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If I Could Start All Over

We've been pursuing Montessori at home for five years now.  I've made my share of missteps and wasted countless resources.  After a recent discussion in an online Montessori group I was left wondering what I would do differently if I could start over.  I could probably write a list a mile long but in the interest of brevity, I decided to focus the top 5 things I would tell my younger self.

Purchase Traditional Materials
Yes, I did eventually purchase traditional materials but for the first few years I tried to make it with a mix of Montessori inspired toys, most which were only marginally cheaper than the real deal.  I'm certainly not saying that you must purchase materials.  Everyone has different budget limitations.  But if you do have some funding then save it for a few traditional pieces.  The $18 wooden stacking blocks didn't compare to the $35 pink tower.

Find Local Training and/or a Mentor
No matter how many videos you watch or books you read, there is simply nothing equal to watching Montessori in action.  I know I've mentioned it before but it's worth repeating.  Go observe at a local school.  It took less than five minutes of observing a great directress in action before the light bulb came on and it finally felt cohesive.  But don't stop there.  Many schools offer educational events either geared to parents or professionals.  Run to every single one you possibly can.  You will take something great from every experience.  And perhaps if you're around the community enough, you can find a willing mentor.

Focus on Theory
With all the beautiful and enticing works it's easy to begin by seeking out what to purchase or how to present materials.  This is step two.  Learn the method first.  The way the child is approached is vastly superior to the materials and presentations.  The heart and genius of Montessori lies in the theory.  That is step one.

Make Your Own Decisions
In the beginning when everything is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time, it's easy to look around for that person that will simply tell you what to do.  It is extremely helpful to see what is working for others.  At the same time, find your own path based on your own reading and understanding of the method.  Not everything you see will work for you and your child.  Unfortunately, a number of things that you will find labeled as Montessori are completely contrary to the method as well.  Do you need a separate school room or specific training?  What albums should you purchase or what materials should you buy?  How should you implement aspects such as discipline?  At the end of the day, make your decisions carefully and base them on what is best for you and your own.

Employ More Patience
Now you're hooked and Montessori all you can think about.  Yes, you can do it, but take the time necessary to make a peaceful start.  Resist the temptation to hop in the car and return with an arsenal of shelves.  The problem is that Montessori is most likely different from anything you've experienced regarding childhood in any way, shape or form.  At the core, it isn't simply an academic pursuit.  It's a lifestyle and it's going to take time to transition.  Use your new found enthusiasm to pour over theory and best practices.  The most critical changes you need to make up front are in how you interact with your child NOT the environment.  And even once you begin to address the environment, pace yourself.  Not only will the "go big or go home" attitude stress you out, it will overwhelm your child.  It's a big adjustment for everyone.  You're far better to take a few months to gain knowledge and ease into it than to barrel down the tracks without a clear picture of where you're headed.

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