I am delighted to be sharing this interview series with you, where I will be talking to a different woman every fortnight about parenting, motherhood, their daily rhythm and what makes a beautiful childhood. So without further ado, let’s meet the mother…
This week, I’d like to welcome Montessori parent and blogger Nicole Kavanaugh to Frida be Mighty. Nicole’s wonderful blog The Kavanaugh Report is a huge source of inspiration for me and thousands of other parents, so it is a real treat to have her here. As well as blogging, Nicole shares her knowledge with other parents looking to incorporate a Montessori ethos in their home through her online courses. Nicole is knowledgeable, thoughtful, and passionate, and I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
Hi! I’m Nicole Kavanaugh, a Montessori parent and blogger. I live in Minnesota, in the United States with my husband, three kids, and two dogs! It’s a busy household but a lot of fun! My oldest is Henry. He is nearly 7-year-old and in his first year of Lower Elementary at a local public Montessori school. My middle child is Nora and she is 3.5-years-old. Nora attends a Montessori Children’s House and is truly the embodiment of joy. Then, finally, we have Augustus, or Gus as we mostly call him. Gus is just about 14-months-old and just a very busy little human! We are a Montessori family, so in addition to the children attending Montessori schools, we try to parent using Montessori principles and have created a prepared environment at home.
Personally, I write about our lives at The Kavanaugh Report. I am also on of the co-admin of a Facebook group called Montessori 101 where we get to talk all things Montessori. I also teach courses to parents about bringing Montessori into their homes!
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
With three kids, my daily life feels a bit more chaotic than I sometimes like! Each morning, I get up really early to work for a few hours before my kids get up. Once everyone is up and off to school, I get a few hours of alone time with Gus. And, at this point, we basically just follow his natural rhythms and try to keep things child-led and slow paced. Nora goes to school for half-days, so we get to spend the afternoons together. Since she is in school, I don’t have to spend much time creating academic work for her, but we can really spend our afternoons focusing on her own interests. So, sometimes that means playing together. But, often it means baking in the kitchen, sewing, or reading together. We also try to get outside as much as possible and garden together during the warmer months. By late afternoons, Henry is also home from school and we just try to be together. I’m really intentional about trying to give my kids a lot of time to just play. We don’t participate in a ton of sports or activities, I pretty much refuse all mandated homework (thankfully this hasn’t been a big issue in Montessori schools) and try not to over schedule my kids. I want them to have the time to just explore their interests, to go outside, and to be in the world around them!
On the weekends, we try to get out of the house and enjoy the city where we live. We are fortunate to have access to some amazing cultural experiences and natural areas to explore pretty close to our home.
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
Yes! I have been hugely influenced by Dr. Maria Montessori and pretty much everything she has ever written. The Secret of Childhood, in particular, was transformation in the way that it made me see my children and myself as a parent.
You have three gorgeous children. Has your parenting changed between Henry, your oldest, and Gus, your littlest?
Yes! So different! When Henry was born, almost 7-years-ago, I really knew nothing about Montessori and many of our parenting decisions reflected that. From the use of media, to the toys we had in our home and the overall environment, the setting was very different. However, I think we always parented with a lot of choice and respect which is one reason Montessori was such an easy switch for us. When I first discovered Montessori, it felt like an extension of how we already tried to treat our child, it just provided a different framework for it to happen and really took our parenting to the next level. But now, we make very very different choices as parents. Life is slower, more deliberate, and our environment is prepared to meet their needs. For example, with Henry we watched a lot of television and he had access to a iPad and other technology. Today, we parent screen free, with the exception of an occasional movie night and chatting with family, for more than three years.
I also think with Augustus that I’m just much more relaxed. I can enjoy the moments a bit more because I really know how fast it goes. I’m sure every parent with multiple kids starts to feel this way. All those little things you worried about with your first sort of melt away with a bunch of kids.
You run online courses for families who would like some practical guidance incorporating a Montessori philosophy into their homes. Your most recent offering is all about helping parents encourage their children’s confidence and independence in the kitchen. Your children have a lot of freedom in the kitchen, and are amazingly skilled at preparing food by themselves! Can you offer any tips to families who would like to involve their children in cooking but don’t know where to start?
To be honest, cooking in the kitchen with my children didn’t come super naturally to me at first. It took a major shift in my mindset about cooking. Cooking couldn’t be just a chore that I needed to get done, but an experience, a loving gesture, that we all came together to produce. So, my first tip is adjust your expectations. Know that cooking with children is a process, that it can be messy and slow, but also that it doesn’t have to be a chore. Then, I would say take a hard look at your space. If you want the experience to be successful, your children need to be able to move and work in the kitchen. Have you provided tools to make that possible? Even if its just a good stool, it will be much easier for your child to help if the space is accessible. Finally, it doesn’t all have to happen at once. Invite participation when you are able! Start small and work your way up to bigger cooking and baking projects!
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
Oh, the joy! What brings me the most joy is seeing my kids become independent people following their own passions. It’s when Nora is in the kitchen baking and happily humming to herself, or Hen is reading a book he’s made. It’s when Gus reaches some new challenge he set for himself. I just really love watching them unfold and become the people they are meant to be!
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
Patience. Hands down. I’m not a super patient person, and fighting that urge to have everything done NOW and done the way that I like it done is really hard. It’s especially hard in those challenging parenting moments when your children just need you to be present and be with them. It can be difficult for me to just be in the here and now.
The other, lack of sleep! I haven’t slept more than a few hours in a row in at least four or five years. (My kids are NOT sleepers.)
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
If you want to know another area where I struggle, this is it. I’m terrible at making time for self-care and filling my own bucket. Since I work from home, when the kids don’t need me, I tend to shift my focus back to my work. This can leave really little time for me as a human separate from my kids. This year, I’m really trying to get better about striking that home-work balance and taking more time to get back to things I enjoy — like reading. I also try to get out of the house with just some friends at least a couple times a month. Oh, and baths! I love a good bath!
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
For me, a beautiful childhood is one that includes time to just be a child. In today’s world, there is such a rush to teach kids all the things that the slowness of childhood is often lost. I think a beautiful childhood is made up of slow. It’s made in the every day moments, doing everyday things. That also includes being conscious of the “noise” of modern life — whether that is media use, consumerism, or the pressure to be over-scheduled. Being slow and quiet — and not in the literal sense, because part of that is giving children the space and time to be fast and loud!
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
Learn to trust! Trust yourself. You have got this motherhood thing! It’s not always easy, or fun, or glamorous, but you will know the right answer for your kids and your family. And, that may mean changing things from their way your friends do things, or your parents did things, and that’s alright! And, then, trust your children. Trust that your child is on the perfect path for your child. Trust that his/her interests, ideas, and choices are valid.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
My favorite children’s book? Oh, this question is so hard! I love so many. We are huge readers and I have more than a slight obsession with reading to my kids. You Belong Here by M.H. ClarkEdit, How To by Julie MorstadEdit, and Around the Year by Elsa BeksowEdit are a couple that come to mind as being my favorites. But, I think my kids would have different answers if you asked them!
Thank you so much Nicole! You can find Nicole on Instagram here, follow her on Facebook here, join her group Montessori 101 here, find her courses here, and read her beautiful and inspiring blog here.