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Six Steps for Having the Montessori Talk

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By the way, honey, I need $5000 and will be taking all of the furniture out of the living room to create a classroom.  So how was your day?  
(and for the record, that is nowhere near what we spent on our big order)

There's a scenario that plays out across the globe quite frequently.  Someone browsing the Internet stumbles across Montessori.  In no time at all, plans are made to rearrange the household furniture, and trips are made to the dollar store to snatch all varieties of small bowls and trays.  While there's nothing wrong with running with a good idea, it's important that both parents are on the same page.  When things progress too quickly, one half of the equation can find themselves left out in the dust.  Often, this individual gets pegged as being indifferent or, even worse, a roadblock.  However, in many cases, he/she may simply be bewildered by the sudden change and onslaught of information.

Montessori at the core is a philosophy.  It guides how children are treated and responded to.  For the best results, it's important that both parents are on the same page with how it is implemented within the household.

But what's the best way to get buy-in?  Everyone is different, so there is no guaranteed method.  However, there are a few steps you can consider to ensure that conversation about bringing Montessori into your home is productive.

1.  Have a Plan of Action
It's easy to get carried away up front.  I know as well as anyone how exciting it is to encounter Montessori for the first time.  Yes, indulge yourself!  But at the same time, learn enough to have a basic idea of how you want to use it at home.  I'm certainly not saying you have to have everything figured out.  I'm nowhere near there myself after five years.  However, you need to have a firm enough idea that you can share it clearly with another individual. If you need some questions to get you started, check out my post on Mapping Your Montessori Journey.

2.  Find a Reasonable Time to Talk
Sometimes our excitement can lead us to perform a full mind-dump the second we see our intended target.  The best way to begin an honest conversation is to be respectful of the other individual, even though it may mean exercising restraint.  Most of us need time to unwind from life, so launching into a deeper topic when someone first arrives home is generally a bad idea.  Consider the moments when the two of you are best able to communicate.  Is there a quiet lull in the evening, or do you both focus best when you are out of the house?  If you aren't certain, then ask and agree on a time that works for both.

3.  Provide Relevant Information in Bite-Sized Chunks
Think about the goals and values your significant other holds, even if they differ from yours.  Keep these in mind as you search out information to support your position.  There are so many benefits from Montessori that it's relatively easy to build a case for it, no matter what someone prioritizes.  Is the focus on academic success, hands on learning, well-adjusted children, a peaceful household, practical life skills or gentle discipline techniques?  Is he/she the type that appreciates research, anecdotal stories and/or successful ventures from former Montessori stories?  Always remember that this discussion is about your significant other.  What piqued your interest may be of little concern to him/her.

It's also important that you consider your delivery method.  You can recount facts, send web links, print out articles or choose to read through something together.  No matter how you provide information, ensure you provide it in bite-sized chunks.  While some individuals may be open to reading a book up front, most will prefer to start smaller.  Also keep in mind that one or two well-targeted pieces of information will be far less overwhelming than a long list of random web links.

There is one caveat I want to throw out here.  If you have never discussed the possibility of educating your children at home, make sure that discussion happens first, long before you discuss methodology.  Some individuals are very open to the idea, others are not.  It's best to separate the two and tackle them one at a time.

4.  Proper Consideration Takes Time
If you've made it this far, congratulations!  However, there is still more waiting involved.  Once you prepare the information and present it, your significant other deserves a reasonable amount of time to think about the idea.  You may be asked to provide more information, or he/she may prefer space.  As tempting as it may be, try to refrain from pressure to respond.  It may be best to set an approximate follow-up time frame at the initial discussion.  While I realize this may sound formal if you're used to a more relaxed atmosphere, it's still a good idea to practice solid communication techniques with such an important topic.

5.  Be Prepared to Compromise
While we all hope that we'll be given free range to run with our ideas unhindered, that is rarely the case.  Life has limits.  Some are logistical with constraints on time, space and finances.  Others are more abstract and can vary based on each individual's comfort level with aspects of the philosophy.  I know it's hard when you have a grand vision of what you want.  But starting on the same page is far superior to "having it all" with Montessori 100% of the time.  Be willing to give here and there.  In all likelihood, things will shift and grow in time as everyone adjusts.  We are certainly in a different place than I would have imagined many years ago.

6.  Listen.  I mean REALLY listen
It's hard to listen on a good day.  It's even harder to listen when you're excited about something and simply want to get started.  Force yourself to truly listen to the feedback you are given.  Don't simply nod and smile, impatiently waiting for your next opportunity to speak.  And most of all, don't let the discussion turn into a battle.  It's easy to become defensive when you are passionate about something.  Try to present your reasons with a level head.  Then pause and wait for the response openly.  You may not always like what you hear, but if you listen carefully, you will be more apt to accurately address concerns.  You are a team!

I hope these tips help you communicate your desire to implement Montessori effectively.  Here are a few books and articles that you can use to help you in your venture.

The Montessori Mafia - Famous individuals with a Montessori background

Montessori Education - Basics of Montessori from AMS

What Research Says About Montessori - An article that links to various studies involving Montessori

Benefits of Montessori - Various benefits of Montessori outside of academic success

Montessori Madmen - Montessori advocacy from a father's perspective

Montessori - Learning for Life  - A short video on what Montessori is and why it's important

Montessori:  The Science Behind the Genius - A book which contrasts Montessori practices with modern research.

Montessori Madness - A parent to parent argument for Montessori education

Blogs that show what Montessori at home can look like:
What Did We Do All Day
Living Montessori Now
Our Country Road
Montessori Mischief
Making Montessori Ours
Live and Learn Farm

Best wishes!
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