How Montessori at Home Improved the Lives of an Innovative English Family
The Montessori Method helped Florence Taylor connect with her son and become a better adult, regardless of how childishly others reacted to her parenting techniques.
Florence Taylor lives in Chichester in West Sussex, England, with her husband and their two-and-a-half-year-old son, Jackson (or Jax). Having discovered Montessori by chance on YouTube, Taylor started to implement Montessori at home step-by-step. In early 2021, she was interviewed for an article in the Daily Mirror about the practical life activities she and Jax do together at home. The resulting piece, My son, two, uses the oven and cuts with real knives—and he makes cups of tea, caused a bit of an uproar.
I found out about Montessori on YouTube, of all places
I was watching different YouTube vloggers and came across Ashley from Hapa family, where she does Montessori at home with her children. I ended up going down this Montessori internet rabbit hole, learning more and more about it. I decided to give it a try with Jax and just kind of ran with it in the beginning. Then I started researching it more myself and reading more books — and now I spend literally all of my free time learning about Montessori. But that's okay, because I love learning new things!
Something I learned straight away is that you don't need loads of space and money in order to have a Montessori home. We're a one-income family living in a two-bedroom flat, and we make it work. I've seen Jax develop so much over the last two years. And in cases where we don't have the right materials, I've created my own, following the spirit of Maria Montessori, who made many of her own classroom materials.
It's really nice to see Montessori in action through social media where parents share their experiences via photos and videos of their children trying new things. But I think there's a huge gap when it comes to people living in smaller households making Montessori work on a budget. I've got pictures of Jax's shelf on my Instagram and they don't look like the others you see online. But things are changing. A lot more people are sharing really authentic experiences where it's not all about looking perfect.
“Something I learned straight away is that you don't need loads of space and money in order to have a Montessori home.”
Practical Life is deceptively simple, and so valuable
Jax's favorite activity at the moment is doing the laundry, so I let him load and unload the washing machine with me. He seems to get a real kick out it, so even though the whole process takes longer with his involvement, I see his self-esteem flourish and his critical thinking skills develop — and it also adds such a special quality to the time we spend at home together.
He also loves to cook! Over the past few months, I've given him different utensils, and showed him how to do things like peeling a potato, supervising until he's mastered the skill. I have received a few messages and comments of people saying, "I'd love to be able to do that but I just worry too much." And, you know, obviously there is a worry, but when you've been observing your child all day for weeks and months, you get a sense of where they are developmentally. Ultimately, every family is different. It really comes down to your child and knowing what they enjoy and are capable of.
I think we massively underestimate how much a toddler can understand. I had my hand on the stove once, and it was off, but Jax got quite upset and told me off, "Hot, Mummy!" He knows not to touch it because it gets hot, all because he had the freedom to work with it. Before I knew about Montessori, I would never dream of letting Jax use knives. Now he's cooking full blown meals! And I've got to be honest, dinner tends to taste better when Jax has helped make it. I don't know why, but it does.
I was honestly shocked by the hostility towards the newspaper article
I was reading the comments at the end of the Daily Mirror article, and one of things that kept coming up was about how I was raising a little servant who would make me cups of tea so I'd never have to get off the sofa. That really upset me. If anything, parenting in a Montessori way is more challenging than the traditional style where you stop your child from participating in family life. Setting up Jax with his little tea-making kit meant putting warm water in a teapot for him, which means boiling the kettle, letting the water cool down, pouring the water into the pot, and supervising while he makes and pours his tea. There are so many extra steps that people don't even consider, and even though the article didn't spell it out for them, the reaction was disappointing, to say the least.
I also received a ton of judgmental comments when I shared the article in a Montessori Facebook group. I was expecting the reception to be mostly positive, because unlike the newspaper article, the audience was full of Montessori educators and parents. But there were loads of comments like, "No, he's not ready,", "You shouldn't let your son use a knife". Looking at the pumpkin-carving photo, it is a really sharp blade, so I can understand why people would be concerned, but both Jax's father and I were right next to him. And Jax had gained plenty of experience with knives before that point, so he knew not to touch the blade. Not to mention, Jax is a naturally cautious child, which is something I've observed since incorporating Montessori into our lives. The way that so many people gave me feedback didn't feel like there was a sense of community. It felt like they were trying to tear me down rather than help me.
There was some nice feedback though. Someone messaged me to say they are learning more about Montessori because of the article I was featured in. That really touched me, because I want to see more people trying Montessori and reaping the benefits of it.
I wasn't expecting to go on this kind of journey
Something I had no idea would happen is the effect Montessori has had on me. I was actually planning on being a strict, authoritative parent. But when I found out about Montessori, something about its focus on gentleness and respect completely changed the kind of parent I want to be, and for the better, for sure. When Jax whines, as all toddlers do from time to time, it bothers me. But whereas before it would make me feel stressed inside, and even resentful, now it's like I'm retraining my brain and myself for him. I'm more patient and understanding than I have ever been before.
It does change you completely. I mean, a lot of people that knew me before I had Jax would never have expected me to be that kind of gentle parent with positive discipline kind of thing, because I was more of the opinion, "Children need to behave." But life isn't about that. And you know, as I've got deeper into Montessori and read more about the spiritual preparation of the adult, I've become a more positive person. Montessori was only supposed to be for my child, but it has ended up helping me approach aspects of my own life in ways I never thought possible.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Melissa is an AMI-certified educator who has taught children aged 10 weeks to 18 years old in the UK, US and China. She is also a positive discipline parent coach, helping families integrate Montessori principles into their lives.
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