This week, I had the pleasure of learning more about Maggie Trahan of @thelittleflowersschool. The thing that first attracted me to her Instagram account is the calmness and order that is evident in her photos. From scrolling through her posts, I can imagine both the laughter and discussion of the girls, as well as periods of time that would be focused and quiet. The environment is obviously prepared for the children spending time in it. I think her homeschooling story is so interesting, and I enjoyed getting to know her more through the interview. Thank you, Maggie!
Tell me about yourself...
I have been a teacher in some capacity since 2007. I started in traditional school as a pre-k aid and middle school sign language instructor. I have taught middle school and high school English, have been a permanent sub, and lead teacher in pre-k. My husband and I moved several times for his medical training before we settled in Atlanta for 5 years. We ultimately ended up back in Southwest Louisiana when my oldest child was ready for school. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a year in an elementary Montessori-style classroom. Now I stay at home with my daughter and niece.
How old are your children?
My son is 5.5
My daughter is 3.5
When did you first learn about Montessori?
I first learned about Montessori straight out of college when a good friend started assisting in a primary classroom.
How have you created a Prepared Environment in your home?
My children have their own space that is very accessible, and where they have freedom of choice. We have also made our kitchen and bathrooms more user friendly with appropriate step stools and tools. We also have a classroom set up in the house because I stay at home with my daughter and my sister's daughter (sometimes I have up to 5 girls in my home for Montessori style work cycles). Our classroom has recently morphed into a mobile classroom that can be tucked away at the end of the day.
What are your top 3 activities to do with your child or to watch your child do?
I love watching my kids do practical life work. Whether it is on a planned tray, or just work around the house, they get the most concentrated looks on their faces.
We just got some new dominoes that are emotion matching. I really enjoy playing this with my kids. It usually brings up great conversations; especially since we started using Generation Mindful.
I also really enjoy letter learning activities with both of my children. We play "I spy" with sandpaper letters and language objects. It is one of the activities that the whole family will get involved in.
How do you deal with toy/activity/material storage and rotation?
My son has lots of built-in shelving in his room. He keeps things he likes to have easily accessible at the bottom, and we rotate it out with storage baskets higher up. He has a desk chair that also folds out to a ladder, and he rotates his own things.
My daughter has a few low shelves in her room. We keep things in small baskets or trays. I rotate things out as she starts to lose interest. Her things are stored in plastic keepers in one of her closets. She also has an art shelf and table. I only keep things out that she can have freedom to choose at any given time. I keep messier or not so washable art materials put away. We usually pull them out when we are spending time together on the weekends.
What is your favourite part of your child’s play/work space?
I love that my children have freedom to choose, but also have a good system for putting things away after free play. Our work space is much the same. They are normalized to using the work with care, and putting it back on the carts ready to be used.
What benefits have you found in implementing the Montessori philosophy in your home?
I have found that I am a much calmer parent because I have learned to respect and trust my children. I also keep my home in order much better than I ever did before.
How do you help foster independence in your children?
I tell my children that they can do hard things, but also keep my home organized in a way that they can do most of what they need to without adult assistance.
Tell me about your home schooling journey.
For the year before I began homeschooling I said I never would do it. I said there was no way we would survive it. The thing is, homeschooling does not come with a manual, just like raising children doesn't. Every family has to do what works best for them, and what makes the most people happy. It is a balance. Some days I know not to push too hard to get to "work." Some days all we do is "work." It all evens out in the end. When it comes right down to it, more of our days are happy and calm, than they are hectic or upsetting. I have learned so much over the past year and a half from following great families on Instagram, Facebook, and their blogs. I have not picked up a single book on how to homeschool. I watch these amazing mothers and Montessori guides, and borrow what I like, what I know my kiddos will enjoy. The rest of the time I wing it. I do what feels right for us. At the end of the day the kids who come into my home get plenty of work time and play time, and are happy to do it all.
Follow Maggie on Instagram (@thelittleflowersschool) to follow her homeschooling journey and learn more!