Angela's Reviews > Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three

Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard
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's review
Mar 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: parenting, kindle
Read in March, 2012

Wish I'd read this at least a year ago, because I think some of the principles here would've been useful for helping my (now-three-year-old) son through his twos. I'd learned a small amount about Montessori in college, and remembered liking the theory then. This book goes into the theory, but also gives some practical applications. I found reading it a little tedious, but that's partly because I was reading the Kindle version on my phone, bits & pieces at a time. I think it would've been easier (for me) to dig into on paper, in a more focused manner. I didn't agree with everything here, but the way it encourages you to view your child and his development seems helpful.

For example, I can clearly see this in my toddler: "The child is a spiritual being who asks, why am I here? what is my task, my responsibility? Adults need to recognize this search for purpose in life as they seek to aid the child in her completion as a human being."

The book suggests very specific items needed for a child's room, for the kitchen, for potty training, etc. One idea I liked, from an early section on creating a Montessori-friendly environment for the child: "Our homes also should reflect adult needs for exploration, orientation, order, imagination, exactness, repetition, control of error, manipulation, perfection, and communication." Setting up a clutter-free home with items that fulfill a useful purpose isn't just for kids.

The book also provides a timeline of what the stages of development are, so one can know what to focus attention on at a particular time. It's interesting that they say the Sensitive Period for toileting is between twelve and eighteen months of age, much earlier than today's parents generally start potty training.

I found the tips on demonstrating things particularly useful: "Children imitate whatever adults do. They cannot understand exceptions. When you are setting the table with your child, for example, you need to carry a plate with two hands and with your thumbs on top of each of its sides." And: "After you have demonstrated a practical-life exercise, and once your child has begun to use it with concentration, you must take care not to interrupt him[...] The adult needs to back away and allow the child to work in peace... even praise represents an interruption." And: "Sometimes language such as 'My turn first, then your turn' helps a two-and-one-half-to-three-year-old develop his control of self as he waits and watches you during a presentation."

One part I'm trying already is this: "Another point to remember when using language to help redirect children is not to expect immediacy in compliance. We have to wait a few moments for a response, perhaps even repeating our words. We know that the child's brain has half the neural speed of the adults' until approximately age twelve years. It may be necessary to repeat our words two or three times very patiently and with no threat in our voice[...] Again the essential point is to allow no combativeness in tone during such an encounter. If we add a challenging note to our voices, an emotional response is touched off in the child and overwhelms whatever willpower she has managed to develop." It's easy to feel that I'm being ignored and get impatient immediately. I think this may help keep us cooperative instead of combative.

I'm still not sure how many of these principles I'll apply. Parenting this way sounds hard -- keeping the environment prepared, knowing the skills that are the right level for the child to tackle next, practicing and setting up those tasks. Preparing a classroom in this manner is one thing; preparing "lesson plans" in the home environment seems like it adds a lot of pressure to be a perfect parent. Also, the book doesn't address much how we can apply these principles to a second child. It's great in theory to let the baby stay in its environment, supervised, doing its "work." But if you've got a toddler running here and there, then the baby often needs to tag along too. And while I may not interrupt the baby's work, the toddler is oh-so-excited about "helping" the baby get her rattle back when it's dropped. I'd love to see a little more on how to make this idea work with multiple kids.

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