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Friday, October 8, 2021

Montessori with Teens - Guest Post with Sarah Moudry

Today I'm happy to welcome Sarah Moudry to The Kavanaugh Report. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah and her children a couple of years ago and was inspired by seeing Montessori in action with adolescences. Sarah is an AMI- trained Montessori teacher and parent. She runs the wonderful Studio June, Montessori play spaces and consults with families and schools around the world. Don't miss her books, Toliet Awareness and First Foods to Family Meals. Enjoy this look at Montessori parenting with teens!

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I often get asked, “What does Montessori look like for teens?” For young children, because of the explosion of social media posts labeled Montessori, the general belief is that Montessori is perfectly placed wooden toys on natural low shelves, and tiny sinks and dishes. That can definitely be part of it. However, the way I see it is Montessori is how we live together as a family and in a community. And sometimes that means we have beautiful spaces, and sometimes that means we get messy, and sometimes that means we need to rethink our process, and it often means we have meaningful conversation as a family.


So now that my children are in Middle and High school, yes, we still have a Montessori home. We have spaces that are prepared for different activities, we value individual responsibility and community mindedness, we compost and garden, we have family meals, and everyone here knows how to cook a meal.



We recently chose to move to a more urban setting. We did this for many reasons, but one was to make the city more accessible to our children. Our home can not contain all the things they want to try, do, and experience. We want them to meet other people, see businesses, use public transportation, and see and know their city. This move required that we downsize a bit. 


The idea was, we have a smaller living space, and we do more living outside of our home. It has been a difficult change at times (mainly because of COVID-19), but after about seven months, they are getting the hang of it. They all can walk, bike, skateboard, or ride the bus to school. And when they are home, we have made sure to provide for Montessori elements that we hold in high regard and protect. We work to maintain a simple and tidy house, yet support their independence in activities and ideas.


Concentration - It just looks different in adolescents. Sometimes they can listen to music and work on algebra. Sometimes they need to be in a quiet space. They are each different, as now their individual personalities are more pronounced, and they are more aware of their preferences as well as what is “good for them.” We allow them the freedom to find what works for them, as long as they are able to get their work done, whether it is school work, art work, gardening, woodworking, or cooking.



Environment - I have always coached parents to have each community area of the house prepared for all those who use it, and the bedrooms personalized for only those who sleep there. I strive to continue this in our home today. We no longer need a low cabinet for dishes, and instead all of our dishes are in one cabinet.  We don’t need low shelves in the living room, because they can all reach the high shelves. And we no longer need special chairs for them to reach the dining room table. So in many ways our house looks like other houses with teens. What is different is that our children spent their early years learning how to recognize and satisfy their own needs, how to see a need in the environment, and how to take care of their community. When they are hungry, they make a snack. When there is a spill on the floor, they clean it up (usually). 


There are a few physical differences in our home that make it look like a Montessori home.

For one, we have an excessive amount of board and card games. Family games are essential to healthy competition as well as collaboration. A couple of our current favorites are Hues and Cues, Spaceteam, and Rummikub.


Additionally we have a maker space. We have made the dining area smaller to accommodate a large table for painting, building, sewing, soldering...you name it. We have a Cricut, a sewing machine, a 3-d printer, lego, wood, fabric, adhesives...we invest in real tools that encourage them to be creative and ingenuitive.



Thirdly, we have an indoor garden. Hydroponics. When they were little we started seeds indoors and transferred them outdoors then tended to them in the summer. But now they have each studied hydroponics at school, and we have taken our garden to the next level. We have year round tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs! 


Independence - We continue to support their growing independence. They now have a focus on moving around the city independently. So we have taught them bike safety and public transportation etiquette. We do not have any drivers yet, although old enough, they are taking their time with this as they are able to get where they need without the use of a car.


They are also very focussed on financial independence. They each want a job, but only one of them is old enough right now. They have bank accounts they manage, and we talk with them regularly about how to manage money. In the simplest of ways, they feel confident in stopping for a snack on their way home from school. In more complex ways they have learned to save, donate, and invest.



There are many Montessori families that are living life as they always have, just now they have adolescents. (@mamliberated @homegrownurban)They are on social media, but because teens have more choice in whether their image is used online, and parents of teens don’t always have a phone at the ready to capture each moment (seriously, I am the shortest in my family now, so it’s hard to get a cute picture with my whole child in the photo), we don’t have the same kind of following. We are not doing Tik Tok dances, or amazing videos of independent baking. We are just living life as a connected family and sharing when we have time.



Thanks for reading. If you have questions about Montessori life I am happy to answer them. You can find me at sarah@familyfrienldyhome.com and you can follow me @sarahmoudry @thestudiojune and @familyfriendlyhome


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Thank you so much Sarah for sharing your expertise in this area! It makes me really excited for this phase of Montessori parenting!


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