I am delighted to share with you a conversation I had recently with Andrea Coventry, a Montessori-child-turned-educator. She’s a writer as well, with lots of Montessori- and education-related articles to her credit. To find out more, you can visit her Facebook page.
I felt like talking to Andrea could help us, as parents and teachers, better understand how Montessori shapes a child’s mind, and what kind of adults our Montessori children will turn out to be.
Lori: Hi, Andrea! Thanks for taking some time to answer my questions.
Andrea: You are very welcome!
Lori: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you attend Montessori school and for how long?
Andrea: I attended Westside Montessori Center in Toledo, OH from the age of 3 1/2 through 6th grade.
Lori: Wow, so you were in Montessori for a long time! Why did your parents choose Montessori for you?
Andrea: I learned how to read on my own by the age of 2. My parents were running their own business, and my younger sister had just been born. They realized I needed stimulation. A family friend recommended Montessori to them. My father says that as soon as he walked in, he knew it was right for me.
Lori: What are some favorite memories from being in Montessori school?
Andrea: I loved the feeling of independence and following what I wanted to learn. I loved the close relationships and mutual respect I had with my teachers. I always got my work done so that I could also sit and read in the book corner. The owner of the school had a golden retriever who came to school every day and served as a surrogate pet for years.
For French class we got to go to both Canada and France for true cultural experiences. In 6th grade, I wrote a play and we put it on for our parents. I still have the videotape somewhere.
Lori: That sounds amazing, like you truly had the freedom to study what appealed to you. I know you love all the Montessori materials, but what was your favorite?
Andrea: I was a total math nerd, and I loved the spindle boxes when I was little and the test tube division in Elementary. As an educator, I love the moveable alphabet and the golden bead material.
Lori: Now for the nitty-gritty. How do you feel that Montessori impacted you – academically, emotionally, psychologically?
Andrea: For both my sister and me, Montessori taught us to be independent studiers and thinkers. If we want to know about something, we dive into learning as much about it as we can. We can question authority when appropriate, yet are respectful of rules and boundaries. I don’t want to sound like a rebel, but I’m not a conformist, either.
We both have been able to do whatever we set our minds to and be successful. I also learned how to be an observer of people, which as a Montessori educator is essential.
Lori: Would you choose Montessori for your own kids and why?
Andrea: Yes, I definitely would! Having grown up in Montessori, it is just the most natural route for me to go. Plus, the home I grew up in was naturally Montessori, even if my parents didn’t realize it at the time. For me, there is no other option.
Lori: What’s something helpful that Montessori parents and teachers should know about what it’s like for a child to be in a Montessori program?
Andrea: I find that parents often worry that children will have too much trouble adapting when they leave Montessori. While there is a period of adjustment, it’s no different than any time you change schools, churches, or move to a different neighborhood.
Usually, we Montessori children have been given tools to help us adapt well to different circumstances, or at least how to cope with change. It’s often the parents who have trouble adjusting.
Lori: That’s a great point – we sometimes project our own fears about change on our kids, don’t we?
Andrea: Yes, we do. It helps to realize that.
Lori: Someone on my Montessori Facebook page asked a great question. They wondered if children with a Montessori education have a hard time adjusting to life in the workplace.
In other words, is it hard to follow a schedule, deadlines, etc. when you’ve had so much freedom to pursue learning on your own timetable?
Andrea: I think we become used to thinking outside of the box, and it can be frustrating if and when we end up working for more rigid people. Just like with any job, it’s important to find the job within the career that best suits your personality. There is usually someone out there who respects and appreciates your unique way of thinking.
Often we are able to bring more to the table because we have learned how to work with other people, negotiate, plan, and bring out our creative sides. My sister and I were both taught how to be leaders in our own rights, and have gone on to do so in our respective careers.
As deadlines are a part of the natural world, we are used to following and meeting them. Schedules can provide an outline of what we need to do with our time. I personally function best with having a routine, and the freedom to do what I want within those parameters.
I think each individual in general will have their own issues, but not necessarily because they are Montessori children. We just get singled out because we are a subset of society.
Lori: Andrea, thank you so much for your time. This has been awesome, and for me, it’s only confirmed that I am doing the right thing by promoting Montessori and by having my own children in Montessori education.
Andrea: Thank you for having me at your blog!
Just a note: I’m pretty sure Andrea will come by to check on comments, so if you have any other thoughts or questions for her, please go ahead and leave a comment!