The Montessori Infant and Parent Class as a Foundation for Building Community
By Sarah Moudry
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” Dr. Maria Montessori
The environment is a key factor in the work we do with children and families. Within a Montessori school we take great care to prepare a beautiful and complete environment that calls out to children. When we observe in a well-prepared Montessori environment it is clear that the children are connected to their work, and their community.
As Montessori teachers we prepare our spaces making sure that each item within the environment is beautiful, well cared for, and has purpose. We then link the child with the environment through presentations and then step out of the way. This process allows children to experience auto education. Within this environment children will develop purposeful movement, develop their wills, build their intellects, and develop language. The environment sets the expectations for how children will move independently through the space and how they will care for the space.
An Infant and Parent Class offers no less. This environment is, however, prepared for both a child and his parent.
For these children we consider their need for exploration, purposeful movement, order, and language.
Exploration: developmentally appropriate toys are available to the children in private corners and more open spaces designed for small groups.
Movement: mats, mirrors and mobiles make up movement areas for the youngest children while a small stair, tunnels and a low bar encourage these children who are mobile to challenge themselves in their movements.
Order: Low shelves are placed near the movement mats and near low sturdy tables to help children to see the beauty in each activity. Small baskets are placed around the room to house a few small rattles or a collection of balls.
Language: The trained guide offers a correct model of language and regularly has conversations with each child to encourage communication.
For parents, we must consider the need for trust in the environment, access to knowledge, and physical comfort when interacting with their children.
Trust: The classroom is safe, the materials are well kept, and parents are invited to participate in the sterilization of materials. By asking parents to help disinfect toys they take an active role in the upkeep of the environment and understand the care of the materials in the class. Parents also need to know the class is a safe place to ask questions and share ideas.
Knowledge: Knowledge is shared between guide and parent as well as among parents. This is done through casual conversation, emailed reading material, printed reading material in class, and through formal presentations given by the guide. The presentations are only possible when offered in a separate room from where the children are working, or when the children are not present.
Comfort: Physical comfort is important for the parents' full and genuine participation in the class. When parents are comfortable sitting on the floor, they can interact with their babies at that level. When a mother nurses, she needs a private and comfortable place to sit. When she changes her baby, she needs all the supplies that allows this to happen without incident or distraction.
Parents seek out the Montessori Infant and Parent class because they want to know more about their child. They want to understand and maximize their child’s development. They come seeking answers to their questions but find much more. They develop friendships and are reinforced in their role as their child’s first teacher. They become a community of informed parents who can nurture and cherish a school dedicated to Dr. Montessori's principles of education. They understand the importance of protecting the innate love of learning that lives in their child and they can help to build a school community based on feeding that flame.
These are parents who understand what it will take to raise the next generation of peacemakers, because they see the potential in their own child, from the beginning of life. They see how, when allowed to develop according to their nature, children will maximize their potential and that they will demand more of themselves and society. It is from the first moment of life that we have the potential to effect peace. It is why we do this work. As Dr. Montessori wrote in the Secret of Childhood, “The child is the father of man”.