«I raise my children Montessori, but outside of our house "the real world" is anything but: what do I do?».
I answer this question a lot: when choosing an alternative education, how do you approach the "real world"? Parents write to me: «At school they use punishments and rewards, but a Montessori school is not an option for us; the grandparents, with all their good intentions, don't seem to be able to change their ways. At home we use Montessori, but in real life I feel like I can change very little. How do I help my children face the real world?».
First of all, it might be true that parents can't affect "real life" much, but I know for a fact that even parents who send their children to traditional schools or rely on grandparents for long hours a day can choose (and benefit from) Montessori, respectful parenting and/or positive discipline to raise their children at home.
Family (especially in the first six years) is the most important point of reference for a child. What we parents do at home is what makes the difference between the perception of right and wrong in our children's minds. This is exactly the help our children need to face the "real world".
I would also invite you to reflect on these words: "the real world". Talking about reality by referring to what we find outside of our house undervalues the choices we make at home. The long-term education that you've chosen to raise your children IS YOUR REALITY.
Believe it, make this choice a part of your lifestyle – not just some alternative method to raise kids – and I assure you that you will start seeing things differently.
We can't control others and their behaviour. The world out there will always be less ideal than what we can create for ourselves at home, where everything depends on us and on the work we are willing to do on ourselves. Long-term education is not about the outside world, it is an individual's intimate and personal journey that reflects on (and benefits) the whole family – and that, maybe, might inspire other individuals and other families.
And to answer the question "How do I help my children?" in more practical terms:
- Talk to them about other people's choices (teachers, grandparents ...), without judgment: just describe and point out the difference with what you, as a family, do at home;
- Ask your kids questions. Ask them what they felt when they heard a certain sentence ("If you don't stop running, I'll call the police") or when they saw a certain action (the teacher putting the friend in time-out);
- Ask them "What do we do in our family?" and use this expression "in our family" when addressing these topics, to point out that we can always choose to do differently from others, we can edcuate ourselves differently and choose the words we use, our behavior, our (re)actions: this can help our children understand that how we behave and the words we say are ALWAYS a personal choice.
- Be consistent in your choices. Don't give in to threats or "white lies" when nothing else seems to work. Don't perpetuate behaviors and mentalities that you don't want to see in your children. Trust the education you've chosen and believe in the change you want to promote. If we want the "real world" to be less and less different, we have to educate ourselves first.
Raising our children long-term might not seem like it makes sense in our present, but it will make a difference in their future.