I have been a Montessori teacher for almost 25 years. For fifteen years I worked in nurseries, thirteen of those years running and teaching in my own nursery. However, after a while it became very unsatisfying. I felt disconnected from the Montessori community, and from the local community I lived in. When my mother became ill, I took the opportunity to leave the nursery to look after her, but when she recovered I decided not to go back. I spent time with my son, dropping him off and picking him up from school, which I had never been able to do before, and began thinking what I could do next.
On one of these school runs, I bumped into some former clients who were struggling to find flexible childcare which my old nursery didn't offer. They asked if I had ever thought about childminding. I hadn't really considered it, but they begged me to at least think about it. So I did......
Ten years later and I still love my job. Childminding has offered flexibility, not only to the parents but to me and my family. But what about the Montessori element of it? When I first started I didn't have any of the Montessori materials, just some of my son's old toys. I began to re-read Montessori's books and suddenly things which hadn't been at the forefront during my time in nurseries began to fall into place. Montessori wasn't predominantly about the materials on the shelves, but about the philosophy. Suddenly, many of Dr Montessori's words made perfect sense. None more so than “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” To me, this is what both Montessori education and childminding are essentially about.
As a childminder I am far more connected to my local area. We say "good morning" to the bus driver and the lollipop lady. When we're talking about Chinese New Year I can take the children to visit Chinatown. And although I live in an urban environment, there are lots of green spaces and wild areas to explore. I have also become more connected to the Montessori community. I have discovered that I'm not alone in taking Montessori into the home. There are quite a few Montessori childminders out there. Through the Montessori Schools Association we were able to find each other and meet at each other's settings all over the country.
It is my belief that childminding is a way forward for Montessori education, bringing it into the community and widening people's knowledge, and is something we are pushing for at a grass roots level, from training and teaching practice to becoming involved in the decision making process at higher levels of Montessori organisations. But I also believe that Montessori is a way forward for childminding. As we become more pro-active and professional, and come to be seen as such, I feel that more childminders will become attracted to pedagogies like Reggio Emilia and Montessori.