Parenting Challenges in the Global Village: A Summary


We thought we’d end this year’s newsletters with a summary of the talk by Ms Rukmani Ramachandran from Navadisha Montessori Foundation, as part of the series of talks from Indian Montessori Foundation (IMF). Her talk was titled “Parenting Challenges in the Global Village,” and the details were shared on the broadcast groups for all classrooms.


She began the session by breaking the participants in small groups to discuss what we perceived as a major parenting challenge. A list of challenges that came up were, inability to set limits for children, entitlement among children and challenges of parenting in a joint family. She said she would like to go back to the principles of Montessori theory and practice, as that is what we have most experience with. We would end up getting most of the answers from Dr. Montessori’s talks. Dr. M said she had ‘discovered’ the child. Humans have been on the earth for over 40 million years! In the light of this knowledge, it is a very weighty statement to make that she has “discovered” the child! She believed that we don’t actually “see” the child and that the child’s true nature is always hidden from us. She believed she had discovered the secret which made the child reveal themselves truly to us!


Humans themselves haven’t changed much from when we became bipedal and able to influence the environment around us with the large brains that we were gifted by evolution. Not much has changed from the early hunter gatherer times. Like them, we still look to orient ourselves when we go to a new place – we ask ourselves, where is the closest grocery store, where can I buy clothes; we look for a shelter and we tend to beautify the place we call home. Besides, the fundamental needs of food, shelter, and clothing, like early humans, we have spiritual needs of love of the finer things. For all that we profess that we have come so far away from the early humans, if we think about it, not much has actually changed.


So, in the light of this, why and what are parenting challenges today? We seem to believe that the life of the earlier generation was somehow easier than ours… If we think back, the generation that saw WWII probably thought that they are the generation going through the most crisis. This kind of puts the current pandemic in perspective. Montessori’s ideas transcend time. They focus on the unchanging! The child is born in a timeless world.


If we were to look at parents from all generations, they, from time immemorial, have wanted a good, happy life for their children. Our challenge today is: how do we support our child to lead a good happy life? Our environment today confuses even us, as adults! How do we help this child in today’s confusing times? She gave an example of the mall which is not just a physical space selling goods alone. They sell dreams, they sell a lifestyle, a “need” that we do not have! It is in this confusing physical, moral, emotional, intellectual environment that we must raise children. How do we identify these problems in order to solve them? Sometimes, we are so tired and anxious that it affects the way we engage with our children.


She moved onto what she believes is a key challenge that we face today – we don’t have time today! We jump into the shower, we spin around the kitchen, we rush to the grocery store, we are impatient at the toll plaza or the bill counter. So much so that we walk fast, talk fast, and want people around us to work faster as well. We multi-task all the time, thinking we are being effective. Many of us have not had an oil bath in years! Our lives are ruled by urgency and hurry!


She spoke of how she sees teachers these days in a perennial rush all the time as well. She spoke of her own anecdote when she was a freshly minted Montessori graduate and in her first year of training, she was exhausted by the load of work in school and she was perennially tired! She had built a sand pit under a mango tree that she spent a lot of money on (which she realised later that she didn’t need at all 😊). She would send the children away to go play after a small work cycle and when her trainer observed this, she came up to her and told her that the children didn’t need playtime; it was she who was tired. Why was she asking the children to play when in fact, it was she who needed a break? It was because she hadn’t looked at her own needs. When she became aware, the class transformed. What the children needed was devoted attention and time from the adults. Are we giving this to our children?


The child, on the other hand, is born timeless. He is born in the present moment and does not know the past or care to predict the future. He has all the time in the world! This is a huge challenge for the child, which calls us to awareness. The only way to snatch back time is to observe oneself. Until we become aware that we are rushing, we will not be able to help us and the child. As a human being we owe it to ourselves, to study oneself and be aware and mindful. We have to be worthy of the child.


So, this leads us to what she thinks is the solution. The philosophy provides us the answers. She urged us all to clock every activity of our day, in the time it took for one whole 24-hour cycle. This would help us a tool for reflection. We do not have time because we don’t know how to plan. Despite having all the latest planning gadgets and fancy stationery to organize our lives, we still lack time. Planning is an act of creation; it is a craft. A craft is a skill that we learn through experience. We cannot get it right the first time around, it needs practice… the first time we planned for a huge dinner party, something was sure to go wrong! When you build experience, then your ability improves.


In the past, during the 1940’s, cooking was much harder than it is now. Nothing in the shop was available readymade back then, so much so that even wheat flour had to be bought as kernels and taken to the mill to be ground and stored in large quantities, ensuring that it does not get spoilt. However, today, with a press of a button, wheat flour gets delivered at our doorstep. ‘Long term planning’ was a part of life then. Today, feeding into instant gratification, everything is available as we wish for it. Back then, most homes were frugal and simple things like Coca Cola, which needed to be shared among siblings, were a treasure to be cherished!


Planning requires long term thought. Where is long term in today’s times? When we don’t plan, we have to do things that very instant and this then leads to stress which we blame on the lack of time, and not lack of planning! Summer holidays in the 90’s were planned months in advance. Planning needs flexibility, a cushion for things to not go as expected. We choose not to do this and blame it on the lack of time!


Planning means saying no! She cited an example of a doctor’s appointment. If we know that we have an appointment to meet the doctor at 10 am, do we say no to the parenting challenge webinar which starts at 9 am and goes on till 12 noon?  We instead convince ourselves, that on the way to the doctor’s office, we will login to Zoom and listen to the seminar. We never end up fully listening, because we are constantly interrupted. All this because we have been unable to say no and prioritize! We have to learn to prioritize our day into what we would love to do and what we have to do. It ends up being that for most of us, what we have to do takes priority over what we love to do. That’s when dissatisfaction creeps in. In order to be able to do what we love to do, we will have to learn the art of saying no to a few that we have to do!


Planning can be enjoyable if we truly are able to think long term and work backwards in smaller chunks. Planning gives the room for pleasure! She quoted Dr M’s “Work is rest and rest in work.”


While this does not immediately strike out as being a parenting challenge, if we as a parent don’t have time for our children, then what are the children experiencing from us? They experience rush, hurry, irritation and so on. We are unable to focus on the small pleasures that the child has all the time for! The ant crawling on the ground, the flower that has just bloomed, looking out of the window and seeing the birds along with our children – do we have time for all this with them?


Children need endless time and need our complete focus and attention. Albeit, for a window of time, but do we truly give them that undivided attention? It is better to have one attentive adult to many children rather than having many adults for a group of children, who are on their phone, distracted by conversations with other adults, unaware of the child’s needs! When we have time for ourselves, we are relaxed, and so more present for the child.


She left us with the thought that, while being able to say no and prioritizing are key aspects of planning, any good plan is contingent on order, consistency, and routine. There is no human life without order. For adult life to thrive, we must establish a routine and order. It seems to be common these days for families to say that they do not have time to eat together as a family! She insisted that this is not a statement of pride and that each family needs to invest in planning to eat together. Food is most relished when done in a social unit together. This requires planning and adjusting for each other’s times so that the family can enjoy one meal at least together. This requires committing and honoring each other’s commitment.


This talk was truly inspiring for us a school. We have committed to introspect and see how we can plan better for the upcoming year and wisely invest our time.

Transitioning to The Second Plane: What to Expect As Your Child Nears 6

A remark that we often hear from the parent community is the magic of the 3rd or 4th year (depending if the child started their primary journey at 2.5 years or 3.5 years), when their child turns 5 plus and how many are looking forward to the magic. So, we thought it would be a good idea to address how and what needs to be done for this to occur!

We will start with a brief overview of what happens in that final year of primary classroom (3-6 years mixed age). This ‘older child’ who is now the role model or leader was once the three-year old, who was looking up in awe of his/her older peers and learned the skills of becoming a guide for the younger ones and can now easily navigate through the structure of the community. One of the biggest advantages of a mixed-age group is this community where children take on their roles organically with very minimal adult intervention. This child is now able to exercise the self-control that he has been practicing diligently and is able to place the groups needs above their own! They become the discipline keepers and typically tend to point out those that are ‘not following the rules’ Often this is perceived as tattle telling by the adult, but the child is merely exercising his/her moral compass. The egalitarian nature of the Montessori classroom reinforces to them that knowledge is to be shared and by helping another, we crystallise our own learning.

However, this does not happen automatically when the child hits the chronological age of 5 or more. This is more a culmination of all that the child has seen at home and in the classroom and absorbed as a part of his psyche. This could happen earlier for some children and later in others. These skills are fostered throughout a child’s time in the Montessori classroom and at home living life every day, gaining independence (provided it is offered to the child) and solidified in that final year. This really is, as Maria Montessori writes in the Absorbent Mind, ‘Education for Life’.

Montessori preschool, done well, is a 3-4 year cycle, where there is a partnership and clear understanding of how a child learns. They typically start at age three and spend a lot of time learning foundational skills during the next two years. They spend time learning to strengthen their arm, wrist and hand muscles doing activities such as pouring water, washing tables, transferring objects with spoons etc. While the direct aim is to refine the pincer grip, this aids in building the ever-so important Independence, that we keep harping on! All of this has a layered effect on the personality of the 5.5-year-old in the final magical year.

They also develop the skill of concentrating, by building the pink tower, fixing the puzzle pieces of the various continents and colouring in the maps and much more. Working in an uninterrupted manner is crucial as it affects the concentration which indirectly leads to poor sitting tolerance in later years. It also affects the confidence of the child and hence it is important to be aware if the adult has become the obstacle for this blooming child.

They are gradually introduced to the letters of the alphabet with sound games and by tracing sandpaper letters and will begin to build words with the moveable alphabet, and start to learn about math with number rods, spindles, and the bead materials. An in-built trait of all of these activities is the ability to choose independently, complete multi-step processes, focus for extended periods of time on a activity while building increasing social emotional skills such as asking for help politely and helping a peer with a task they are struggling with and more.

While all of this can be mechanically taught to the child, care needs to be taken to look for these subtler indicators of readiness. Learning only occurs in a healthy brain that is ready to absorb. While a child can copy off the board with enough repetition, true writing is an expression of the child’s inner thoughts. For that to occur, it is crucial that the child be ready with an explosive vocabulary which should be given in abundance in the younger years. A rich early-years foundation is key to the final year children being good readers and writers.

Having said that, once the child has honed these foundational skills, reading and writing are keys to independence. It is our moral responsibility to ensure that children are reading and writing comfortably when they can do so, else we will be doing them a dis-service. If the child is resisting any of these activities, it is key that we find out where the resistance is coming from and look for means to make it joyful. Art is one such powerful medium to encourage a love of writing and reading to the children copiously is a great habit to inculcate, right from infancy.

All of these are beautifully layered one over the other and so it is imperative that each layer is woven with care and attention. If all this occurs, then the magic happens in the final year, where the children make a huge leap in their capabilities. It seems like an explosion but is actually a well curated journey for the child. Montessori cannot be piecemealed as it is a delicately balanced structure that depends upon many factors such as the home and school environment not being too starkly different from each other, consistency shown by all the adults, a dependable routine for the child, respectfully set limits and adherence to boundaries and many such Montessori principles. The gift of this final year should never be taken away, as it sets the child up for future academic and social success, provided all these foundational tasks are set in place in the preceding years.

The Joy of Writing: A Teacher’s Perspective

Babies are exposed to a wide variety of sounds, from the cooker whistling, to pets barking and meowing, to cartoon characters emitting funny noises. Somehow, they manage to sort through all of these alien noises, and take away what is necessary for their own survival on earth – human language. They listen carefully and are soon able to not just respond, but also produce, meaningful words on their own. Children manage to figure out so much on their own – eating, standing, walking. Why, then, should reading and writing take any concentrated effort on the adult’s part? How come the child doesn’t just manifest these processes independently too?

In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori says that for children below the age of six, ‘…nature grants them (of) learning to write without making special and conscious efforts of application and will.’ She talks about an ‘explosion’ into writing which starts when the child learns to talk, and culminates in their joyfully and spontaneously forming words, sentences, paragraphs, all on their own.

This may seem like a completely unreal ideal to parents who are struggling with children resisting writing. There’s no denying that writing is a far more nuanced task than the physiological tasks I quoted as examples earlier, such as eating or walking. These tasks are purely mechanical. Writing, on the other hand, requires dexterity that’s not just manual, but also intellectual. Both the hand and the mind have to be prepared in order for the child to eventually write. Rather than waiting until the age of five or six to start, the beauty of the Montessori method lies in the child slowly being prepared over the years, isolating one level of difficulty at a time.

When you pause to think about it, so much goes into writing. A writing instrument has to be grasped in a perfect pincer, with enough force to make a mark on the paper without tearing through it. Hand-eye coordination is required to move that pencil in the way you want it to. Visual cognition ensures the symbols we call letters are mapped clearly, while memory skills are required to associate each to the appropriate sound. Neural connections and auditory discrimination need to be finetuned to translate those visual memories onto paper in a recognizable sequence, in the left-to-right, top-to-bottom manner in which we write as a society. On top of all this, the emerging writer needs to have the resilience and discipline to labour through each of these steps any time they want to put a thought onto paper. Which brings us to the most important consideration – the person writing needs to have something to write about in the first place.

Over the three years a child spends in the Primary classroom, each of these skills are isolated and practiced in a myriad of beautiful, instinctive, developmentally appropriate ways. I won’t get into the mechanics, because I firmly believe it is the school’s responsibility to ensure these aspects get addressed.

Instead, I want to talk about something close to my heart – just because someone knows how to write doesn’t mean they will. When children don’t write despite the mechanics being in place, it’s an opportunity to reflect.

Is there a point to their writing? We all agree that writing ‘I will not talk in class’ 100 times is a punishment. However, how is it that different from writing words like ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ multiple times? Worksheets and word lists rarely motivate children after the novelty value fades off. There’s no end goal other than submitting them for an adult to evaluate and be pleased about.

Compare this, instead, to writing out a grocery list of ingredients, which the child then takes to the store and gathers. Making up a recipe, dreaming up an experiment, creating an invitation to a playdate: all of these are examples of children writing down their own thoughts, and expressing their own preferences. It is a privilege witnessing a child’s first incredulous realization that the ideas in their head can be understood by someone looking at a piece of paper they worked on!

Of course, in order for this to succeed, the child needs to have ample practice having opinions and expressing themselves. Technically, the process of writing starts when your child is born, and you start talking to them – using rich vocabulary and expressing opinions, you are modeling the process of communication for them.

Do invite dialogue at every opportunity. It is vital to encourage children to talk for themselves rather than rushing to fill in the gaps in their sentences, or answering for them. This translates into them knowing their opinions are valued, and gives them the confidence to eventually transfer their thoughts onto paper when they are equipped with the tools to do so.

Are they the only ones writing? Children are remarkably astute. Just as they know to hold mobile phones carefully because the adults around them do, they also know what the adults consider unimportant for themselves. No amount of talking about how important writing is can inspire them as much as modeling writing can. Model writing exactly how you’d like your child to write – not as a chore, on a scrap of paper torn off randomly, or in a tearing hurry.

Treat yourself to good quality stationery. Find a dedicated spot in your house with good lighting and a flat surface to place your paper on. Play music, if that works for you. Consider your words carefully. Delight in taking the time to write in your best handwriting. Make it a ritual you genuinely find joy in for yourself, rather than a ‘teaching’ opportunity for your child. Children are good at sensing authenticity 🙂

When my daughter was just starting to identify sounds with letters, we would take turns forming words with magnetic lowercase letters on our fridge. I would also make her lunchbox doodles that were phonetic (‘big hug’ etc).

As she started forming letters, we would take turns giving each other challenges (‘List all the things you see which are red’ etc). We would write on a chalkboard easel to begin with, so that she could freely move around in between writing. Another favourite at this time was writing word labels for the things in the room (‘window,’ ‘curtain’ etc) and scrambling them, then matching each label to the object as quickly as we could.

We would also make posters for her room that were mind-maps on discussions we had, such as what she wanted to be when she grew up, or what to remember to do daily. When she was able to form sentences, we set up a post box in our home, and started writing letters to each other. She also has a writing station where she has pre-cut ruled and unruled paper in various colours with ribbons and other book-making supplies. All of these little ideas help us write whenever inspiration strikes, without any elaborate prep work.

Honestly, there are plenty of incredible ideas for pre-writers on online forums and Pinterest boards. If I were to sum up what worked for us, however, it was this: watch your child, follow your instincts, and enjoy yourself. Don’t stress about the mechanics such as handwriting or spelling. Remember that’s the school’s job, and they’ll reach out if they need further help from home. As parents, we get to enjoy sparking passion in our children and watching them find their own motivation for writing!

Partnering With Parents: A Teacher’s Perspective

COVID 19 has been the talk of the town ever since its inception and man does it know how to make an entry and steal the thunder! The problem with a pandemic is not only the pandemic but what comes along with it as well. A major part of the population has never experienced it, nor have they ever thought about battling it. When the survival seems bleak that is when the greatest gift of humanity kicks in and we start accepting and adapting. After having innumerable meetings and a lot of uplifting conversations we had to accept the inevitable reality that this virus is here to stay, and we must work around it.

This was also a great time for the Montessori community all around the world to come together and brainstorm and come up with ideas that best suit the situation. Maria Montessori, having been through a pandemic herself knew about the difficulties faced while living through a pandemic and that never shook her philosophy of work. Montessori methodology does not depend on only physical material available in the environment, which are carefully thought over and designed in a specialised way, but other materials can be substituted as well. A major part of the pedagogy, however, are the observations which help to plan future course of action which was not possible virtually. This gave us a great platform to work with the parents and build a stronger bond in the partnership to help the child.

The year normally begins with the child first adapting to the environment and getting comfortable and then the work is presented and then begin the observation to see where the child’s curiosity leads them. As we moved closer towards starting virtual session we kept wondering as to what can be done about this key aspect which is when we had to trust the partnership with the parents as they become our eyes at home which brings us to the next step, which was to communicate what and how to observe. The workshop conducted throughout the year were a sneak peak of what happens in the class but more so often the most important aspect of observation is left out as that in itself is a huge topic in itself and no matter how much time we spend on it, we’d just scrape the tip of the iceberg.

A decision had to be made to best support the child and that lead to us then educating the partners through the process of observation which would not only give a better perspective but also help us plan through. The webinars held on some of the frequently asked topics before the virtual sessions started were a great help as that was helping the parents gear up for what followed. In the weeks ahead, the conference calls were a great help and the conversations helped the parents understand our point of view and the suggestions made were a great help as well.

During these challenging times it was great to see that despite the different challenges that each one of us faced we are working through some of those challenges if not all to make learning a joyful experience. As time goes on, we are sure that this bond will only grow stronger and the parents have enough resources to carry out the Montessori philosophy at home to best support the child. I would like to end this note knowing that the parents are genuinely trying to work with us, and we shall come out of this with some great memories.

The Montessori Method & Ancient Indian Practices


Over the last 4 months, ever since we have gone into lockdown to fight the Novel Coronavirus, like most of us, I’ve had time to introspect on a lot of things, primary among them being the Montessori Way of Learning.

With re-runs of Mahabharata and Ramayana running nonstop on Satellite Television, it made me wonder, MONTESSORI education system is not a novel idea for us Indians. In fact the basic facets of Montessori education can find their roots deeply embedded within the ancient ‘Gurukul’ system of learning.

Look at the instances of Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan, going to Guru Vasishtha’s hermitage or of the Pandavas and Kauravas going to Guru Dronacharya’s ashram. While all the students of the gurukul were taught the same lessons, over a period of time, the individuality of the person would come to the fore and be the primary skill of the person. That is the reason why you had students graduating with varying skill sets. These were brothers of varying ages, going to the same gurukuls, learning the same lessons and graduating at the same time, but the unique trait of each one stood out.

The princes resided in ashrams in the middle of the forest, with just the basic amenities being provided. They had to study with fellow students belonging to different walks of life, develop relationships with them, forage into the forest for their day to day meal and help the matron of the ashram with domestic chores. The princes had no choice other than to be independent and had to complete any work given to them. The princes were exposed to a whole gamut of subjects, basic home management skills, geography, history, economics, mathematics, political sciences, medicine, etc. This made the students completely rounded and capable of facing any situation.

We all have read about the likes of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya travelling to Takshashila in modern day Afghanistan, in the quest for knowledge and learning the real time application of the knowledge obtained. We have also read about travelers from far away lands visiting our nation and quenching their thirst for knowledge at the world-renowned Nalanda University. This also has kindled me to research more into such parallels that exist in other cultures and religions as well.

In all the examples I have cited above, there is a pattern that emerges. All these places of learning were built on 3 cornerstones.

  1. Making the child independent.
  2. Providing the children an insight into all subjects and aspects of life.
  3. Nurturing the child’s individual talent

Are these not the same corner stones on which the Montessori Education system is based upon?  The more I delve deeper into this subject there is one conclusion that I come to. This has very much been the fabric of our ancient system as well.

Anthea Study Circle: August, 2019

Anthea Montessori invites parents to a voluntary monthly Study Circle where we discuss a few chapters from books relevant to parenting and Montessori education. We understand it may not be possible for all parents to attend, so we thought we’d begin summarizing the minutes.

Nine parents, including one new entrant to the Study Circle, met on 28th August to discuss chapters 4-9 from the book Creative Development in the Child, Vol 1. We briefly discussed the need for more new parents to hear ideas like the ones discussed in the book – possibly at the pregnancy stage itself, so that they are truly prepared for having a child.Continue reading

Is the Montessori Pedagogy Still Relevant?

More than 100 years since Dr. Maria Montessori began her work with children, schools around the world follow the pedagogy she outlined.More than 100 years since Dr. Maria Montessori began her work with children, schools around the world follow the pedagogy she outlined. And yet, it goes without saying that we live in very different times. Isn’t the Montessori philosophy outdated in a world filled with technology and nuclear families?Continue reading