Spotlight Montessori-ish Mom
Christina Clemer is a Montessori student, educator, and mom. She blogs over at Montessori-ish Mom, and shares her beautiful story here. Enjoy!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I was lucky enough to attend Montessori school from preschool through eighth grade. It was a happy accident that changed my life.
My sister, who is one year older than I am, started kindergarten and I wanted to go too, but her school had no preschool program. My parents enrolled me in a nearby Montessori school, School of the Woods in Houston, planning to switch me to my sister’s school in a year.
I started coming home talking about the planets and the solar system and my sister came home talking about the letter “J”. My parents transferred her to my school and we both continued there through middle school. Furthermore, my mom was so inspired by the school that she later got her AMS certification and now teaches upper elementary there.
Despite my wonderful experience in school, I did not always want to become a teacher. I got a degree in business from Georgetown University and went into Management Consulting. I loved many things about this career, including my colleagues and the constant challenge, but when I went home at night I did not feel like I was making any real difference. I also did not love the office environment, as I really enjoy being active and spending time outside.
I knew I wanted to do something else, but wasn’t sure what. So I applied to business school and quit my job as soon as I was accepted to the University of Texas MBA program. I had about six months between quitting my job and school starting and my husband had a flexible job, so we decided to move to his family’s cabin in Wisconsin for that time.
In the woods of Wisconsin, I finally had time to reflect, to think, to breathe. As time passed, I realized I had a general sense of dread about going to business school. Still, I did not know what I wanted to do instead. I remember clearly sitting outside one day doing nothing, when it just came to me; I wanted to be a Montessori teacher. At that moment, I knew with absolute certainty and I immediately got the ball rolling to change my plans.
It was too late to take the teacher training that year, but a wonderful school in Austin, Hawthorne Montessori, took a chance on me and hired me as an assistant. I took the AMD 3-6 training the next summer and never looked back.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
I love green, maybe because I really love being outside.
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
I’m not sure I could ever pick a favorite book, but I do very much love Steinbeck. My favorite Montessori book is Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook because I find it so approachable.
I am not a huge movie person, but my favorite is probably The Blind Side – I am a sucker for inspirational sports movies.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
I sometimes imagine moving to the country, to my family’s ranch in the Texas hill country. I think it would be wonderful to raise a child in the country and it’s probably my favorite place in the world. I don’t know if we’ll ever actually move there, but luckily it’s only about a two hour drive from Austin so we can at least make frequent visits.
Q: What first appealed to you about Montessori?
I have the fondest memories or attending Montessori school as a child, but I never truly realized what a gift it was until I was older and talked to others about their school experiences. I wanted to continue to be a part of the Montessori community as an adult and share the wonderful school experiences I had with today’s children.
Q: What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?
Continue reading. Montessori training is so intensive and it can be easy to put down the books when you’re done. That’s fine, take a break, but when you’re ready, return to Montessori’s books for ongoing inspiration.
Also, find a mentor. Hopefully you’re able to work with a great mentor in your school, but if not, find someone else with experience and ask them to be a mentor to you. It’s so important to have someone to go to for advice when things get hard.
Q: Did you have a “Montessori Moment?”
I have had so many, but one of my favorites was the first time I watched a little girl discover reading. I remember giving her a lesson on a phonetic object box and she was so incredibly excited when she realized she could sound out the words and read what they said. It honestly gives me goosebumps remembering it, it was magical. It was amazing to watch her love and ability for reading explode that year.
Q: What’s your favorite Montessori quote?
“A small child has a tendency which can be described as a sensitive period of the soul. During this period it has intuitions and spiritual longings which are surprising to anyone who has not observed children able to express the needs of their interior life. It thus seems that little children are exceptionally endowed with spiritual insights and are marvelously called by divine grace.” Discovery of the Child
Q: What inspired you to share your Montessori story on your blog and social media?
I started maternity leave and then kept on waiting for my baby to be born. He was late so I found myself at home alone with lots of time on my hands. I love to write and had always considered starting a blog, so it seemed like the perfect time. I’ve continued blogging because writing about my experience using Montessori at home helps me think through challenges and continually reflect on my parenting. I also love connecting with others through the blogging community.
Q: What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?
Start small. If you see images of Montessori homes, it can seem overwhelming, but even small changes in your home that allow your child greater independence can make a huge difference. Your home does not have to be Pinterest-worthy to meet your child’s needs for calm and independence.
My other piece of advice would be that it’s not about the “stuff”. Montessori materials and toys are so beautiful, but the philosophy goes so much deeper than that. It’s more important to treat your child with respect and honor his autonomy than to buy him all of the beautiful wooden toys.
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
I don’t think anything can compare to observing Montessori in action, either in a school or in a Montessori home. If observation isn’t available, the film Edison’s Day offers a beautiful glimpse into how Montessori practices can help even the youngest children achieve incredible independence and sense of self.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
I became a mom just over a year ago and using Montessori at home with my son has been such a huge source of inspiration. As I’m not trained for infants and toddlers, this new experience has led me to do lots of reading and learn so much about this amazing stage. I love watching his independence and concentration soar.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
I hope that the American school system can adapt to children’s need to move, rather than trying to force children to adapt to sitting still all day. I think it’s clear by the number of diagnoses given based on a child’s inability to sit still, that it is simply an unnatural expectation. There are of course many challenges in today’s schools, but I really think the lack of freedom of movement is one of the biggest, as it impacts a child’s health and self-confidence, as well as his ability to learn.
Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?
My biggest hope for Montessori in the future is that it can be extended to families who cannot afford private school. Austin’s first public Montessori school recently opened and I know many other cities now have public Montessori options as well. I think it’s so sad that a method of education that was started for forgotten, underprivileged children is now often available to only a select few, but the emergence of more and more public Montessori schools brings me great hope!
Written by:Charlotte Wood