The Educate Debate is an editorial series presented to you by Fort Worth Moms and our sponsors Great Hearts Arlington, Montessori School of Fort Worth, and Uplift Education. To read all the articles included in this series, please click HERE.
When it comes to early childhood education, there are a million options. It can feel overwhelming at times to know which path is right for your child. Before my son was born, I was a first grade teacher at a public school in a large urban district. In this district, there was a lot of emphasis on standardized testing, rigid rule following, and there was very little opportunity for students to impact their own learning. Though not all public schools are created the same, I knew I wanted something different for my son.
Several years into my teaching career I was given the opportunity to complete training in Montessori education. I immediately fell in love with the child-centered focus and developmental freedom this style of education offered.
The main idea of the Montessori method is to allow students to have freedom within limits. Students are given large blocks of uninterrupted work time to completely explore, experience, and discover a certain topic without the constraints of a rigid schedule or the pressures of outside testing. It promotes independence and intrinsic motivation in children, so they can become lifelong learners who are always curious. It was a teaching dream. I knew I wanted to implement those principles in my little one’s development from day one.
Implementing the Montessori method in my home with my own baby is such a fun experience, and not that much different from my classroom. It is not a perfect Montessori set up full of only wooden toys, no crib, and a perfectly placed bookshelf with rotating toys. I still have a bedtime routine, and he still sleeps in a crib for safety reasons. I also am a new mom who forgets to rotate his toys on a regular basis and has a loose nap time schedule.
However, the most important thing I’ve focused on is treating my son like he is his own person who has his own unique interests and opinions. Even though he is not yet a year old, he is given age-appropriate freedoms and the chance to explore and discover the world at his own pace. For instance, he has a large portion of the house where he can free roam and explore without being in danger or getting in trouble. He can zoom around our living room, kitchen, hallway, and his bedroom going whatever he wants to explore on his own time.
We spend a lot of our time in nature playing in the grass, dirt, vegetable garden, and going on walks to give him the opportunity for sensory input and to make connections about how our world works. He has his own portion of a kitchen cabinet where his utensils, plates, bibs, and cups are housed. We have begun to introduce how to gather his own things that he needs when it is time to eat with the goal of him being able to independently get a snack when he is ready to do so.
Our Montessori goal is not to accomplish x, y, and z goals before other kids or to make sure we are perfect all the time, but to foster his own interest, ideas, and desires from an early age.
This method feels natural to me and my husband. It matches how we already interact with each other. I wouldn’t tell my husband that he couldn’t explore a new hobby, had to put his book down at a certain time to complete a different task, or couldn’t have his stuff out in the house, so why would I impose those rules on my son?
Following the Montessori method gives our little one his own space in our house and in our family as an equal member, while still holding loving boundaries for safety. His independence and educational freedom will grow with him as he grows and shows us what he is ready for. As his mom, my job is to expose him to a wide variety of experiences and provide him as many learning opportunities as I can. His job is to take those lessons and experiences and use them to pursue whatever passions and goals he chooses.
Though not originally from Texas, Brittany got here as soon as she could. She met her husband in 2017 and moved to Fort Worth to be with him. Brittany was a first grade teacher for 10 years but has begun a new journey of being a stay-at-home mom to a beautiful baby boy. When not mom-ing by the seat of her pants, Brittany enjoys any reason to cook or bake, being outside to explore, hanging out with friends and family, and trying new classes. Brittany is the leader of the Northwest Fort Worth Neighbor Group.