Interview with Zainab of The Montessori Studio
You may or may not be following along on Instagram, where I am sharing my journey of homeschooling Layla during this pandemic. I feel like I am starting from scratch, so I have reached out to some Montessorians to help me learn how to be the best homeschooler I can be!
Today's interview is with Zainab Shamis-Saleem, the founder of The Montessori Studio in London. I love that her mission is to help families feel confident and comfortable implementing Montessori principles in their homes. I also appreciate how open-minded she is and the message that families need to do what works best for them. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Tell me about yourself...
I’m Zainab, founder of The Montessori Studio based in London. I’ve been a practitioner for 9 years and started TMS just before I had my daughter 4 years ago. I now also have a son who is 2. I run workshops and consults for parents and carers, for anyone wanting to support their child’s learning journey using the Montessori Approach. I also write for blogs and magazines, and host events for communities and families and currently working on some online courses which is really exciting.
What advice do you have for families that want to homeschool, but don't know where to start?
Homeschooling is not as daunting as it can seem. There are many wonderful communities and support systems online and in real life so in no way are you stepping into this new endeavour alone.
Read up before you begin, and see the journey as much for yourself as it is for your child. Julie Bogart is a great writer to start with her title The Brave Learner. John Taylor Gatto too, if you want to know about how to unpick learning as you know it so far. And if in any doubt, head outside. They will learn so much by being in nature.
How do you feel about homeschooling your children?
My children are still before mainstream school age, so we approach learning in a very relaxed way. I would be happy for them to not be pushed to read or write for a while yet. Being adaptable and relinquishing control feel like increasingly important approaches to take, as the more I worry, the harder it feels, and it takes the joy out of it for me.
Where do you get inspiration? What are your favourite Montessori blogs, accounts and books?
I have wonderfully experienced homeschooling friends who inspire me no end. I also still take inspiration from Maria’s original writings. They are heavy going but have stuck with me from day one as insightful, gentle and forward thinking.
How We Montessori is a great blog for ideas, Nusaibah from Rumi Montessori was one of my early teachers and practices Montessori from an Islamic point of view excellently. Carine from Montessori family UK has been a support to me and so many others starting businesses and supporting their local community.
What's your favourite Montessori material or activity and why?
Hard question! I love so many of them! The colour boxes, particularly 3, have always topped my list. Rarely have I met a child who didn't enjoy colour and object matching and I find it ridiculously satisfying! I also adore the world map puzzles because... maps + puzzles = ️love
How are you practicing self-care during the pandemic?
Thankfully I have family support during this unusual time, so I have been able to carry a book with me almost everywhere and actually read with vigour in pockets here and there. That and real rest from the energy of going out everyday has been an unexpected gift. I love going out daily, but I also love early nights, it seems. Watching the season, watching the sun, witnessing the passing of the day fills my heart and soul.
What would you have to consider before starting to homeschool? How might it look for you?
I would hasten to try to make it work for us all if I (and my husband) felt it would be what was right for the child/ren. I don't see it as a fixed alternative to mainstream schooling, I see it as something that can be done alongside and in support of it, and of course on its own too. During this lockdown we have tended toward a morning time and basket which has really worked well for my two young ones and I think a manageable level of organisation would be key for me to continue in the longer term. We have also leaned into time without anything planned to just feel pressure free, which really has been important for love and connection between us as a family.