these decisions based on what feels right for our family and what we want for our children, and that is my first, and only, end-goal.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily. 

God bless,
Olivia Fischer


  1. Hi!
    I'm new to Montessori and I definitely enjoyed reading your perspective on things! I agree... if you love Montessori and take the method generally as much as you can then good for you! It isn't a religious idea where you have to take all or none of it. I try to have all wooden and natural toys for example. But of course I have small metal cars as well as a few plastic toys as well... they were gifts that my boys love so we will keep them :)
    This article was a nice read and got me thinking of buying a kitchen for my boys and selling their tool bench which is basically ignored and the screws are thrown around.
    Take care

    1. Hey, wonderful to hear from you! Exactly what I was thinking about it not being a religion! It can sometimes feel like it is, or like an exclusive club. But it can benefit every family, whether you include many of the ideas or only a few.

      We definitely had a tool bench I recently got rid of as well. However, every time I try to get rid of the actual tools, my sons become interested in playing with them again and I try to respect their interests, haha.

      Have a wonderful weekend,

  2. Hi, I'm Cuban and I found you through HOW WE MONTESSORI. I identify myself a lot with what you say. I also try to apply that philosophy with my two and a half year old boy. There are many indispensable things to apply the Montessori method that are not commercialized in my country or are not within my reach, so I try to apply as much as I can as long as it suits my family, especially my little one.I have started to follow you and I hope to learn a lot from your experiences as I have done with HOW WE MONTESSORI.greetings from Cuba

  3. So happy to hear from you! Yes, I so wish we could afford more of the materials but am realizing, more and more as we apply the principles in our home, that there are so many more important aspects of Montessori that get lost in the commercialization of it!