I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like a totally crappy mum when I see learning materials (sorry, calling them toys feels awkward nowadays) so gorgeous that make my eyes shine and immediately realize there is no way I can afford them for my son.
It’s not just the ‘real deal’ materials I am talking about (read: pink tower, solid insets & co.), often, as a matter of fact, I can barely afford books, craft materials or that cute little Schleich animal that would be just so perfect for our winter/snow set up… Food and paying the bills are on top of the list of our priorities (and more often than not, this too is quite a challenge!) so all ‘extras’ are off limits. I know many of you will probably be in the same situation and will be just as disappointed as I am to not be able to offer my child that perfect learning tool I have just discovered… I do sometimes go wild, forget about the holes in my socks (after all they can be mended! How and when I don’t know yet, but sure it’s a possibility! hahaha) and buy something for my little boy, but that of course isn’t the norm.
But you know what? A big fat ‘Whatever‘! Yes, that’s my conclusion today because no matter how many beautiful images of perfectly set up shelves in gorgeous homes we see during our web searches, Montessori isn’t JUST the material, if anything materials are an added bonus! Saying this, a tidy and pleasent environment is essential but it can be achieved cheaply, too.
We could have all the sets we like but if our attitude isn’t in tune with Montessori principles…well, they come to little use, don’t you think? Plus, creativity is born out of necessity and there are millions of ways to repurpose what usually ends up in the bin. Here is an enlightened Arvind Gupta demonstrating just this:
You can also check out his website here.
But let’s move on…
Looking for books? Yes, good old libraries can be a goldmine. Our local sure hasn’t all the books I’d love to get and it often takes quite some time searching for some that meet my requirements of ‘non fictional’ images, good texts and sensible ideas behind them, but (!) it has saved me hundreds of euros so far.
Replica animals? All the ones that can be possibly found raised or wild in our area I will try to pay a visit to in person with my son. Polar bears and tigers not around? Well, you know what, I have never met them in real life either, but I still have a pretty good idea of what they look like. This means that beautiful photographs (not average, I really mean that beautiful as in detailed, big size ones) will have to do the job instead and luckily the web is full of them.
Got a fretsaw? Or someone who’s brilliant at using it? Come on, we all know someone who is! Invite them over for lunch or offer a service in exchange for some genius fretwork/carpentry/tailoring whatever it is you need. This has the added bonus of getting us out of the house, meeting real people and making conversation rather than just drooling over the latest (awesome, eh..) blogpost 😉
Most importantly: read again and again Maria Montessori’s work. It’s all in there! All the principles we need to apply in our daily life, in our actions, in the objects we choose for our children and what we do with them. Let’s not forget to observe them closely: what do they really need? Is it the steady grip they need to practice? Or do they need to spend time outside practising balancing? What about an eye for measures? Can we not achieve all these goals with what it’s already in our homes? After all we are preparing children for life and practical life is at the core of Montessori education: so let’s do what’s more natural! Instead of playing with a tiger our children might never meet, let’s go say hello (even if it’s the 4th time that day) to the ants marching on our balcony. Instead of counting expensive pegs, let’s go out and gather some twigs and make our own material out of it! Let’s do all our daily chores together whether inside or outside the house and get the kids involved, showing them patiently and with care how to do things, even the ones we are a bit scared of letting them do. Nothing, I am so sure, beats this: because this is the real deal! And you won’t need to live on bread and water to afford this: it’s already there.
So let’s shed our worries and guilt and take a look around for these countless options. A serene parent who creates awesomeness out of the ordinary is just plain amazing and does his job just as well as (or why not better than?) the one who built up a whole Casa dei Bambini in the living room.