The Montessori Children’s House
Thoughts & Reflections
When you live and breathe something, day-in-day-out, it’s natural to take it for granted. Not dismissively so, but rather to be unsurprised by it.
Is it because of the routine? Much like bandaids might be second nature to a nurse, or spreadsheets to an accountant, or roses to a landscape architect, the pace, temperament, and abilities of the young child are second nature to Montessori, and we think nothing of them, until someone highlights them for us.
Recently, we had someone do this for us — shine a spotlight, yellow highlighter, “look here” Post-Its all over the uniqueness of Montessori. It started with our building.
We’re so fortunate to be in a space that was purpose-built for us; not just a school, but a Montessori school, a space for small children, a Children’s House. That’s the story behind our name, “Baan Dek” means children’s house in Thai, a nod to both our school and philosophy’s founders.
This person mentioned to us they’ve driven by many times, wondering, what’s that?! Why are those windows so low?!
It’s that attention to detail that makes it Montessori.
Regardless of if you’re in a church basement, or a house, or a huge school whose architecture reflects the inhabitants, Montessori schools are just different. Walking into a Montessori school just feels different.
Things are lower, cleaner, more precise. The items are beautiful and fragile, sharp and well-loved, appealing and strange. There’s less plastic, more glass. Fewer words, more images. Less color, more light.
This is not a space designed for us; this is a place for children. This really is, The Montessori Children’s House.
It’s their home-away-from-home. It’s often the space where a child spends most of their waking hours. Parents don’t typically come into the classroom, and it’s not uncommon for children to wave goodbye at the door to the school; don’t worry, Dad, I got this. This is My Space, I belong here.
There are low hooks so children can be independent with hanging up their belongings. Art is hung at their eye level, not ours, as it’s not primarily for our enjoyment. You’d be hard-pressed to find adult-sized furniture. When Maria Montessori founded the first Children’s House more than a hundred years ago, child-sized furniture wasn’t available, so she made it. Now, it’s not unusual to have a small table and chairs at home, and certainly at school.
A small broom and dustpan are over in the corner, so spills aren’t catastrophic or reasons for the unintentional shame we put on children, just another opportunity. The toilets and the sinks are child-sized and child-height, since I cannot expect a child to be successful using them if they’re oversized.
This whole space says to a child, you can do this. The things and the people are all, only, here for your success. That window is low so you can see the world, and imagine all the ways you’re going to impact it, and watch the seasons change, and examine the bird building its nest. The items are breakable because you are capable, you are strong and careful, and how can you learn if we don’t trust you and give you opportunities. There’s an open time, called the three-hour work cycle, because learning and exploration don’t happen in blocks of time, they happen on their own time, chugging along and all of a sudden, with practice and explosions and repetition and waiting.
The whole world is for us; this is just for them. That makes it all the more special.
Written by:Charlotte Wood