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, consultant, and mother of two Beth Wood to Frida be Mighty. Beth is so experienced and knowledgeable, so I am very excited to have her here sharing her wisdom with us. But my favourite thing about Beth and her writing is her obvious commitment to peace, which shines through whenever she writes. I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
Hello, my name is Beth, I’m a Montessori trained 0-3 and 3-6 Teacher and Montessori Educational Consultant. I’m the mother of two children (Anthony is 18 and Quentin is 6) and my husband is a Psychotherapist. We live on a small island in the Pacific off the west coast of Canada.
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
Having a predictable rhythm is an important part of the Montessori philosophy, and we have two distinct ones: A school day rhythm and a home day rhythm. Each person in our family has a slightly different piece of the rhythm that sort of twists and turns throughout the day, sometimes coming together and sometimes splitting off. Our school days starts with my rhythm first. I wake before 5am to do some morning yoga and mindfulness. This helps me prepare for the teaching day both physically and mentally. My husband wakes around 5am and we wake up Quentin gently. Then I pack school and work lunches while he makes breakfast.
Having small jobs in the morning helps get Quentin’s piece of the rhythm going. He turns on the radio and grinds the coffee. After breakfast he dresses independently and does his Care of Self routine in the bathroom. We are heading out the door to travel to the Montessori school where I teach and he attends (an hour’s drive away) by 6:30am. My husband’s schedule is flexible and his days are never the same. He cleans up the kitchen after Quentin and I are gone and Anthony wakes up at 7:30am to start his piece of the day. He leaves for his school around 8am.
The boys and I are home by 5:30pm. Quentin takes this time to quietly come down from the long day. All children need a point in the day where they can quiet their body and rest even though they are awake. In our house, resting can look like anything from physically resting in his bed to reading to playing with his a LEGO. Anthony and I take this part of the day to connect. After dinner is when each branch of our rhythm comes together again although Anthony will often have extracurriculars or work his part time job. We spend time together in many different ways but screen time isn’t often one of them especially during the school week. Quentin is in bed by 7:30pm and he will read the chapter book he has chosen until he’s ready for sleep. I do the majority of my consultant work at this time of night. This is also when I research/write posts for my website, check in with my staff regarding our social media accounts and prep for the next day in my 3-6 Montessori classroom.
Our home day rhythm is much different. We keep Quentin home from school on Mondays and we have Saturdays and Sundays off. We eat breakfast together and then Quentin and I will spend some time in his Montessori space working on something together at his request. The day has a natural rhythm of meal together, independent activities and an outing, then noon meal together and quiet reading together. Then back to doing some independent activities (or he will opt to work with me in the gardens or around the house until dinner and then bath and bed.
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
Montessori is the only philosophy we have ever needed. It encompasses gentle parenting, respect of the child and follows a child’s natural social-neurological development.
The following is the list of books I recommend to all my school and family consulting clients. These are my absolutely necessary ones.
- “Understanding the Human Being” – Silvana Montanaro (birth-3)
- “The Montessori Toddler” – Simone Davies
- “The Joyful Child” series by Susan Mayclin Stephenson (birth-3; 3-12)
- And for parents of children in an authentic Montessori Elementary classroom “Children of the Universe” – Michael Duffy
On your website you say: “Montessori is not just school for us. It is our life.” With you a Montessori teacher and consultant, one son graduated from Montessori, and the other still at Montessori school, I can imagine that is very true! What have been some of the benefits of living a Montessori life to you as a family?
We as a family entered the Montessori world 15 years ago when our oldest began in the Casa (3-6) classroom. The benefits of using Montessori at home since then are too numerous to mention. In general having self confident, independent, articulate, empathetic, socially and environmentally aware children who love learning and school and are always looking for the next adventure is definitely what I would classify as a benefit for me as a parent. Having parents who are loving, patient, trusting, empathetic, accepting and knowledgeable of their child’s unique social, intellectual, and developmental needs has hopefully been a benefit to them.
Montessori is often perceived as pretty trays and baskets on shelves, but it’s so much more than that. What would you say is at the heart of Montessori?
Montessori is an extremely complex pedagogy that actually has very little if anything to do with pretty trays and baskets and (outside of the actual classroom) materials. The pedagogy is a series of radiating stacked rings I like to think. At the very centre, the heart is Peace Education. Without it none of the other rings can exist. It is what supports the next ring of Grace and Courtesy, which in turn supports the next ring of Practical Life which supports the next ring of Sensorial which in turn supports the last ring of Montessori academics. Each ring can not exist with out the heart as the centre support and each ring can not exist without the previous ring inside it. Peace Education beginning at birth tells a child “I love and accept you, in entirety for who you are.” We as Montessorians then turn that ring outward and say to the child “We will show you how to love and accept everyone and everything in the world, in entirety for who and what they are.”
What is your favourite Montessori material?
This is such a difficult question for me as I have a favourite in each Plane of Development and in 3-6 I think I have one in each area of the classroom! For 0-3 it’s definitely the mobiles and the Munari is a favourite (he is one of our favourite artists even outside the Montessori world). In 3-6 it is the Cultural Materials (although I love the Pythagoras Square and almost all of the Maths materials. In Lower Elementary it is the Great Lessons and all the subsequent work stemming from them and in Upper Elementary and Erkinder (high school) it is really is the self designed projects the students research and construct.
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
Being in Nature with my children. We are fortunate to live in an ecologically diverse part of the world. I love being able to share simple nature discoveries with my children whether they happen in our back garden or hiking through the temperate rainforest or combing the beach overlooking the Pacific.
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
All parts! Montessori is not easy and parenthood isn’t either. Being patient, being present, these things take work day after day and they are often exhausting.
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
Self care for me comes in many forms. Daily it looks like me making a cup of tea in the evenings and being by myself for some time, even if it’s just a few minutes after everyone has gone to bed. Weekly it’s me making sure I spend time in my community/allotment garden plot which is away from the house. Yearly it’s me taking a holiday away from my children and my classroom. Most importantly it’s me accepting that I am imperfect, and knowing that I love my children, my career, my husband and my community family. It’s knowing that some days I do my best and some days I don’t. And all of that is ok.
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
A beautiful childhood is a loved childhood. I think it can look different for each child depending on their culture and where they live in the world but I would always hope that a beautiful childhood would include nature.
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
The piece of advice I share most often is: One of the worst things about children is that they grow up. In the blink of an eye. It happens without warning and if you are not careful and you are not watching, you will miss it. And all the hard toddler days and sleepless nights of infancy that you wish away now, you will give anything to have back for just a moment in 10 years.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
Such a tricky question how can I choose?! “The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth” by Chris Burkard is definitely up there as a picture book. The Harry Potter series for a child’s chapter book is also up there. Honestly there are too many, each with their own unique qualities for me to ever be able to pick a favourite.