Yesterday, I attended a presentation offered by the Montessori Institute of North Texas at our local public elementary school. We are beyond elated and grateful that our school district, Austin Independent School District, has invested in a public Montessori program just down our street. Our neighborhood school has been a labor of love for us ever since we bought our house in 2013. How we decided to take mental and spiritual ownership of a school with low enrollment and rally the community to advocate for new programming is a whole story unto itself that will be told in great length another time.
Back to the Montessori presentation. The presenter, an expert, was explaining to the parents of this school what Montessori means for their children. The program is not set up like a magnet school. So if you’re zoned to attend Winn Elementary, your child by default is eligible for this Montessori education. The school started this year with Pre-K 3, 4, and Kinder and is adding a grade each year.
A light bulb went off for me when I was listening to the presenter explain the main tenets of Montessori. The children in our Montessori school get to choose their own work. Sure, there are brief interludes of everyone learning a song together. But for the most part, the kids have three hours of uninterrupted work where they get to move freely about the classroom and choose their work. Oh my, that is exactly what my husband and I have set up our life to be. We are so Montessori.
Without having a personal background in Montessori, somehow I’ve thought long and hard about how to live an authentic life that fits with my nature and I’ve designed a life similar to what Dr. Montessori observed as fitting in the nature of children. All of us have unique interests; naturally want to learn; and if left to our own devices we will thrive and create value. My husband and I are self employed and work on many projects, many of which don’t pay in cash and some that do. We wake up, and we decide what our work will be. What projects are we excited to jump into? That is what we do. Sure, we have to show up to meetings and events, but for the most part we move freely around our home and city in a deliberate and motivated manner where the boundaries between work and life have been blurred beyond recognition.
I honestly have to thank my husband for taking that leap into self-employment where I was able to follow step. I had been doing okay in the 9-5 world. My last position was a dream job for me, it was a community impact position focused on financial stability, and yet, I couldn’t fit life into the boundaries of the work week with so few days to visit my family in Vermont or take a vacation. Even during the work day it often felt inefficient to be stuck in a cubicle when I needed a break, unable to do some laundry or get dinner started.
Another big part of Montessori is that the Guides (in lieu of teachers) don’t use praise, traditional discipline methods, or external validation. The point is for the child to become confident, self-aware and self motivated. It has taken me a long time to unlearn all of the expectations I have felt about how my adult life was supposed to work. It has taken me a lot of my twenties and thirties til now to become self aware, honest and able to to design a better life for me. I’m again grateful that our daughter will be in an environment where her sense of self blooms at home and in her academic environment; the she will learn how to engage the world and exercise her free will.