Spotlight Alicia Tucker
Alicia Tucker is a Montessori parent who discovered Montessori as so many of us have — by accident. A former public school teacher in a traditional school, she found in Montessori answers to questions she didn’t know she had. With this background, she brings a unique perspective to this philosophy, and vision for the future; as she puts it, “if, a century from now, children are still sitting at assigned desks for hours at a time, we will have missed a great opportunity.”
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I live on a minifarm in Readyville, Tennessee with my husband and daughter, Cora. I was raised near Baltimore, Maryland, and I came to Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate where I met my husband. After a brief three month period when I erroneously thought I would pursue a career in law, I realized I had a passion for education and child development and enrolled in a graduate program in elementary education. I acquired my teaching license in 2011, taught in public school classrooms for three years, and retired early to stay home with my daughter. Aside from teaching, I love gardening and cooking. I have dreamed for a long time of starting my own school and now that it is beginning to materialize, I am already dreaming of opening a larger Montessori school in the future.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
My favorite color is undoubtedly purple.
“I believe that we must open our eyes to the possibilities that abound within a child and see their actions, including their mistakes, as a series of little miracles that come together to form their path of self discovery.”
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
My favorite book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I had to stop reading the books halfway through the series because I was quite literally unable to accomplish anything else. The television series (let’s pretend that counts as a film) based on the books is also very well done and a favorite of mine.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
I dream about traveling somewhere new. I have traveled some but never anywhere remote and unaffected by tourism.
Q: What first appealed to you about Montessori?
When I left classroom teaching to raise my daughter, I did a lot of research about child development, psychology and early education. I knew I wanted to homeschool, but I did not know where to begin or what kind of curriculum to use. I had heard the term “Montessori” and something inside me told me I needed to know more about it. I read “Montessori: the Science Behind the Genius” by Angeline Stoll Lillard and learned about the theory. Everything I read about Montessori fit perfectly with my previous research about child development. I immediately decided to be a Montessori homeschoooler.
“Ask yourself what your child needs next and make adjustments accordingly.”
My daughter turns three next month, and we are opening our home to some other preschoolers in the community. One of the things I love about Montessori is the importance of peer interaction. The children learn from each other and they grow best in a community of mixed aged peers. I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on the group aspect of Montessori. We have combined the homeschool atmosphere with Montessori theory and the result is a group of five 3-5 year olds who will work in a classroom on the second floor of our home and experience nature amongst the surrounding farm lands. It is ideal for us, and I look forward to all the magical moments and challenges our Montessori school will bring.
Q: What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?
My advice is to dive headfirst. There is a wealth of information about Montessori education. Jump in. Read everything you can get your hands on. Ask lots of questions.
Q: Did you have a “Montessori Moment?”
Shortly after learning about the Montessori method, I gave my daughter, who had just turned two, a small spray bottle and a towel and showed her how to wash the wooden jeep that we have in her play area. She was thrilled and worked on cleaning her jeep for a long time. In that moment I said to myself, “This is really going to work.”
Q: What’s your favorite Montessori quote?
My favorite Montessori quote is: “The child is a truly miraculous being, and this should be felt deeply by the educator.” I keep this quote with me at all times. I believe that we must open our eyes to the possibilities that abound within a child and see their actions, including their mistakes, as a series of little miracles that come together to form their path of self discovery.
“I am inspired by the way that Montessori enriches the whole child.”
Q: What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?
Do not be afraid to make changes. When my daughter started showing an interest in putting pants on herself, that was the moment to make changes to her closet. I cleared out the bottom drawer and included 4-6 shirt and pants options for her to choose from. I added a curtain rod at her eye level and hung 3 dresses on it. Now she can go into her closet and select her outfit and put it on by herself. When your child can safely use a step ladder, put one at the bathroom sink. Put one in the kitchen. When your child can open cabinets, fill one just for him with pots to bang on and bottles to stack. When your child can sort flatware, put his dishes, spoons, and cups in neat stacks in his cabinet and show him how to retrieve them and put them away. Ask yourself what your child needs next and make adjustments accordingly.
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
Montessoriguide.org has some really incredible videos that explain how Montessori works in the classroom environment. When looking for books to read, I would start with “Montessori: the Science Behind the Genius” and don’t miss “The Peace Table” by Mary da Prato. Then, go visit some classrooms. Watch the children and the guides in action. You will be amazed.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
I am inspired by the way that Montessori enriches the whole child. Self worth, the ability to concentrate, love of nature, personal hygiene, prosocial communication–the children learn it all in a world constructed just for them. They don’t learn math at 10AM and reading at 11AM. They live and love and allow themselves to feel compelled to learn. They grow as a whole being instead of in segmented parts.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
In public schools, I met children who were ten years old and couldn’t read. Everyone asks, “Why can’t these children read?” They assume that the problem must have been that they weren’t made to read early enough. We are seeing a push for early literacy skills as young as five and prereading requirements in preschools. Students are drilled on their letters (starting with A and ending with Z, starting with the names of the letters before the letter sounds) and fed whole group phonics lessons. Teachers are taught that learning must be “individualized” but no one seems to know what this means.
“Do not be afraid to make changes.”
Within the next decade, I imagine everyone will realize pushing literacy at a younger age still isn’t producing consistently literate ten year olds. Then it will be back to the drawing board. If the Montessori community can set the example and word spreads far and wide, hopefully some eyes will open and educators will realize, “It can be done. It has been done. This problem was solved a century ago.” I would love to see public school education converge with Montessori theory.
Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?
I would love, in 100 years, for the classroom desk to be obsolete. I would love for Montessori environments to be the norm both in education and in the home. If, a century from now, children are still sitting at assigned desks for hours at a time, we will have missed a great opportunity.
Written by:Charlotte Wood