It’s a Mindset Game | Montessori At Home
Hi, welcome to the Mom Bosses Abroad podcast. Have you ever considered teaching Montessori to your kids? Or did you even know you could embrace the Montessori method at home? That's for recovering. In this week's episode: Introducing Montessori into your Home.
So today we have Victoria Yim joining us in our recording studio Hi Victoria. Victoria is a Singaporean based in Singapore and as a mom to two incredibly active boys and spends most of her time balancing work, her side hustles and her family while trying to drink a cup of warm tea. She has a background in Montessori Education which we can't wait to find everything out about, and has been working with parents and caregivers for the last four years, to help them bring Montessori into their homes. So, Victoria, please tell us a little bit more about your background, especially that Montessori part but also about your personal journey and how you got to where you are today
Thanks Des. So, it started, I think we all start, you know, when we turned into a mom we all start with the best intentions that we want to do the best that we possibly can. I personally felt very lost. I thought every mom seemed to have a manual, and I seem to be missing that manual and I didn't know what to do with my young child. So just at that point as well my aunt who runs a Montessori School was conducting teacher training, and also had some space in her school that she could use some help with. So I joined her, went to the training helped her at school, and realize that the education that teachers were given to support children was incredibly useful for parents as well. And I thought, you know, why wouldn't parents benefit from doing this? So together with her help, and the teachers at the school itself, we came up with this curriculum that really hopes to bring Montessori philosophy into homes, so that parents feel that they have that manual if they want to, But also, I think parents naturally face a lot of pressure from society to be a certain way or to do a certain thing oh
Yeah, yep, totally,
Having that manual and having your own foundation that you feel really confident about and understanding why your child is acting a certain way, it gives you that power and empowers parents to make the right decisions for their family. And you know, kind of putting everyone else's noise on the backburner. So that's, that's why we came up with this and that's how the whole thing started
That is super interesting because you're so right. I mean, we have so much education going on in our lives, right? We go to school, we learn about all these math problems and algebra and physics and then we go to university, but then we have like the biggest tasks on our hand which is raising a child, and there's not much. There's not much like practical things that you could have learned beforehand so I can totally relate to that part and it's also true what you say that while we send our children off to have a certain education, I'm always curious: how are they teaching the kids at school? What are they doing? And often, I don't really know what's going on in school but I feel it's, it needs to continue at home as well otherwise there's no, like red line or consistency, it's a really really good point.
So, I wanted to ask you, Victoria. In that same line, can you explain to us a little bit what are the main differences between the Montessori method, and other types of education?
I wouldn't claim to say that I'm the expert on the other forms of education, but personally why I was really drawn to Montessori was because it seemed to put the child front and center, and it focused a lot on this really important word, independence. And I really like that because I think we think independence is something that you gain when you're 18, you know, you turn 18 and 16 and suddenly you’re independent, you're supposed to make all these big decisions, but we haven't really been armed, our whole lives up until that point, to make decisions for ourselves. And it was so interesting when I went for the teacher training that decisions started from as young as, like, six months, one year old, and these are micro little decisions but it gives the child so much power to feel so good about themselves and to also feel like they have a voice.
And in an increasing year in the world with increasingly like a lot of noise from everybody else. A lot of people telling you what you shouldn't be like in peer pressure, social media, having your own voice, I find it incredibly valuable. I think that that's one thing that I would love to be able to impart to children, because it's going to set them up for life.
Another thing that Montessori is really known for is having everything that's real, so we don't use plastic toys. We try not to try to, you know, if they wanted to be in the kitchen with us we would have a knife that was appropriate for their age, they have wooden knives that are safe for children, for young to use like jugs that are safe for their age and appropriate for them to use. So obviously with a much younger child you might want to consider something that's plastic, but with an older child who's got much better grasp on their motor skills at five years old, perhaps they could probably start using something glass. So these are all different things that I find very appealing about the Montessori method, and that it's really trying to bring the child into the world to be a part of that environment with you, and it's not this is the child's, you know, and this ours, and that we're trying to actually incorporate everyone, and we're all a very important part of the family, are very important part of society. And I really like that.
So it's this whole philosophy that we are not talking to the child, we're having conversations with them, we're making them part of the bigger conversation at home, where they feel completely as equals, because they have that sense of independence. They have that sense of, I can make my own decisions.
Absolutely, and it's also about then, for parents to know, to assess also what we consider age appropriate. Because a lot of time, what's appropriate at one year old is very different from a three year old, right, because you're just noticing that it's going to change and accepting that our rules will change as they grow up, also gives us a lot of flexibility I think as a parent to make that right call as opposed to reading a book and the book telling you, this is what we're supposed to do. But you're in a real-life situation. It doesn't look like what's happening in the book.
Yeah, so having, you know, taking parents through that journey together. Really then makes you feel so much more confident like: I made this decision and I know this is what's going to happen but I'm totally fine accept that consequence because this is what was needed at that moment in time. And I love that about the Montessori method in that, you know they have the materials at school when you go to a Montessori school you see that classrooms are set up in a very specific way, but more importantly, I think fundamentally something that we can definitely bring home, is the attitude towards the child. Because I’m not going to bring the whole school into my home. And that's the whole home-schooling right? So, the really practical aspect of it is how do I, you know, post kindergarten education, post pre-nursery education, even when they're 15, even when they're 20, How am I bringing that attitude with me because I'm going to want to incorporate that as part of our lives now?
Yeah, that's so good. Can you give us an example of that?
Yeah, so we've always grown up, well I've grown up always being told, this is you know: If you're having a bad day, go to your room, right? And get over it and then come out and hang out with us, or something like that like. So bad feelings are not very welcome in a space, but with Montessori, what it does is it recognizes that the child is absolutely recognizes first, why the child is going through this so we have this period called a sensitive period, and the sensitivity to order and the fact that we have a really absorbent mind makes them, you know, go through this giant leap when they're about two and a half to three, because they're starting to be able to make sense of a lot of information, but also they're starting to have things that they want. You know they start to have their own voice and finding that this is not what I wanted you can't just make me have it.
They're discovering the power of no
They’re discovering the power of like trying to, win their way over you. And I think it's, it's really important, with Montessori is that it explains why this happens. Is because the mind is changing. So monitor it has a background in medicine, so she always weaves, you know all these nuggets of information into a teaching because a child has complex right it's not just not just a little cute little thing that we play with and feeding clothe. They are going through so much complex changes in their brains. And understanding that this is a leap that they're going through is actually, it helps, because then when he's fighting with me I know that he's not doing it to upset me he's doing it because he's struggling to cope because his brain is now going through so many things that he's also trying to make sense of it, and it's just coming out like this.
Which is coming out as him having a tantrum and having a bad day, and the body is also not wired to keep all this in, you know, it has to get out. I'm sure all of you know like, you're in a holistic space you understand completely that the body does not want to hold on to stress and wants to let it out. And so for young children, what do they have, they have screaming, they have trying, crying, they have, you know, tantruming, trowing things. And so just understanding that allows me to respond so much better to him, or at least remind myself that it's not personal. I think it's the same thing, as they go older, this doesn't change. So now even when I'm working with someone like you in the workplace who's having a hard time, sometimes I have to kind of step back and go, maybe this is not a personal thing. It's not about me. It's also about this person: he's struggling, she's struggling. Hopefully, with this understanding, this is something that I can go and bring together with my child as I bring him up. Liam is now four and a half and I've seen him through like four years of this, and it's gonna be a long way, but I feel quite confident that I could now handle whatever comes my way because I've got that understanding, instead of taking everything personal,
And that is that is so important and that and I know you teach that and you teach that to parents, and we'll talk a little bit about your course as well, but you also teach it to caregivers because I know a lot of countries and we are all based in Asia, right? There are a lot of caregivers involved in raising well helping to raise kids at home. And so, it's equally important that they are on the same kind of page that the teachers are that the parents are so everyone is pulling on the same string and it will be definitely beneficial for the child. But I attended your course which was amazing, it was so valuable to me, my little one was two at the time. And when you spoke about the sensitivity period I said: Oh yeah that is his release system to some of the situations we found ourselves in that makes total sense now you know and I felt that immediately through my own shift in mindset. I was able to approach the situation differently and handle him differently so I definitely think it's something that parents really need to be involved in if they want to go this route of raising their child, right. It's really good.
I think I just wanted to also share like sometimes I think we feel very pressured to also be that chill parent, you know like, to be that mom that always has their [expletive] together. I think, you know, the whole idea of respect, doesn't mean that we're being pushovers. The ,whole idea of respect is also recognizing that the child has a role to play in our lives, and we have a role to play. And the child's role is to be there to give suggestions, to be there to push the boundaries to be there to test what they can do a very good at their role, I would say most children are born perfect,
They are flawless. They execute flawlessly, pushing the buttons to see if the rules still stand,
Amazing, and I think for parents. It's not a power struggle, but it's about, you know, letting the child know that I am the parent so I will make that final decision that's suitable for our family, because I have, you know all this other context to draw on right like all the other situations, but for the child you're so good at their role, I think it's for us it's also recognizing that, hey we have that role to play as well and being the guide, and then also helping the child learn to consider these other factors. And I feel like that helps bring the whole idea of being respectful. Because now you know you've, you've kind of done that allows you to, to figure out what, how you want to be playing that role.
So, I love what you said about as well this idea that we don't need to be dominant, to make ourselves be respected like it doesn't have to do with cohesion or force or punishment or threats, it's just, it comes from that sense of being empathetic to what they're going through, and allow them to feel heard, so that they feel in a safe enough space that they can, they can start. I guess getting back to grounding themselves, and to be more collaborative with you down the line, right, but allowing them that space to get it all out of their chests at the beginning, so that they can, I guess, go back, recenter and move forward.
Because, as we see with our kids, sometimes I I tease with my husband and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but sometimes we go like “Oh my God, my child is being so bipolar” because from one moment to the next is a major global meltdown and three seconds later they're happily singing and dancing as if nothing had happened and in the meantime, you're just dealing with the fallout of all of it because you are still catching up with all this emotions and what does it all mean to you. And as you say, sometimes we might bring a lot of pressure into that saying like, Oh, how many tantrums has it been today. This must mean something as it’s happening way outside the norm or that I need to do something about it, as opposed to realizing, Victoria, with the Montessori guidance, you are able to expect things to happen at certain points in time so you're like: I recognize that landmark or, we're at this stage in the journey, where this is going to be more frequent for example and that you are mentally calmer with regards to that type of situation.
And both of you are moms, so you know that Desiree’s kid is different from Iva's kid and different from my two little monkeys. But then, having that baseline knowledge, it's applicable for everybody. And I think that's something that's really useful, because it's never one size fits all. But then understanding that oh these are triggers, and then applying layering it on with what you know about your child within like you would just be the best person to walk with them through this, and I think that that's a really beautiful thing, except.
Exactly, in your course, you also mentioned that it's really important for us to take the child's lead on a lot of situations, but at the same time like we mentioned before, we don't want to be the that pushover. Mom , right, who gives in to all the requests are often only listening like that, but how do we find that balance or how do we know when to follow, or take the child's lead but then also when to step in?
So, instances where definitely, you know, it's so easy for us to take their lead it's things like what to do at home. You know, if you have a child's prepared space so that would be, for example, their room, then you've got all their age appropriate toys that are age appropriate things for them to do set up, and they then go in there and they choose what they would like to do, as long as you're not you know destroying it, they're not trying it at people are drawing in the crowns and drawing on the wall, then I would say to step back and observe what they're doing with the material, and doing it because that's also very informative to let you know maybe what they could be feeling inside or be going through, because a lot of them are going to sit down and be like, anything I need to tell you about my problem right because they’re going to play and let it out.
And sometimes you can see: Oh they're actually starting to play characters like now my son's at the stage where he's got two toys and talking to each other and he's changing the voices, and then you're like, oh okay he's moved on to that because before that he would just play with the toys and make like train sounds. So it's very, it's amazing. It's amazing to witness, and that's something that we definitely could take the lead on. And then things where you'd step in, is you know if, using the same scenario, if my oldest son was playing in the room and stretching throwing things around working with it in a way, he's not supposed to be doing. I would go in there and remind him like, you know, should we treat our choices. Can we be gentle with our toys.
So for younger children, the reminders, tend to be more straightforward I find them more useful. So just instead of going the roundabout way of saying, Should we be treating our toys that way? I would just be like, be gentle with your toys, or let's not throw our toys, and obviously when he's like a four and a half and you're able to consider the consequences and actions for himself, then I might go up a roundabout way like, Oh, is that how much we treat our toys? You know what happens. So, these are things where it gets into kind of also extrapolate what could happen in the future, and drag them along the train of thoughts, but then also it's age appropriate. So I have parents also they have kids you know like swatting things or hitting, like young kids, hitting things or throwing things and they go, oh what do we do about hands, and I go: they’re one, it's too complicated, you know like, we could just tell them, we don't throw our things. Then the message is a lot simpler for them to get and they were able to comprehend that.
I have a question, Victoria, how do you approach the Montessori way, situations that might arise when you have more than one child at home and the way that they are trying to take the lead, as you say, they want to play with you, so they're requesting for you to play with them, but each one wants to do a different thing altogether. And the other one is not interested in what the other one is proposing so there's no real consensus. How do you approach situations like that where you say, Well, I don't necessarily want to force one of them to give up what they want to do, in lieu of pursuing the activity that the other child is promoting, but at the same time I want to spend time with the two of them and I like to have some sort of consensus where we can all be together and have had a great time. What are some general guidelines, or mindsets that you can apply in situations like that where you feel that everybody's pulling in different situations and you want to please everyone, and you know that you're not going to be able to negotiate with them because they're still young enough to reason and use that logic.
That's a really good question, thank you for asking that. I have two kids now and I'm learning. I think one of the things about Montessori, is that whole idea of roles, right, and taking turns. So, in the Montessori classroom a lot of it's makes age, usually some children between zero to three, stay in the same area to work together and in three to four to six, same the same area, and a lot of them have to learn this and there's only one of everything. So there's bound to be a situation where somebody wants the same thing, and somebody else was using it and all this natural tussle that comes in when we having one of everything. And this is beautiful thing called taking turns. So, with your attention you are that one wonderful toy,
and the limited resource yeah.
You are a limited edition. We can set aside, using timers, so one of the ways that I find super practical is going okay, we're going to do what, what the little sister wants to do for example for five minutes I'm going to set a timer here. And then when that goes off we're going to do what you want to do for five minutes and then we'll set a timer, and then at the end of it let's discuss and find something we all want to do together, and we have to learn to find that thing. For younger children it might be harder to articulate, so maybe if you know they all love the playground, maybe that is that one thing that you could suggest, but for older children sometimes they do get, you know like when they're, let's say between three to six and they can kind of negotiate for themselves. They could probably come to a nice consensus and be very nice because they're both taking turns to actually set the tone of what the family does.
And that's also very crucial to the children knowing that they have a voice to take the lead. But when for younger kids obviously, when you can’t split yourself into two, as wonderful as you are, the timers really help, and also letting one know that you can play with that toy that you like and five minutes later, I'll come and get you. And because the timer said they know that you're not going to like, forget about it and they have that they have that security the assurance that you're going to come back to it, and because you do, they will build that trust, they know that you're not going to lie to get out of it or tell them, a white light, you know to play longer with somebody else so it's fair.
So fairness is very important to young children. Sometimes I don't know if you ever get this but sometimes kids go it's not fair. So one of the ways that we talk about it is also, what do each of them need. Because it’s not about fairness. It’s about equity. So it’s about providing the age-appropriate help that each child needs. I like that because as we grow older, that is also a very useful way of considering being fair in the environment that we're in, being fair in the communities that we're in. Some people, some communities need more support because of disadvantage and some definitely don’t need support because they're okay. And it's, it's a simple way of introducing that idea right but I think it helps them understand. And if you talk to them about it, the more and more they'll become a cognizant of how this process works.
I love I love that. I love that differentiation between what is fair and what is in equity,
taking a lot of notes I have my second one on the way
Now, going back a bit to, when you said that, preparing the space right because that's a very important aspect in in the Montessori schools, let's say, but you said okay I'm not a school at home. I'm not going to do the entire setup. I know there are certain things that you can do one of the biggest thing I learned from you, when we did that course, was the thing about putting a water canister close by, and I actually went out the next day to buy little glass glasses to get him away from plastic because he was getting older and everything, but little ones that he can actually hold in his hand. Right, so not switching to adult ones but little ones, but ones that look like ours, and also then getting one of these big, you know three liter water canisters with the tap and putting it in a space where he's thirsty, he can go there and get his own water and doesn't have to ask me for it all the time. Or like another thing I did is put a little stool close to all the sinks, so that if you want it to go wash his hands or he needed to go brush his teeth, like he doesn't always have to wait for me to prepare the space, if he can do it himself so what are some other things that you have physically changed at home that have been like a game changer for you in this technique?
So for for younger children, I think, always having the shells with the toys at their level is very helpful, because I can't be independent if I can't reach for the things that I want myself. So just kind of adjusting everything to be the eye level, but also then keeping them in a way that is visible to them. So children usually look for toys because they want to do something- they have something that they're trying to fulfill whether it was the need to build something, or draw something or knock something over.
But if they go into a room and everything is in bins, and they can't see what they're looking for, then likelihood is they'll go in there and pour everything out, and then forget what they're actually looking for, make a huge mess, leave the room unsatisfied because they couldn't find what they were actually looking for and what may be forgotten. And it's just a cycle repeating itself. And one of the lines that I really love from Montessori that I read is only put out what you prepared to keep. And that really made me declutter and remove things that are not needed or things that were not, you know, really useful at this point in time we just had outgrown so that it'd be a lot neater.
And we're just more targeted in what we're putting out. So if you consider yourself, you know the most wonderful museum curator ever, you're curating that selection of toys for your kids curating what they see and what they have access to that low shelves are great. Yeah so low shells are great, like you said, you know, having the water pitcher they're having the glass there, you know, I would if you're just starting out with this, you know, the kids may play with the water. I might just put less water in it, because then there's only a limit to how much they could actually pour out. So, even when they give them like jam to spread their toast. I would take the jam out of the jar and put it in a little plate or saucer, so that they, that's the maximum that they can have. So they won’t go crazy and take all of it, and if they only use half that's perfect.
So these are ways_ they're small changes_ we're not changing that they have access to things, which is also putting on our parent cap and going, Hey, we got to limit some of this because our whole house might be covered in jam right. You're going to have art supplies out you know maybe make sure the washable kind, for a start, before moving on to anything permanent. And toys you know, if you want to leave them out, put them in clear bins, because then at least you can see what's inside. For young children, we have a tendency, the more the merrier, right we when we buy a box of Duplo the more in the box the better but it can be quite overwhelming. You could actually just use it to pour on the floor. So actually, having a select number like half the box, would be very useful as opposed to the whole box when they're very young, of course, as they get older, you know they want to do more sophisticated things and they're a lot more in control of their movement, and you can have more and more of these blocks out. So that's one. Another thing that I love, especially now with COVID. I think families are all not together as much as they like, is having family photos at eye level. Because we like to put photos that you know on the fridge something high, right, and the kids can’t see it, if you went on your knees and looked around there’s lots that you can’t see
Now that you mentioned it, my kids are running around the house taking the portraits that we have, and putting them in their own room. I thought it was a bit strange but then, you know, because it's all of a sudden this phase just started, and now that you're talking about it, and you say the sense of ownership is like they want to have some connection I guess with you somehow, by having a picture of you around or closer to them.
You decorate the house, and so you’re your child's role model right, so they're like this is how mommy makes the house beautiful, and my room deserves to be beautiful too and I love that it's like ownership so if they're making the house beautiful photos, you know, like remind them also, don't forget to pack up because your room is nice and neat. I'm so glad you picked up on that, it's so cute.
It's so nice.
At the beginning I was a bit afraid because it's you know the frame has that glass to protect the picture. And you never know, right you want to avoid accidents or something breaks in the room and glass being everywhere so at the beginning, the first thought was, like, should you even have that in your room because you're playing, you knock it over, somebody gets hurt, somehow, you're always in that hyper vigilant mode of certain things where you're like, Oh, I think that might be something that can be an accident, very quickly. But on the other hand, as you say, you also want to be able to take the lead, and if that is something that they are resonating with encouraging that, because it's part of giving them as you say that independence to make that choice.
So one of the ways that you could also have that is. I totally understand about the glass because sometimes we forget and they throw things, is to have a whiteboard with magnets is fantastic for that because I just swapped the photos and I also put their artwork. It's almost like their little museum. And I love it.
And then they feel they feel really proud and I love that sense of pride in children because the whole world is so ready to beat people down. I love that they've got that pride and they've been so happy.
I love all the tips you've shared this and this has been so valuable really, really good. I know we've mentioned that course you're teaching both parents and caregivers so many times, can you please tell the moms that are listening to this now where they can find you and where they can sign up for a course with you to teach them all about how to bring Montessori into your home,
thanks for the intro. So we've started, in order to cater to a lot of parents around the world now that COVID has allowed us to actually go online. We're doing a lot of private concepts. So you can get me at on Instagram @ welcometoTheBrightlife, and you can find me there and you can drop me a DM, and we do a lot of private sessions now because I think COVID has affected people very differently.
And, you know, in this way, both parents can attend and we can also then suit the parents timing better, like you know whether you want it all at one shot as a three hour session with me or you prefer like one hours one and a half hours. So, this is how we've responded to COVID Just because I think everyone's needs have changed during this pandemic. Yeah and also for classes in Singapore, then head on to Instagram because that's where we announced them.
Perfect, wonderful and amazing.
We will put all the links and all of your contact details into the show notes, so Moms, don't forget to look up no matter where you are located in the world. Victoria is there for you.
Another exciting workshop that we are going to be hosting and I'm so happy actually that we're going to be collaborating on that one, is the essential parent workshop where we're going to be combining everything that we spoke about today sort of the Montessori types, but also together with the holistic side of things, how can we help them naturally how can we further support the kids with natural solutions, including essential oils also like toxic free living at home since we are spending a lot more time at home with our kids. So keeping our families healthy at the same time and we're combining some of these elements together. And there is a link as well for that particular workshop that we're doing together, so we'll also put that in the show notes. Yeah, so awesome, thank you so much Victoria for chatting with us today.
Thank you for this powerful and such amazing insights into how we can effectively right now, start implementing the Montessori method at home with no equipment necessary, because a lot of it's in our mindset as well. Right.
Thank you so much. I had so much fun.
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Victoria is Singaporean and is mom to two incredibly active boys, and spends most of her time balancing work, her side hustles, and her family while trying to drink a cup of warm tea. She has a background in Montessori education and has been working with parents and caregivers for the last 4 years to help them bring Montessori into their homes.
Check out the collaboration course Victoria is doing with Desiree, that will combine tried & tested Montessori with the holistic approach for your family at home.
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