Spotlight Milkweed Montessori
We’re delighted to spotlight Meghan Sheffield from Milkweed Montessori. We were so inspired by her posts on Instagram, and just had to reach out once we read her blog. We loved learning about her, and we’re sure you will, too.
In her own words, here’s a little introduction into the world of Milkweed Montessori: I’m no expert, I’m just an passionate learner. Milkweed Montessori is a place to share my enthusiasm about the things I’m learning. With a background as an arts and culture writer, I discovered the Montessori method while my firstborn, Jasper, was a baby. It’s challenged me to be present, to act with grace, and to bring order to our home. And, as a nice side benefit, it’s given me a lens through which to understand my son, and now my daughter, and a purpose to our days together. It seems to me that Maria Montessori designed a spiritual practice as much as an educational paradigm. We bring the natural world into our learning and into our lives as much as possible. For a long time, my blog had the subtitle: “Learning as we go.” And that’s just what we’re doing.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My husband David and I have two great kids: Jasper, who’s 3, and Sage, who is 5 months old. We live in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario in Canada. I have a background in English literature and I work as a freelance editor and writer. David works for an adventure travel company and is a folk singer-songwriter. We are working on reducing the amount of lawn on our quarter-acre lot, and our yard is a designated Monarch butterfly waystation. Besides hanging out with the weeds, I spend my most of my days with Jasper and Sage, painting, cooking, dancing, and napping.
Q: Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I originally studied English literature, and last summer I pursued my infant-toddler assistant’s certificate. The next big challenge will be pursuing the infant-toddler diploma. In and around those objectives, I try to bring the Montessori method into our home, not in a homeschooling sense, but in a way that compliments our way of living naturally as a family. To bring respect and simplicity and real language into communication, to have quality, hands-on experiences with art and music and nature, and to invite our children into the work of living — cooking, or vacuuming, or watering the plants.
I have dreams of many things: backyard chickens, opening my own Montessori toddler community, doing some adventure travel as a family, and maybe, one day, seeing my three year-old learn to love a vegetable.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
I’m an indecisive Libra, so for today, I’ll say the perfect deep pink of the echinacea flowers blooming in our backyard.
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
My favourite book is When I Was Young and In My Prime, by Alayna Munce. It’s a wonderful, multi-generational story of being young and married, and very old and married, and it has many poetic moments and lots of space. And while Woody Allen has disappointed us all, I still think of Annie Hall as a favourite movie.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
I imagine blending and balancing a Montessori community and an outdoor/nature school, to bring the benefits of both to young children. And to myself!
Q: What inspired you to share your Montessori story on your blog?
I was reading some of the diverse and dynamic Montessori blogs out there, and I felt like I wanted to join the conversation. I was so excited and so inspired, and I’m sure my husband and my mother were ready for me to have another venue to share the ideas with! Aside from leaving long comments all over the internet, I felt that the best way to “introduce” myself and get involved in the (literally world-wide) conversation was to start blogging. That was my initial impulse, and so many relationships and special moments have happened as a result. I think of being 40 weeks pregnant this spring and the waiting game that inevitably happens was starting to creep in, and my “Montessori friends” from the other side of Canada, from Australia, from Nigeria, were piping up and saying “Thinking of you.”
Q: Any thoughts on how Montessori guides can best help parents?
Guides should be a balance of honest and considerate in their communication with parents. Honestly reflecting the child’s experience and considerate of what is useful and necessary to communicate, and what can be left out. Asking: is it true, is it useful, is it kind?
The school I did my training at had a policy of “no doorway conversations.” Meaning that teachers and parents wouldn’t exchange information about children in front of children while doing pick up or drop off. Conversations of that nature were done elsewhere and at other times, over the phone or in person. It’s a pretty revolutionary idea in the realm of childcare, and I think one worth considering.
Q: What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?
My advice is to start early, and go slow. By which I mean, don’t bring anything into your house, (starting with the baby shower gifts!) that isn’t empowering or respectful. There’s a lot of stuff out there for sale that you don’t need, and which could actually interfere with your ability to relate to your baby or your baby’s need to move freely.
Go slow: don’t try to rush developmental milestones; don’t “help” your baby to roll over. Just watch your child, and make the experience of exploring more inviting. If you have a baby starting to crawl, and they are running up against the walls of the pack and play, get them out of there. If you have a child interested in switching lights on and off, set up a stool, or get a light switch extender. Stand back, be quiet, and look for opportunities for your child to grow.
Q: Did you have a “Montessori Moment?”
I remember having a conversation with my friend Deborah, about her experiences as an assistant in a Montessori toddler environment, when Jasper was still a very young baby, and thinking “that sounds just right.”
Q: What’s your favorite Montessori quote?
“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
To me, an inviting and easy introduction to Montessori is to check out How we Montessori. It’s a beautiful blog of a mother journaling her sons’ life journeys. Through the lens of Kylie’s camera and her simple prose, the reader gains a sense of what Montessori about in a straightforward, natural way, without a lot of focus on rules and explanations.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
Seeing children flourish in the Montessori environment. My son just turned three and joined a casa class for the first time. When we all met at the end of the summer for a school visit and orientation, watching the children interact with the environment prepared so lovingly by their guide reminded me all over again what I love about Montessori and why I’m so happy that we have chosen that experience for Jasper.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
Maria Montessori wrote that “establishing peace is the work of education.” I believe that children who grow up being treated respectfully and invited to exploration by gentle mentors can truly change the world.
Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?
My hope is that just as Montessori developed her educational paradigm while working with children in the slums of Rome, this method — one of respect, of independence, of freedom, of empowerment — can return to being something for all children, not only those who can afford private education.
“I believe that children who grow up being treated respectfully and invited to exploration by gentle mentors can truly change the world.”
Written by:Baan Dek