From school to home: why so many parents adopt a Montessori lifestyle

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Founded upon child development, Montessori often serves as a “parent manual” for how to raise joyful, capable children

Montessori parenting is parenting with child development best practices in mind. It is informed by Montessori education, which is a system of learning that adapts to children rather than expecting children to adapt to one particular system.

Not all schools are founded upon a whole-child curriculum to create a relevant bridge to parents at home. However, the Montessori approach is distinctly rooted in human development from birth to maturity, and it empowers parents to support things like independence, motor skills, social and emotional skills, cognitive development, executive functioning, and more. 

This holistic approach is particularly relevant during the early years considering 90 percent of the child’s brain forms by kindergarten. Unsurprisingly, parents play an influential role in laying foundational skills like intrinsic motivation, critical thinking, and self esteem.

Montessori is not a researched parenting style, but many families describe it as its own influential approach 

The four recognized parenting styles are permissive, authoritarian, uninvolved, and authoritative. Montessori closely aligns with values of authoritative parenting, which is known for generating confident, self-motivated, higher-performing adults. 

Authoritative parenting strikes a healthy balance between the parent as a loving, reliable leader and the child who experiences autonomy with support. This aligns with Montessori where the role of the adult is to: 

  • Guide the child with love, communication, and respect 
  • Promote the child’s agency with clear boundaries and limits 
  • Treat the child as a unique individual 
  • Inspire the child’s learning, but never force it

In many ways, this “middle-ground” style — not overbearing, but not remiss — matches the ways that Montessori education systemically veers from factory-style conventional schools and less structured alternative schools.

Meeting the child on their level

Montessori advocates for adults to consider the child’s capabilities, readiness, needs, and interests. At school, this looks like delivering core knowledge in a sequential, flexible manner. A child doesn’t learn addition just because the rest of the class is learning addition. Instead, a series of math materials is accessible each day, and the guides individualize lessons based on each child’s readiness. 

At home, you can practice meeting your child on their level by:

  • Protecting down time for the young child. Going from one adult-led activity to the next can clash with the young child’s need to self-discover. Cultivate play as something they have time and space to choose.
  • Slowing down your words and movements. Children need more time to process what you say, and they also benefit from quietly observing how you do something.
  • Treating milestones of functional independence with a skills-based lens, free of arbitrary time pressures. Potty training shouldn’t start merely because you are ready; but because you’ve partnered closely with your child to match support to their readiness. 

Empowering your role as parent

Montessori parenting will look different in each home because it is designed to adapt to the child’s own culture, time and place. However, there are key values shared by Montessori parents around the world: 

The four key values of Montessori parenting include preparation, observation, curiosity, and patience.

Preparation – Montessori parents recognize the importance of emotionally grounding themselves and physically preparing their homes in order to guide children proactively, not reactively.

Observation – Montessori parents find time to neutrally observe their children as a “checks and balances” to preconceived notions. They recognize how easy it is to assume and judge children, whether positive or negative. By observing, they commit to learning their children apart from their influence.

Curiosity Montessori parents believe learning is lifelong, and they do not approach children as “all knowing.” Instead, they model and live by the traits and behaviors they desire for children to have –– including a love for the process of learning. 

Patience – Montessori parents build their capacity to be patient with children. They understand that a young child’s absorbent mind functions differently than the adult conscious mind, and they adjust their pace accordingly. 

Preparing your home for independence and inclusion

Montessori emphasizes experiential learning, where children learn through their own experiences. A prepared environment is essential for learning experiences to happen. This is not just purposeful in a classroom, but in the home too — where the young child spends a significant amount of time developing their sense of self.

  • Can they reach the sink to wash their face, or do they have to wait for you to wipe it for them? 
  • Can they sit in a chair that is sized for their body, or do they wobble in adult-sized furniture? 
  • Can they find toys of interest, or is everything thrown in bins without order?

A prepared environment at home is a way to safely include your child in aspects of daily family life. Setting your home up in this way offers full-circle support to their developmental need for independence, which builds additional life skills like motivation and concentration. When preparing your home environment, start with this beginner’s checklist:

1. Freedom: The room is accessible to a child, not just an adult. They are safely set up to do more things for themselves with adjustments like child-sized furniture, step stools, and child-size utensils or tools.

2. Structure and order: The room is orderly and logical, with every item having its own defined spot. 

3. Beauty: The room is interesting and visually pleasing, sparking the child’s interest and promoting focus. 

4. Nature and reality: The room includes elements and materials of the real, natural world, such as plants to care for and real imagery to absorb. 

In sum, Montessori values are highly relevant to everyday parenting. When you activate your child’s inner potential by meeting them on their level, guiding and preparing for their needs and interests, your child internalizes, “I am loved. I am respected. I am capable.” 

If values of curiosity, independence, and whole child development speak to you, then Montessori may be the right school choice for your family, too!