We are delighted to introduce you to our series on parenting your Montessori 6-12-year-old. I know there is lots out there for Montessori preschoolers but not as much for Montessori 6-12s. In this series, I have collaborated with some Montessorians who both teach and parent 6-12 year olds.
Renae is the owner and author of Every Star Is Different and the author of two books. She is the mother of four, ages 7-12. Her husband and she have homeschooled their children and others using the Montessori Method for eight years now. They have also incorporated the principles of Montessori into all aspects of their home life. You can read more from her here:
In Montessori Teacher Training we do lots of work around the prepared adult. What does the prepared adult mean to you as a parent?
My husband jokes that it means A LOT to me. In his words I'm always saying, "If the environment is not prepared then I don't feel prepared." He knows I like our home to be very well kept. For me, it means that I wake up each morning, meditate, pray, and then talk with my husband about our plans for the day. We discuss each child and how we can best meet their needs in our homeschool classroom, but also in our home. When I seem out of synch with behaviors or am feeling overwhelmed, I immediately pick up a Montessori book to be inspired.
How do you encourage grace and courtesy?
We view everyone as equals in our home. We respect our children's opinions and ideas. When there's a problem, we work to solve it together as a family. When there's something to celebrate we always ask for input on how we should do that. With that mutual respect and understanding that our children's thoughts matter comes an automatic following of our example when it comes to grace and courtesy. In new situations, we sit down together and discuss what's expected beforehand. When we hear words or see actions that aren't quite what we're looking for or what we've taught we usually ask for them to try expressing their thoughts again. Other times we may just give a verbal cue, "Remember kindness and respect." In times of significant distress when respect and courtesy just aren't possible, we ask the child to go take a break and calm down before they try talking with us again. If they refuse to do that we usually follow safety protocol, whatever that may include for each child in the home.
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?
We have found that minimizing our space and belongings has contributed significantly to the sense of peace we feel at home. Surrounding ourselves with nature has also had a huge impact. Outside of our space and belongings we teach our children to love and serve others. Our children are very informed about what's going on in the world around them as they've watched news and discussed current events daily for several years now. When things are hard to handle we follow the same a step-by-step process. 1. Express our feelings. 2. Pray for whomever needs our help. 3. Take action. This process led us to grieve refugees as they fleed their homelands, to pray for them, and then to adopt a refugee family from Iraq who was arriving in the United States. Another example that I think about all of the time is the morning the children woke up and learned that Donald Trump had become President of the United States. 1. They cried and expressed anger and frustration. 2. They prayed that his heart would be softened towards others. 3. They wrote letters to President Trump. https://www.everystarisdifferent.com/2017/01/what-you-dont-know-president-trump.html
We've always let our children develop their own opinions about race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. As a family we've learned about so many different ways of life. As the children have become more educated about people around us, they've learned to love everyone. Our motto is, "When in doubt, just smile and give a compliment." It works every time!
As far as conflict resolution in the home, everyone is at a different place. We work hard to make sure that not only is an apology given but an amends is made. Time stops until both parties are able to work through things. I'm always quoted as saying, "It takes two to argue." My youngest especially has taken to putting her hands in the air in a cutting motion and stating that she's "cutting the arguement line.
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?
Once again the mutual respect and being seen as an equal plays a huge role in this. We follow the lead of our children. I have a twelve year old who can only take social settings in short supply, and so we respect that and give him his space. I have a ten year old who can't get enough social interactions. As a result we added five new children to our home learning environment this year, all friends of his, and have set up a time each day he can go over to his friends' house to play if he chooses. As far as the intellectual piece goes my husband especially has done a fantastic job of following our children's interests. If they are obsessed with birds, he learns all he can about birds and joins them. If our daughter is all about Harry Potter, we dive in with her and be sure to take a trip to Universal Studios The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I also make sure the library is a home away from home where the kids can grab whatever interests them and pursue it. My oldest has recently become quite obsessed with chemistry and so we've followed his lead, purchasing and borrowing several chemistry books along with an atom kit etc. We really just let our kids lead the way.
Oh the other thing I forgot to mention in all this is how big we are at expressing feelings in an appropriate manner, especially with our girls. If they're not okay we always mention to them, "It sounds like you're feeling some pretty big feelings. Do you want to talk about them?" Usually when anyone in the house is having a hard time this works and we're able to move on or give the appropriate space until someone is feeling better.
What ways do you share about your faith, morals or value system with your children?
As mentioned before, we follow current events closely. We also read scriptures and pray together as a family on a daily basis. When I feel the moment is right, I may share a story about my childhood or upbringing, or that of parents or grandparents. But most often we try to relay lessons and morals through characters that our children have come to love and admire like Dumbledore from Harry Potter or Captian America from Marvel or Yoda from Star Wars. We've read stories to our children before bed since they were very little, my husband and my oldest finishing the entire Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Series before Dinomite was even nine years old. I can't think of a time when stories of good versus evil haven't been part of life.
Many Montessori schools do not give homework what type of home learning do you encourage in your house?
We are an extremely anti-homework family. Having been raised with Montessori from the time they were toddlers, our kids have developed a passion for learning. We follow their lead through books, documentaries, and trips. Dinomite is currently obsessed with learning about wars in history, particularly the vehicles and weapons used. We've supported this new passion and provide him with opportunities to learn more through books at the library, book purchases at the library and trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. Bulldozer is obsessed with whales and has been for quite some time. We support this passion with books, documentaries and most recenly a trip to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. Our next goal is to make his dream of seeing an Orca Whale up close and personal come true.
I really can't think of a time when my kids aren't enjoying the process of learning. The kids don't watch TV or movies except of once or twice a week, usually on the weekends. Social media is banned for the kids. My boys have their xbox and other gaming devices but that is very limited in that they only play it when their sisters are in bed and for a very short period of time.
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'm the parent each of my children needs me to be and that looks very different depending on the child. My daughters require very black and white boundaries with no compromise. I'm on high alert at all times. Their version of love is safety, yet they test this each and every day. Safety comes with routines, limits, and clear boundaries. When it comes to consequences though, I work hard to make sure that natural consequences take center stage and others are directly related to incidents that have occurred. In many cases it's a matter of picking my battles. With my boys, I can be far more laid back. They don't really feel the need to push boundaries at all. I don't have to be on high alert with them, which makes a huge difference. Dinomite just a week ago described me as Mary Poppins in the newest version of the story, very strict yet tons of fun.
I must say it was the best compliment a 12 year old has ever given me!
As far as buying into rules the girls are going to pick a fight when they want to, and they do. But they've also contributed to creating the rules in the first place, so they don't really have a leg to stand on there. Lol. So long as I'm consistent, eventually they end up being okay with things. I'm very big at explaining the whys behind why I do or say the things I do. When it comes to the boys, they know it's always safe to express their feelings whether in favor or against a new rule that we put in place. Most often they're part of the rule making process, but if not, we're always open to hearing their end of things and coming up with a compromise.
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?
When we notice that one of our children is having a hard time helping out with home tasks, we immediately express concern that they're feeling overwhelmed because they have too many things or too much going on. Minimalization has really helped in this area. If they only have a small amount of items to care for, they're more apt to do so without complaint. When there are complaints, we work together to minimize possessions and the problem is usually solved. When it comes to cleaning or other big chores we work together as a family. When our children see that we're all doing our individual parts, they don't usually complain. All of them know that as part of the family, housework and yardwork are necesary to keep things running smoothly. There are times when Princess will throw a fit. We usually watch to see if there is a pattern over time around a specific task and if so sit down and talk about it, discussing the problem, possible alternatives, or at times a better understanding of why something is the way it is.
We also make sure to provide the proper materials for our kids to be successful with house and yard work. They all have work boots/rainboots and work gloves for outdoor work. We have child sized saws, axes, clippers, etc. Indoors we make sure to only give tasks that the child is 100% capable of doing and only after we've shown them and done it with them for quite some time.
Working together as a family has become quite enjoyable over time and the pride the kids feel in their work has only grown.
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)
Oh yes! A beautiful, well organized space that reflects order helps relax the brain and makes room for optimum functioning, especially after hard day at school. The independence that a Montessori set up in the home provides can help battle any low self-esteem issues that may be arising due to struggles in public schools or with learning in general. Our home is the opposite of what our girls experience at school. Princess may feel insecure, anxious, and at times overwhelmed and frustrated to the point of a meltdown at school over grades, rules, the structure of the day, etc., but when she comes home, she owns her time, her space, and her choices. This has been so huge for her. It eliminates battles on so many fronts. My boys don't go to school outside of the home, but have friends that don't live in Montessori environments, that they visit often. They always come back feeling so thankful for the order and beauty they are surrounded by at home.
See more in this Montessori parenting series here