Spotlight Montessori and Me
We are so excited to be featuring a Montessorian from the other side of the planet, Megan Nguyen from Montessori and Me. Megan is Montessori trained at multiple levels and is particularly interested in Montessori philosophy. She is a Montessori mom, directress, and writer. We loved reading her story, and we are sure you will, too.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I am an American girl who followed her true love to Sydney, Australia after she graduated college. My hubby and I now have three beautiful children aged 2, 4 and 6. Which keep us on our toes and make life more interesting than ever with their inquisitive natures.
I have a science degree in Child and Family Development and Montessori training in 0-3 and 3-6. The last few years my focus was on establishing infant (Nido) and toddler Parent Programs at our local Montessori school. I stepped down from the Directress role earlier this year to focus on my consultancy practice, Growing Minds, based in Sydney. I do family consults, developmental assessments and train early childhood educators.
At the moment I am putting a lot of energy into writing my first book, a Montessori one of course! It is geared towards parents with children from birth through primary school. I have a child in each of the first three cycles at the moment (0-3, 3-6 and 6-9) so it has been so much fun observing, documenting and photographing their journies. I look forward to sharing this dynamic with others in hopes to inspire families on keeping the Montessori lifestyle alive in their home for years to come as it truly is an ‘education for life!’
As far as dreams, I am just on an ongoing mission to the best me I can be! I want to give my children all I can offer; I want to be present, connected and live in the moment with them each and every day. Like them, I am a work in progress. I want to show my children that nurturing oneself is important in order to nurture others. I have struggled with this as many parents have–putting myself last for too long. I am back on track again and my children are reaping the rewards as am I. If I can continue to lead my children by example so they can see the true attributes of a mother, wife and woman, it would be my dream come true. Giving my daughter a healthy image of what it means to be a woman, wife and mother is important to me. The same is true for my sons.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
The same answer since I was in third grade: blue and green, the colors of the Earth!
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
I was greatly inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as a child. Social injustices tear my heart all the time. The book inspired me to stand up for what I believe in even if it isn’t the status quo and to always advocate for those who need help being recognised or heard.
Movie, hands down, White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. I have so many wonderful memories watching it over and over again with my big sis. We would often act out the “Sisters” routine for our parents and grandparents! Who am I kidding? We still will if given the chance.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
One day I dream of taking my whole family to the Galapagos Islands. I think it would be such a magical experience and unforgettable one.
I also selfishly dream of the adventure of doing nothing for a day. I love the presence of my children but I would love to experience the adrenaline rush that only a jar of nutella can give while lounging on the couch, watching Audrey Hepburn movies in peace.
Q: What first appealed to you about Montessori?
While in college and learning about different theorist, Maria Montessori really stood out because for one she was a woman (men seemed to dominate during her era) and secondly she seemed to truly see the true essence of the child. Her observations and conclusions just made sense! Everything she spoke of went along with my own values and beliefs regarding children growing and learning naturally and independently. She put a lot of focus on the innate desire of the human being and the intrinsic factors that motivate each individual to self-master on their life’s journey. I wanted this for my children and for the families that I work with.
When my eldest son was born and it was clear that he was highly gifted, Montessori was what gave me comfort in knowing that he would blend right in when he started school. I knew he could learn at his own pace, have peers of varying ages to converse with and not be labelled. He would not have to be separated into any sort of ‘special classes.’ He could learn what he wanted when he wanted at at his own speed. I also found great comfort in knowing that his emotional development would be fostered as well. This is a big factor to consider for all children, especially gifted ones as their perfectionism is a very strong personality trait. With guidance at home and from teachers, he now sees mistakes as learning experiences and doesn’t get so frustrated. I don’t think that he would have had this much focus on his emotional development through mainstream schooling and I am so thankful for the holistic view of the child in a Montessori setting.
Q: What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?
Never stop learning and share your passion! We often feel like a small population of the world, but there are many Montessori professionals and parents out there and when we do connect, it seems to be for life. Networking with like-minded people is important to feeling supported, keeping up to date and to challenge your perspectives. Make it a point to introduce yourself to other families and professionals in your area. Some of the greatest friendships I have formed are from these individuals.
Q: Did you have a “Montessori Moment?”
Oh, there are so many! However, I remember one afternoon sitting at home and researching for an independent toileting workshop I was preparing. While gathering resources and skimming through books I was reminded of the child’s quest for self-mastery. This is such a huge realization for parents, especially while prepping for toilet learning. To understand that the human spirit naturally wants to be its best, perform at its best and achieve self-perfection opens the door for new thinking when interacting with our children. This point allows me to explain to parents why no reward systems are needed. I tell them that their child will always give what they can when it comes to their developing self. This clicks with parents and they just get it. Sharing these thoughts on human tendencies has changed the way I consult. Parents see these desires in their own developing self so they can easily relate it back to their children.
Q: What’s your favorite Montessori quote?
“The man who, through his own efforts, is able to perform all the actions necessary for his comfort and development in life, conquers himself, and in doing so multiplies his abilities and perfects himself as an individual.” (From The Montessori Method)
Q: What inspired you to share your Montessori story on your blog?
I was really inspired by my friends and the families that I work with to start blogging. I often got asked if I had a blog and I didn’t because I was very time poor with my three children and establishing a Montessori Toddler and Nido program at our local Montessori school. When I stepped down from those positions earlier in the year to start some new Montessori adventures it was the perfect time to share my family’s journey. I wanted to show what it is like in a Montessori Directresses’ home: that it is not always perfect, tidy or orderly! We try but are not always on point. There are so many gorgeous blogs that show you what resources you can put on your child’s home shelves, but I wanted to offer a bit more, focusing on the behavioural aspect of the adult; speaking, acting and observing with our children. I put a lot of attention on being mindful and present with our children. This is a huge factor in a Montessori home and without it we could never prepare the most optimal environment for our child or establish the most nurturing bonds that last a lifetime.
Q: What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?
Remember that Montessori is an ‘education for life.’ It encompasses so much more than materials or items on your child’s bedroom shelf. Practical life should always be the first focus, establishing independence and freedom of movement for the child. I see many families trying to replicate the Montessori classroom within their home. I believe that while the classroom and home have many of the same goals for the child, they are two very different places. A child works hard all day at school and if that child is in a Montessori setting, you should trust that he is being well supported by a trained Directress.
“ Remember that Montessori is an ‘education for life.’ It encompasses so much more than materials or items on your child’s bedroom shelf ”
I have a little rhyme I like to tell the families in my care: “home is like a little nest, a place to unwind, bond and rest.” Children need down time either alone or in the form of quality time with family. Sometimes parents spend so much time preparing activities for their child that they lose the “doing” time with their children. If your home is already prepared for independence, regardless of the age your child will be learning and developing in so many areas already! I leave the “shelf work” for my children to do at school with their amazing teachers. Instead, we spend our time cooking, gardening and connecting with one another. Create a space that fosters open communication, individuality and respect. From this the sense of security and love will be established. This with their school experiences will create a well-rounded, happy child.
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
Reading Understanding the Human Being by Silvana Quattro Montanaro is a great start. While parents get so excited once they find Montessori, many feel a bit overwhelmed at where to begin. Parents are time poor, so instead of reading a book from beginning to end, I always recommend to start reading Montessori books beginning with the chapter that pertains to your child’s current development. If your son is beginning his first solids, then go straight to the section on weaning and begin preparing a mealtime area that will cater to his current needs. Doing this will allow you to see quick results on his road to independence if the sensitive period driving the mastery of such skills are already there. It will also decrease the chance that books end up just sitting in a pile on your bedside table unread. Go to sections that spark your current interest. Over time you’ll have the whole book read. After all, Dr. Montessori’s books are translated to English from Italian and written in a different time period. While we all love the information, many find the metaphoric style hard to stick with. Guilty as charged!
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
The growth I see in the families I work with, my own children and myself as a parent and professional inspire me! I constantly see others reap the rewards of a Montessori lifestyle and education. Some philosophies are simply ideas. Montessori is more; scientifically proven, has lasted a century and continues to be a progressive form of education not just for children but also for the aging adult.
I met a mom of a six year old girl while visiting the U.S. last week. I was at a park with my children and she asked where they went to school and it began an hour long conversation all about Montessori education. She was so intrigued and had so many questions as her child was not thriving as she thought she should in mainstream. She kept telling me and my husband how blessed she was to have met us that afternoon because she felt hope in investigating this new path for her child. Those occurrences strengthen my passion and fuel my desire to share what I know!
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
In Montessori schools, I see us tackling some current issues regarding modern technology’s place in the classroom, which has become a very big debate among many Montessorians with varying perspectives. There is some current research underway for usage in Montessori primary schools so it will be interesting to read the goals and results once finished. Overall, I always see high hopes for Montessori education as it is progressive. However, I do believe that it needs to be more obtainable and affordable for all families. I fear with the rising costs of quality Montessori training and materials that schools struggle to maintain tuitions fees to accommodate all families. There is a sense among some parents that Montessori education is one for the elite, which should never be the case, and certainly is not the goal. Most schools are non-profit and do their best with what they can to keep the school viable. I hope that Montessori organisational bodies can help support schools in finding ways to make Montessori accessible to all. Integration into mainstream public schools is certainly helping and I would love to see this continue!
As far as mainstream education goes, I am just so perplexed! It saddens me that the focus has become rote learning and teaching to tests. I am an optimist and always hopeful, though! I do see more and more mainstream parents getting so fed up and frustrated with the educational system but at the same time they say they feel a bit helpless as well. On one hand they hate the conformity but on the other if they do not conform, they fear their child will get poor test result which may restrict their educational pursuits in the future. Times are tough in the educational realm. I think it will take a lot of tree shaking and a massive educational movement on reform before we see change. Anything that involves politics and government regulation does. I do not think it will happen anytime soon (first we need to get teachers in there writing the educational standards, not politicians!), but the seeds are planted so I must believe with more nurturing it will come!
Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?
I see Montessori practice still going strong a century from now. Dr. Montessori always said that we have so much more to learn and we need to continue to “look to the child.” We are doing that and we will continue to do this in the classroom, home environment and through research. The more technology advances, the more validation we get through scientific research of the benefits of Montessori practices. More families are discovering this natural way of learning and living so I hope it will become a household name like any other great thing!
Written by:Baan Dek