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 teacher, school founder, and mother of two Amy Dorsch to Frida be Mighty. Ever since I started implementing Montessori in our home, Amy has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to me. Amy’s energy, patience, and commitment to respectful and gentle parenting shines through clearly in all that she does. I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
Hi! I’m Amy and I’m the mother of two children, Charlotte who is a couple weeks shy of 5 and Simon who is two-and-a-half. Along with my husband James, we have raised our children the Montessori way since birth, of course not perfectly but we are learning as we go.
I have loved raising them this way and I loved it so much I decided that educating children and parents on this way of life is how I want to live my life. I entered in a Montessori teacher education program a year-and-a-half ago now and I’ll be finishing this June. I am eager to share the things I have learned with other families while raising my own children as well.
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
Right now our daily rhythm is very different. I am a college student in my final semester which is student teaching so I am not home as much as we are all used to. Being away from them during the weekdays is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and though it is temporary it is still so hard. I send so much love and grace to those parents who must work full-time.
Simon and James fix breakfast together every morning which now I see as a cherished moment of our day. We have a nanny who comes and cares for the children during the week. She is young and vibrant, yet relaxed and gentle. She has been so patient and diligent in learning our way of life and going along with us.
She spends slow days at home with the children, doing art projects, reading them books, watching them pretend play, and giving them alone time and space to navigate themselves. She will practice sandpaper letters and writing on the chalkboard with Charlotte. She takes them on walks in our neighborhood and to the park. She takes them to the children museum almost weekly as well as to a gymnastics class for Charlotte. She will take them swimming or to the zoo – places children love to be. Nothing is really scheduled so the rhythm is really up to the children. They spend a lot of time in unstructured play which is something I’m so happy they have time and space for.
In evenings we will go for walks or bike rides. We fix dinner, often together as a family and often with children running wild throughout the house. We have bath and then finally my favorite part of our rhythm: winding down one-on-one with them (we swap every other night). We read books together, sing, sometimes they do a little quiet work and then we snuggle together until they fall asleep.
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
Oh gosh! The first book I read was “Montessori from the Start”. I was hooked on the Montessori Method from the moment I first discovered it. Of course Dr. Montessori’s own books, “The Absorbent Mind” and “Secret of Childhood” stand out. When Charlotte was about a year old we discovered the RIE philosophy as well and have implemented those principles into our home as well. I love Magda Gerber’s “Your Self-Confident Baby” as well as anything by Janet Lansbury (eg “No Bad Kids“). Other books I have read and loved have been “The Whole-Brain Child”, “Simplicity Parenting”, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk”, and “Parent Effectiveness Training”. The last one is a new one I just finished and was wonderful, but of course so are the others. I have so many more on my list!
I love following your journey as a Montessori mother and now childrens’ guide. What would you say to someone who would like to implement a Montessori philosophy but isn’t sure where to start?
Start with three things: simplify of your home (and your life), give your children opportunities to engage in daily household activities, and adjust your discipline techniques away from rewards and punishments. I think these two things are the most important aspects of Montessori in the home, which I have written about before. I think that all the pretty trays and activities or fancy toys are lovely, but these are the heart and soul of Montessori at home.
You’ve recently announced that you are starting a Montessori school! I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about moving my family to the American Midwest right now… Can you tell me a little bit about what drove you to found your school?”
Well I’m most certainly not starting it alone! I was humbled to be ask to be a part of the founding team of a brand new school startup. Prior to this opportunity my husband and I were actually looking to move out of the Midwest to a city with an established Montessori school and community.
We had been actively making moving plans for about a year when I discovered this opportunity in my own community. My partners were looking for someone fresh (read: inexperienced) who had an entrepreneurial mindset and a passion for children. What really got me excited though was their desire for authentic Montessori for the primary ages, and they wanted me to be the one to make that happen. To be honest, at first it seemed to good to be true. Who would have guessed that a school like this would be popping in up in MY little Midwest city?! Some luck!
Starting a school was a 180 degree turn from where we were headed, but I have made the shift and I’m already knee deep in materials orders, architectural meetings, hiring guides, and building a transition process for my primary children to move on to our non-Montessori specific second “studio” as we are calling it, which may not be Montessori in name but I find quite Montessori compatible.
This is a HUGE addition to my already very full plate. I am often in meetings or working in the evenings after teaching which is so hard. But I have only 4 weeks left of student teaching! I do have a week of Montessori practice teaching and 4 weeks of Montessori exams after which I receive my diploma. July seems a long way off but it is closer than I think! Then the quick turnaround with the school opening in September.
Send some well wishes our way because what a tornado we are in! The children are resilient though and they can sense that the end is near. But what they don’t know is that this is not just the end, but a new beginning!
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
I love observing them at work and watching them grow as people. Marveling at this human that once was nothing and was created through me is an experience unlike any other. Learning to see them as separate, whole human beings has been so amazing. Watching their personalities unfold and through each experience they have is unbeatable. And of course, seeing them smile and so happy. Of course I love them all the time, even when they are upset, but I would be remiss to say I didn’t cherish those joyful moments the most.
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
Addressing my own defects is the hardest part. When you parent this way it makes you so self aware and brings out your deepest feelings about yourself. Parenting truly can bring out the worst in you at times. Finding a way to center myself, addressing my faults and using effective methods to remedy those has been the greatest challenge by far.
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
To be honest I don’t do enough. As a full-time student and full-time parent (as we all are) and previously as a part-time student and full-time stay-at-home parent I have so little time. We have time what we make time for though, right? But when I do *make* the time I find myself getting a massage, going on dates with James, or making solo Target runs. It’s the little things.
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
I think a beautiful childhood is slow and simple, with lots of time and space—freedom if you will. It is spending as many moments outdoors in nature as possible and a carefully constructed yet natural and loving bond with parents.
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
Let go of the need to have it all together. Relax and be present with your little ones because while the days pass slowly, the years will pass ever so quickly.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
So as you know I’m a children’s book addict, so I’m not sure I can share just one. But anything by Shirley Hughes: Alfie, Tom and Lucy, her poetry books, and the Nursery Collection that I first discovered on your blog! I do also love “In the Town All Year ‘Round” by Rotraut Susanne Berner. I can’t begin to count the hours we have spent narrating the happening in that wordless book. Each page is filled with so many interesting things. I’m loving the Smithsonian Animal Book which is “a visual encyclopedia of life on earth.” I really just love the way it is organized into categories and all the real-life photographs that are just amazing quality. My children and I can’t get enough. Also Madeleine Dunphy has a series called “Web of Life” that takes you through different biomes of the world in such a beautiful, lyrical way. And of course finally I’m a sucker for classics like Madeleine and poetry by A.A. Milne. There’s just so much out there to fall in love with!
Thank you so much Eloise for having me. Your musings here are inspiring to so many parents. Frida is a wonderful child and she is most certainly fortunate to have you for a mother.
Thank you so much Amy, and thank you for your kind words too. You can find Amy on Instagram @midwestmontessori here and read her brilliant blog here. The beautiful photos in this post were taken by Allie Burns.