Welcome to 'A Montessori Home'.
With so many of our friends and family living in far-off lands, I hope that this blog might help our loved-ones get to know our gorgeous Finlay as he grows up. I also hope that these posts may provide inspiration, provoke thought and conversation about creating beautiful Montessori environments for infants and toddlers at home. I'm always happy to hear your comments, thoughts and suggestions. Feel free to pop in now and then to see what we're up to!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Balancing Act

What a wonderful Christmas and New Year break we have had! It seems like forever since I last wrote a post, and so much has been happening. Big stuff. Like standing up!

While my sister and her partner were here visiting a few weeks ago, Fin was experimenting with letting go of the furniture and balancing for a few seconds at a time. It was as if he would hold his breath for those seconds and couldn't quite believe he was really doing it! Then suddenly last week, almost to the day he turned 10 months, he just decided to stand up all by himself. No furniture required, thank you very much. As with all new tricks, this is ALL he wants to do right now and he is so very happy about his new achievement.

Sometimes I forget that my parenting philosophy is a little different to the mainstream. I have been reminded of this fact a few times these past few weeks when well-meaning friends try to help Fin to stand or walk by holding his hands and coaxing him along. 'But isn't that what everyone does?!' 'Isn't that what good parents do?' 'How can you just sit by and watch a baby struggling like this...?'

Yet, if I stepped in at this stage, grasped his hands and helped him to walk, would I really be assisting him to develop? Does he really need me at this moment? Or is it me, the parent, who needs to be needed?

Maria Montessori believed that a child's work is sacred (and learning to walk is indeed work!) and is not to be interrupted. It is in these moments of concentration and struggle that the harmonious personality is formed.

And if I do step in to 'help'...? All I do is simply replace his own strength and will with my own. One of three things might then happen:
1) He accepts the help but learns that he is not capable of standing or walking by himself and will rely on help from an adult in future.
2) He senses that he is not developing fast enough. By holding his hands and urging him along we send the message that he should be walking, when at this moment all he might be ready for is standing (or sitting, or crawling...). Or
3) He fights against the help and sees it for what it is - an obstacle to his development.

All of these reactions have long-reaching consequences for the child's developing personality, because this isn't just about walking. This is about the way we see our child and the way our child sees himself. Each experience a child has, especially at this very young age, is absorbed into their whole being. If we can raise children who feel confident in their abilities and who know from experience what will come of sustained effort, imagine what amazing adults we will gift the world.

I do have a little giggle when I see Finlay wiggle away from a well-meaning 'helper' to find some clear space where he can practice this new skill all by himself. He gets this expression on his face as if to say, "What are you doing? Get out of my way so I can show you my new trick!".

So how can we help? There are many things we can do to assist a child in their development of movement. We can provide low furniture for pulling up, safe space for practicing, warm encouragement (without cheer leading - a warm smile is often enough), a safe lap and cuddle to retire to when they need it, and freedom from restraints like playpens, exer-saucers, walkers, bouncers etc. These do not teach children to walk, in fact they place them in unnatural physical positions, merely teaching them not to explore. Finally, we can find the patience and inner strength to sit and truly observe our child, marveling at these miraculous milestones while allowing him find joy in his own experience.

Sure enough, a few days after that first video I captured this one:

Joy and pride personified!

It is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may always be ready to supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience.
(Dr. Maria Montessori)


  1. Well, well said! I'm writing a post on respect this week and I'd like to include a link to this post. With your permission, of course.

    Thank you for this wonderful post....and the delightful pictures of your child.

  2. Cynthia, I would be honoured to have you link to my page. I often read your blogs and love how they remind me of all the things I miss and love about being in the classroom. They are wonderful resources for parents and teachers alike.
    I'll look forward to reading what you have to say about respect!
    All the best :)

  3. I'm going to put your post on my Facebook profile ;)

  4. Thanks so much Joanna. I have been reading up on your advice for raw breast-feeding nutrition in the past months and want to thank you for such a valuable source of information!
    Now I just have to get myself organised and try the one-week challenge. My partner is keen too - I'll let you know how we go! :)

  5. The most delightful post I've read in a long time!

  6. Cathy, I just found this one and it is WONDERFUL! It says so much that I have been trying for months and months to put into words without offending. I'll be sharing it!

  7. Hi Melissa. It's hard, isn't it, to share Montessori ideas without sounding preachy or implying that what other people are doing is 'wrong'. That's something I'm always painfully conscious of, and I'm so pleased that this post has come across sounding neutral :)