About 14 years ago when I had to put my 2 year old daughter in childcare, I remember touring a Montessori school and seeing how different these children were. I remember them working quietly and independently...doing things like pouring water neatly, alone. I didn't understand why or how they were 'behaving' so well but I do remember that it stood out in my mind as something completely different from the childcare I would have to choose because of cost. Montessori was much more expensive than the other options...and now I understand why.
Montessori education IS completely different than any other type of education. It respects the child like no other, giving them the liberty to do the work that they find important. It emphasises movement and language as the basis to all other learning. Montessori education begins in infancy. The teachers or guides in Montessori classrooms go through extensive training and education. These are not 'daycare' teachers. The full program takes years to complete and I can only imagine how difficult it is after experiencing just 2 weeks. I am only certified as an assistant, not a guide.
I want to clarify that when we use the word "education" in Montessori, it's not us teaching the child...it's the child teaching himself. It's the child's mind constructing their personality... and Dr. Montessori believed that it happened from birth. This is the power of the sensitive mind of the child. In the book, The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori, she says "There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man's intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed." (ch. 3, pg. 21)
There were many many discussions in this training that resonated with me as a doula, as a caretaker, as a supporter of women. Montessori education never judges the child. We don't have expectations for what the child "should" be learning. We simply observe the child and remove obstacles that would keep them from reaching their full potential. Then we give the child the liberty to do the work that they feel is important even if it doesn't make 'sense' to the guide. I see it the same way for the women I support.
When women come to a doula for labor support, she needs just that. She doesn't need us to analyze what she wants and why she wants it. It's simply my job to support her and to help her have the environment that is optimal for her own desires and goals. When you have a client who is open to the possibilities and just let her find her own strength while you gently support...THAT's when amazing things happen!!
Dr. Montessori also talked about birth and the newborn that I'm going to save for another post. There was so much information crammed into this two week training that I can't even begin to scratch the surface of what I learned.
My certification does qualify me to work in a Montessori classroom for ages 0-3 as an assistant, but don't worry, that's not my goal for now. I just wanted to have something tangible for me to hold onto to add to my postpartum services. I feel like I learned way more than I expected and that's always pleasant for me. I love learning and adding to my list of services.
If you are interested in learing more about Maria Montessori, here is a link to a documentary about her and her legacy. I found it incredibly interesting and inspiring. She was an absolutely amazing woman and humanitarian. She wanted world peace and believed that children were the key. After experiencing this taste of Montessori education, I have to agree wholeheartedly.
Abbey is a birth and postpartum doula and placenta specialist in Dallas/Fort Worth and a mom to 4 children between the ages of 21 and 7.