I am Alejandra, Montessori guide, mother and wife. My journey in education began over 17 years ago in Colombia where I am originally from. There, I studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology at La Sabana University. In 2011, I moved to California where I later received my Montessori Primary training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Soon after, I became a pioneer teacher for one of the first Montessori Spanish Immersion programs in the country with LePort Schools. And it is there that I spent the last seven years in the classroom, leading the Spanish Immersion program.
I am very passionate about both childhood development and language immersion. I have deeply loved and been inspired by the experiences I have shared with the children and families that have passed through my classroom over the last decade. It has been a unique and rewarding experience to share my language and culture with the children and see them grow into fluent Spanish speakers. I have also enjoyed supporting parents through the challenges they face with their children. No two families are alike – and I see that as something to be embraced.
This is how Immerse. was born. I saw such an amazing opportunity to reach out and help schools, teachers and parents who need support with the big and small challenges of their homes and classrooms.
When it comes to philosophies on parenting, teaching, and early childhood development, there are probably as many theories out there as there are children. And I am certainly not saying that my approach is the only one that works. But whether we are talking to our spouse, partner, teacher, childcare provider, or of course those internal conversations we have within ourselves, it is important to understand, consider and explore which approach makes the most sense to you and to those who are helping you raise your child.
For me, I’ve found that the Montessori method not only makes sense logically, but for years, I have seen it work so successfully for all different types of children. And no, you don’t have to enroll your child in a Montessori school to apply these principles at home, because at its core, it’s not about a specific set of materials and curriculum (yes, of course that exists too) but at its core, it’s about the way we view children and their world and how we respect them not only as human beings, but as individuals.
To begin, Montessori is a child-centered and child-guided method. The child is not an inert being waiting to be filled with knowledge. With their senses, children are capable of absorbing the world, culture, rules and practices that surround them, and through these experiences can adapt to their environment and acquire knowledge simply by living. This doesn’t mean we allow children to do whatever they want. This just means that we as adults should learn not to do everything for our children, or try to pour knowledge into their mind, but rather give them the appropriate conditions to facilitate the experiences they are ready for. And you’ll find they are ready for a lot more than we often think.
These conditions are found in a prepared environment. This is basically an environment that allows independence and freedom. This is achieved by offering the child an environment he or she can use and take care of independently (e.g. child size furniture, only appropriate toys or activities available, no cluttered spaces, etc). This environment also needs clear rules and limits (e.g. how to use and clean items, where and how we eat in our house, which activities are appropriate and when, etc). Having a structured environment with clear expectations and redirection allows the child to feel safe, adapt to the rules and values of his or her surroundings and be truly independent and free.
And all the above is possible thanks to a prepared adult. This adult knows he or she is not the builder of the child’s development, but a collaborator in this building process. He or she learns how to observe the child to identify and follow the child’s interests and signs of readiness. A prepared adult understands the child has different needs and ways of learning than adults do. This means, for example, that the adult shows the child how to carry a toy, instead of carrying it for the child; shows the child how to use a fork, instead of feeding him or her; offers the child only the necessary amount of help; and prepares the child’s environment so he or she can use everything needed instead of reaching and finding things for the child.
We are in front of a curious human being who loves to work (and by “work” I mean any activity that requires effort and concentration, even the ones that look like play), and who is eager for independence, who can reach high levels of concentration and deep engagement, who spontaneously absorbs his or her environment (this includes knowledge, as well as rules and social cues), and who has very specific windows and opportunities for learning that we don’t want to waste or ignore. Let’s become that prepared adult the child needs on this journey of becoming a kind, smart and fulfilled human being.
Dr. Maria Montessori laid the foundation for what is good and true for children. She developed what she called an “education for life”. This doesn’t prepare the child to answer questions and memorize knowledge, but to be a valuable and integral member of his or her family, school and society.
And while some of this may sound like an idealistic approach that sounds good in theory, I’m excited to share with you how to put this all into practice within those messy little details that make up our day-to-day lives.