This week I spoke with Melanie of @thisfrenchmom. She is a French mom of three boys, now living in the US. What I love most about Melanie's Instagram account is her ability to capture realistic experiences her children have, and to make it all look so uncomplicated. She shares wonderful ideas of how to bring nature into the home and inspiring activities. In this interview, she talks about a Prepared Environment for children of different ages, having two languages at home and how she deals with toy rotation. Hope you enjoy!
Tell me about yourself...
I'm Melanie. I am born and raised in France but I have been living in the US for 15 years now. I went to school for engineering and worked as an engineer for 12 years until I quit last year. I am now a stay at home mom and enjoying every minute of it.
How old are your children?
I have 3 boys: Alex 5, Matisse 3 and Theo 6 month old
When did you first learn about Montessori?
I had heard of Montessori at the time my first child was born. When I had to go back to work when he was 3 month old we started looking for a daycare and could not find anything we liked. Then based on what I had heard of Montessori we went to visit a Montessori school with an infant room and we loved it: the quiet quiet business of the classroom (does that make sense?), the focus of the children, the warmth, the teachers and the way they respected the children as whole people. We were lucky to have found an AMS certified school for our children to go to. As time has passed I have learned much more about Montessori via the school, books and also the internet.
How have you created a Prepared Environment in your home?
Our environment evolves constantly to meet the needs of my growing boys. My goal is that they can be as independent as possible and have as much of a "yes" space as possible. With every child and every age it is different though. Right now for my 3 and 5 year old it means their clothes are all accessible at their level and there are stools everywhere in the house so they can access what they need. My nearly 6 month old has a floor bed and since we think he will be crawling soon we are getting ready and changing all the bottom shelves to baby friendly materials (and locking a lot of the kitchen cabinets).
What are your top 3 activities to do with your children or to watch your children do?
We like to do art together and take walks outside. They pick up little treasures everywhere and notice things that most adults do not notice anymore, it is amazing to see how excited they are about everything. I love watching them focusing on their work: for Alex it is legos, Matisse it is how social he is (how he will read a book to his baby brother and care for him and how he wants to help with everything for example) and for Theo it is watching him try to crawl so hard.
How do deal with toy/activity/material storage and rotation?
I have a closet with what is not used at the moment, it is roughly organized but I mostly know where things are! I used to rotate every couple weeks however lately it has been harder as we are busier and I rotate much less often. However, if I notice a toy has been sitting on a shelf for 2 weeks and has not been touched I will go ahead and get another one. Certain toys never rotate such as the legos, cars and building blocks or anything they are still playing with.
What is your favourite part of your child’s play/work space?
I like that there is a couch for my husband and I to sit on so we can be with them while they play. I also love the light in that room.
What benefits have you found in implementing the Montessori philosophy in your home?
The biggest benefits I have seen is their independence. If they wake up early in the morning and are hungry (and mom and dad don't want to get out of bed yet :D) they will just go down and help themselves and to me this is amazing. They also will dress themselves and are very proud of their sock folding skills Alex learned at school and taught Matisse! There are many more little things like that that we can notice throughout the day.
How do you help foster independence in your children?
I adapt the environment to their needs so they can be independent. Also when we are trying to get something done and they are not doing it giving them the choice "do you want to do it yourself or do you need me to help you?" will more often than not get them to do it themselves.
You have a bilingual family. Tell me how that works in your home!
We are a French-English bilingual family as I am born and raised in France. At home we have used the "one face, one language" approach: I only speak French to the boys and my husband speaks English. Although they know I speak English (with my husband and pretty much everybody else than them) they do speak French back to me. I also have a large French home library. We use 2 shelves for the books in their bedroom: one for Dad (English) and one for me (French). This has worked great to know which book is which without having to send the boys back because they got the wrong language book which can be frustrating. I also prepare some jobs that are fully in French with the accompanying books. Then out of the home I try very hard to find a French community so that I am not the only French speaker the boys hear!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Since my boys go to a Montessori school I have few Montessori materials. To me Montessori is creating an environment that fosters independence, following their needs and interests and also having them help us with chores (adapted to their ages).
To learn more and follow along on Melanie's journey, check out her Instagram page (@thisfrenchmom).