Anna Jost, a well-known Montessori blogger in Europe and mother of two, recently sat down with Higher Ground Education to share her Montessori journey, the beauty of Montessori elementary, and advice on supporting Montessori elementary children at home. Anna has 3-6 Montessori training and is in the finishing stages of completing her 6-12 Montessori diploma through the Montessori Akademie in Vienna.
You can follow Anna's blog, Eltern vom Mars, which can be translated from German to English using browser settings.
Listen to Anna’s interview here:
Q: What inspired you to start your blog?
Actually, my daughter did. That's where my story starts. As a baby, she was a very loud, screaming child, and in the beginning, I was very unsettled as a mother. But I wanted to know a lot and read a lot of books on this topic by Emmi Pikler, Magda Gerber, and Maria Montessori herself.
Then I began to understand that children are not exactly what I imagined them to be. It was a deep wish of mine to understand my child better, so I kept reading more and more books about it. Then we visited a Montessori playgroup once a week, and for the first time, I saw what it means to live Montessori in practice.
Later, my daughter came to this toddler group. During that time, I started a training as a Montessori teacher for 6-12. At home, I also tried to implement Montessori, and it inspired me so much. It was so nice to see what kids are capable of, so I decided to write a blog about it, called Parents from Mars.
Q: I understand you were a traditional teacher before taking Montessori training. How has your view of education shifted since then?
I visited the Academy of Education in Graz (Austria), and at that time I heard about Montessori during my studies but did not really know what that meant. Then I worked in public school in Vienna for 7 years. But it had always been difficult for me to work in mainstream schools because I always had the feeling that I never really had time for the children. I was lost in paperwork and time always seemed to be short.
But then I did the Montessori training for the elementary school, and only then did I understand that learning is different and that we need to rethink the school completely. Then I decided to follow this path, because it works. Between Montessori and the regular school is already a serious difference. The regular school is more teacher-oriented. Montessori is child-oriented, and thus the two are completely different worlds.
Q: What led you to choose Montessori for your children?
Of course, because I want the best for my children. But I also believe in peace education and that children are growing into a new generation that could be more capable. Yes, that is what I support, and I believe in it, and I would like to see my children and later grandchildren contribute to this.
Q: What makes Montessori at the elementary level unique?
The cosmic education, thinking and acting cosmically. This is so impressive for me! That everything is connected, and we look at the world like that. But not only that, we can be thankful for so much. And through this way of thinking, what we convey to the children at Montessori, through this networked thinking, that we feel so much gratitude, and so the children really feel a love for this world, for nature. I think it’s more important than ever to protect our nature right now. I think that’s the beginning of this peace education.
Q: How does a Montessori elementary program support social/emotional development?
In contrast to the regular school, where children often sit alone at their benches and work on worksheets, the children at Montessori schools are constantly working in partnership. They work together, although they are responsible for themselves, but they also care about their environment (the group room) and must also bear responsibility for each other. And that through the whole day.
I think that's what makes kids acquire these particular social skills. Otherwise, if they only work alone and just sit at the same place and have to write and fill in worksheets, they will not be able to acquire all that.
Q: What advice do you have for supporting Montessori elementary at home?
I would rather tell how I accompany my Montessori schoolchild at home. For example, when we go shopping, we first write the grocery list together, calculate how much money we will need for shopping, and then, when we are really there in the shop, I leave a lot of things to my daughter. Also pay cash to the cashier. It makes her so proud every time, and she learns so much!
I also make sure that my children spend very little time watching TV. My daughter was only 6 years old when she was allowed to watch TV for the first time. It's important to me that my children can experience the world in real life. That's why my daughter has neither a mobile phone nor a tablet. Instead, we do a lot of walking. We are often on the road, discovering museums or new exhibitions or exploring everything possible in nature. The real world has so much to offer!
What I still do at home is to avoid contests in my everyday life with my daughter. I do not try to animate them with “who is first, wins” games. Much more I want to give her the feeling that together we can bring it much further. So, we rather put everything together. I encourage them that we can go even further as a team. Meanwhile, we also have board games such as chess or Uno, and I think these games are wonderful. Then I try to be a role model to my daughter in how I handle it if I lose or win in these games.
My daughter also asks me a lot of questions, and what is important to me is not to give her all the answers right away. Instead, I ask back. I tell her, “Oh, exciting question! Let’s look in a book,” “... go to the library” or "... what do you think about that?” I ask her as well, and we talk about these things.
At this age (6-12) it is of course important that the children can do a lot of self-management. But what they “scream” quite loud is that they want to think independently. And I try, as much as possible, to support this at home.