My name is Kristen Richter and I have a long history of Montessori dating back to the 70’s when our family was first introduced to the philosophy and my mom began teaching. In the 80’s I spend all my high school and college summers and after school time working in the classroom, on the playground and giving prospective parents tours. I also performed bookkeeping tasks, made materials for the teachers (my favorite job) and ANYTHING else that needed to be done. A family run business required all hands on deck. I then took my own training in 1995 and worked in the classroom as a 6-9 guide. I’m currently in the 9-12 classroom. My husband and I have three children ages 17-15-12
In Montessori Teacher Training, we do lots of work around the prepared adult. What does the prepared adult mean to you as a parent?
As a parent I work hard to grow myself spiritually. By that I mean digging deep to understand my driving motivations, what brings me joy, and what are my fears. I’m always on the lookout to help others and serve. I love reading self-help books; Brene Brown is an all-time favorite.
Part of my spiritual journey has been letting go of the “perfect Montessori parent” ideal. We all have our own manifestation of what Montessori looks like.
I share bits of my spiritual journey with my kids, especially now as they’ve gotten older and are experiencing their own growth spiritually. Of course they’ve seen my evolution first hand!
How do you encourage grace and courtesy?
We practice grace and courtesy daily. When the kids were younger we would explain things like, “ when Nan and Poppy arrive please come greet them at the door and make them feel welcome.” (this could be in the form of a hug, wave offer to carry things in....) Saying please and thank you has almost gone out of style, but we encouraged it, without demanding. (sometimes the kids were tired, shy, forgetful, so I would try to be gentle or silly with reminders and wouldn’t REQUIRE it) They would catch on!
Now that they are older this has been taken to a new level. Simple things like if you see something take care of it, recognizing and appreciating when they DO something for someone else. Again, I don’t always require it of them, but I do remind.
Montessori education speaks a lot about peace education. Montessori herself was nominated for the Nobel peace prize. We work really hard on creating peaceful environments at school. What does this look like for you in the home?
This is a very interesting topic, peace education. One that my view of has changed over the years. I used to be the person who would acquiesce in order to maintain peace. Now, not so much. I try to live my life as authentically as possible and creating and nurturing peaceful relationships along the way, weeding out the toxic relationships. In our home, we strive for everyone to feel safe sharing their view and perspective free from judgment and criticism, but to be willing to engage in HEALTHY dialog. With a house full of adolescences and two adults with strong, often differing views, this can get exciting!
For more in our Montessori Parenting Series have a look here
Montessori said that the six to twelve-year old aged children is quite social and is really interested in others, their community, and the wider world. In the Montessori classroom, we cater through this with cosmic education. What do you find works for you in your house to help meet the intellectual and emotional needs of the 6-12-year-old child?
Modeling my own spiritual journey I believe helps my girls with developing their own emotional needs, and fortunately, I had the privilege of having my biological kids in my 9-12 classroom, so lessons would spill over from school to home effortlessly. We’d often dig deeper on some of the topics that we might be discussing at school, watching some of the great shows on the History Channel, Planet Earth or other fantastic shows that help illustrate the cosmic lessons.
We use story a lot in Montessori 6-12 classrooms to convey important morals or messages. How do you use stories in your home to help reach the 6-12 year old child?
Telling stories is paramount in our home. We tell stories about our childhood, repeat some of the stories our own parents told us and stories from our lives. These are all our family oral history stories.
What ways do you share about your value system with your child/ren.
This is a great one because my husband and I differ on many issues, we will often discuss/debate topics along with the children, making for lively discussions. Our core values are aligned and we have many discussions regarding these. It’s often sparked by real life situations and friends doing x and in our family we value y so won’t be doing x. (This is anything from toys, vacations, brand name shoes...).
We model respectful interactions with others and encourage the same from our kids. That said, I was never one to force my child to “say hi to this grocery clerk” I would model it, say something like it’s polite to say hi or wave and then just leave it for them to do with as they felt comfortable. Additionally, as they get older and their moral compass is broader we are working to advocate for others.
Many Montessori schools do not give homework what type of home learning do you encourage in your house?
We have are in a unique situation as I was the 9-12 teacher for all my kids. So I can’t speak to one without the other.
Our school does assign homework, but as the teacher/mom honestly by the end of the day I’ve got no energy left to deal with spelling, vocabulary, or math facts! I remind them to do the work, and offer support as need but then I leave it alone. They faced the consequences as appropriate.
We encourage learning daily. Conversations around the dinner table might be “what would have happened if the typewriter was never invented”. Our current topic is all about the butterfly effect, the idea that insignificant events have a larger impact on major events.
How would you describe your parenting style? Do you think it is important for children to have some say in rules or norms in your home? How do you get your child to 'buy in' to your family culture?
I try to be as democratic as possible in my parenting style. I do believe that kids should have a say in decisions that we make in our family. There are some non-negotiables; jobs need to be done as we are all contributing members of the community. “Buy-in” seems to be natural as most of our big rules were established at a young age. Freedom within limits is my guiding mantra and really translates well into the home.
In the Montessori 6-12 classroom, the child takes care of the environment around them, usually, we don't tend to have many complaints from children however parents sometimes say that at home their child can be reluctant to help with jobs. Do you have any experience with this?
Yes! Of course! It’s natural. Nobody likes to be told what to do. I’ve learned that it’s all in the approach! It’s an ongoing process and right now things are working well. We’ve finally identified some key “jobs” (about 6 jobs, 2 per kid) that need to be done, and they each have taken on the job that really suits them. Our oldest is gone a lot, so her jobs are jobs that others don’t rely on her doing. Our middle child loves to sweep so she’s got the sweeping covered and our youngest is the animal lover so she’s got them covered. I’ve also let go of a lot of expectations. As long as the kitchen is clean before going to bed, I’m good. They may keep their bedroom as tidy or sloppy as they want, twice a week the housekeepers come and will vacuum. I taught them when they were 9 or 10 how to do their laundry and really haven’t done much of their laundry since then.
Do you think there are any benefits to your child having a Montessori set up at home and at school? (or if your child is in a traditional school, how does their Montessori home help them in their traditional school)
I have a hard time with calling what we do at home Montessori, because it’s just who I am and hence who we as a family are. The kids are typical, everyday kids, who love each other and will argue; they will shut down with me and spill their hearts. We struggle with chores, screentime and homework just like many other families. We believe and practice freedom with limits, kindness and mutual respect. I believe this is the case for many families as well, and I want to honor that. I do know that our kids are willing to be open to learning, have a deep, kind, and compassionate way to them and are outside the box thinkers.
Kristen holds her AMS 6-12 certification and is a certified Positive Discipline Teacher Educator and Parent Facilitator. She also owns Educational Sounds and Images, supplier of Montessori Language materials for the Early Childhood and Elementary classrooms. You can find her at:
For more in our Montessori Parenting Series have a look here
If you are interested in knowing more on how to support yourself and your family through the Montessori journey check out this course here.
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