This is the first in a series to support families and teachers as they navigate new spaces for teaching and learning. Be sure to email with specific questions you have at home, or to suggest other resources to share with the community.
In an ideal world, parents and teachers build collaborative relationships over days, weeks and months, working well when things are going well, and establishing the trust on which they'll rely when things get tricky.
Y'all. Things are getting tricky.
This morning, parents around the world woke up to face a new dynamic: their children at home with them, all day long, for the foreseeable future. As Maria Montessori once said, "Mamma Mia!*" What to do now?
One way to think about (enjoying/enduring/surviving) an extended time at home with your children is to start thinking about it differently. While there are certainly real and important challenges that will come to us all, financial and emotional and social and health, Montessori teachers know that the best way to manage the unexpected is to prepare thoughtfully for what you can predict. So, what are some things you might be prepared for as you shift quickly to being at home with your children?
First, remember that it’s human nature to want to understand our environments and to feel some agency in them. Expect, in these unpredictable days, that your emotional resilience and your child’s may be tested, and that how that looks may be different for each of you. Your child may be (angry/energetic/fearful/aggressive/quiet/tearful/hungry/sleepy/confrontational/cuddly) … let’s just say, “not themselves.” You may be, too. Be calm in your own response. Acknowledge for your child that things are feeling strange, and assure them that they are safe and supported. Use modeling language that helps them to identify the emotions they’re feeling and helps you to create space for talking about them. “These are certainly some unusual days! I’m feeling like I need some time to slow down and think about the changes around us.” “You look like you may be feeling scared right now. When you’re scared, it’s ok to ask me questions about your worries. We can talk them through together.”
Then, in those conversations, sit quietly and give your child time to process their own thoughts. Try to avoid jumping to a solution for them. Instead, buy yourself a little time to think, “You’re raising some good questions. Let me think about how I can best answer them for you.” When you model wait time for your children, you demonstrate to them that you are listening carefully to their questions and that it’s ok to think about your answers before you offer them. For practical purposes, it also challenges you as a parent to take a beat, take a breath and really hear what your child is asking. While you may want to impress them with your confidence right now, you will do more to keeping the conversation going and providing them with reliable answers about unpredictable topics if you model reflective, careful responses. Your child’s questions may run the gamut: try not to oversimplify the current context, but avoid flooding them with information that’s beyond what they can make sense of. “Are we safe?” “Yes. We are making some changes to the way we live and work to make sure people who may be sick get the care they need and to give doctors, scientists and other helpers the time they need to prevent others from getting sick, too.” For most children, this is simple and accurate. Avoid making assertions that you might not be able to follow through on and focus instead on actions your children can take in their own uncertainty. “You’ll be back at school next week!” may be better phrased as, “School will open again as soon as we can. Would you like to write a note or draw a picture for your teachers in the meantime?”
Finally, take the time to think ahead about what you’ll do “in the meantime.” Our pace these days is not going to be quite as kinetic as we’ve become used to. Instead of worrying about what your child would have accomplished at school each day, ask yourselves what you can do today to strengthen their minds, to strengthen their bodies and to strengthen their relationships with others. Start the day with good conversation with your children about how you’ll do each of those things today. Help to document those choices at the beginning of the day and come together again over dinner to reflect on how they went. Remember: Montessori is based on making connections for children between the ideas that are most interesting to them and the skills they’ll need to master those ideas. Follow your child.
Need a quick-start? Here's a useful article written by a Montessori teacher to think about your child's needs at home in each of the planesof development.