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In the Spotlight: Montessori Teacher Nirmala Gomez

Former MMS teacher, Nirmala Gomez, shares with us her approach to Montessori in the Home, connection to Maria Montessori, and a once in a lifetime visit to Dr Montessori’s former home in Amsterdam.

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At the recent MMS Open Day, you gave a talk on ‘Montessori in the Home’. What’s the most important aspect when preparing a Montessori home learning environment?
The most important aspect is to create a consistent learning environment between home and school. That way, it’s easier for your child to transition between the two environments. For instance, children are taught at school to pack away the material they are working on before moving to the next job. Similarly, at home your child should pack away a toy/game rather than abandon it in the middle of the living room floor. Encouraging this consistent behaviour reinforces this concept and teaches important practical life lessons like keeping their environment clean and tidy.

Montessori has a big focus on practical life skills. What’s the best way to emphasise this at home?
By teaching a child how to take care of themselves and the space around them at a young age, you’ll set your child up to be a capable adult later on. For our young children, flower arranging, watering the garden, or feeding a pet are age-appropriate activities. Our older kids can do more complex tasks like taking out the rubbish, assisting with meal preparation or home repair jobs. Remember, it’s about the process not the end product. Don’t re-do or correct a flower stalk that seems a bit skew-whiff in the vase or re-position the knife and fork when they’ve set the table. The process of learning and the enjoyment experienced from helping around the home is what matters most in your child’s development.

How else can I help set my child up for success at Montessori?
Your child is capable of more than you realise. They contribute in the classroom so give them the same opportunity to practise at home through:

  • Grace and Courtesy: Parents are the first educators for their child. Make sure you role model situations that require good manners like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or what to say when a guest arrives/leaves your house.
  • Language Skills: Encourage your child to enrich their language skills by integrating language learning into everyday life. For instance, make sure you speak clearly and use complete sentences; when preparing a meal, name the utensils (whisk, spatula, paring knife), food (broccoli, ravioli, hummus) and actions (chip, slice, grate) and use word games when you’re traveling in the car (I spy or 20 questions).
  • Maths Skills: Help your child to love Mathematics by giving them familiarity with numbers when cooking and measuring the ingredients, measuring how tall people are in the family with a tape measure, or going to the shops and counting how many apples you need.

I understand you have a connection to Maria Montessori. Could you please tell us more?
My Cycle 1 teacher, Miss Theodora Jayalath, met Maria Montessori when she travelled to Sri Lanka in 1945.

Miss Theodora Jayalath with her 'Inspirer' Dr Madame Montessori in 1945 during her visit to Sri Lanka.

Montessori has been such a large part of my life, from my early Cycle 1 and 2 education in Sri Lanka, studying to become a Montessori teacher at the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), and going on to teach at MMS for 27 years.

Tell me a Montessori-related personal/career highlight?
As part of my retirement year celebrations in 2018, my husband and I travelled to Amsterdam to visit the Maria Montessori House at the AMI head office which includes a museum, library and her former study. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so it was wonderful to walk in the footsteps of a woman who wrote a scientific pedagogy and revolutionised education through her philosophy of education, the Montessori Method, over 100 years ago.

Dr Maria Montessori's Former Study

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