I was so lucky to visit Atelier Montessori, a Montessori classroom in Lisbon, 2 weeks ago. It’s only 7 months old and is a fantastic introduction to Montessori in a country where this approach is not so well known or understood.
Set up for parents to learn on one side of a glass wall and the children on the other, this offering combines the importance of parent education (which you know I love!) with a beautiful learning environment for the children. To explain more, I asked Maria Antónia Boyen who started this project to share some of her vision…
Inspiring Montessori education in Lisbon
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your program and why you started it? What are the main things that families take away from coming to your classes?
I hadn’t been living in Portugal for 10 years. During this period, I discovered Montessori in Peru. An experience that started when Matheus, my first child, was born. Montessori took my full attention and I became passionate about it.
With my husband’s support, I opened a Montessori school in Peru. Returning to Portugal, I dreamt of having a Montessori school in my country. But having faced the economic and social changes of the last decade, I took some time to bring the project to life. I found myself reconsidering a different format of introducing Montessori in a place that was not familiar with this methodology.
A trip to Amsterdam and a short but very meaningful conversation with Simone changed my approach. “Everyone matters,” she said at a certain moment and bit by bit the idea of helping adults and not only the children, became stronger.
I believe most of the time parents or caregivers are just confused. With accurate information they can make a huge difference in their child’s life and in themselves.
In the Atelier, we organise workshops for adults twice a month and Montessori Sessions for children. But we also have sessions for parents together with their children and this is a fantastic opportunity to show how a Montessori cycle is meant to be!
If you give space to Montessori, there will be significant changes in daily life. This is the feedback we have received from parents most of the time.
This experience makes Montessori attainable.
We have sessions for two different groups:
- one group for children from 22 to 36 months old (who come twice per week)
- one group from 3 to 6 years old.
Atelier Montessori has won over many parents in this time. They see it as a place where individuals are respected and provides exceptional conditions for learning with their own rhythm. Children love it and often parents establish a personalised routine combined with school.
2. What is your vision for the coming years?
Considering the growing interest, there is only one way. Atelier must support families that wish to include Montessori in their lives. People around us have big expectations and, at this stage, I can only mention that we have many different projects underway and we hope to make them public very soon.
3. What do you find resonates most with you about the Montessori approach?
Maria Montessori’s message is full of layers. It is a constant discovery process.
There was a time that knowing about sensitive periods seemed to be essential and extremely useful to better read my children. Later on “observation” was of great value for me.
The exercise of controlling your own thoughts and prejudices, slowing one’s rhythm to follow the child was a huge exercise and, after constant practice, it seems is the only way possible to be constructive with children. Controlling ourselves as the adult so that we can guide the child.
4. What is your favourite thing happening in the classroom at the moment?
The ability to personally reach each child and be excited by their little victories, seeing a special expression of happiness in their faces.
You can recall those first happy moments of your childhood and share with them how fascinating the world can be. By bonding, they show unique talents and personality.
Being a participant in this process gives you a daily emotional state of peace. That peace, present in the classroom and observed by some parents, profoundly touches them to tears. It is really amazing!
Those are the moments that give you fuel to continue working.
5. What is one thing you would recommend to a family reading this to introduce Montessori into their daily life.
Make space for your own transformation in order to be a guide to your children and let yourself be guided by the Montessori message.
Show respect for your child, otherwise you are not creating conditions for a new life to flourish. “Respect” in Montessori is at the centre of everything. In the classroom we teach respect for culture, for nature, for differences between children. But we also show respect for their rhythm, space,and concentration by removing obstacles.
If you, as an adult, prepare yourself with this in mind, you will provide significant education and will lead your child to be incredibly well-balanced in the future.
Education starts from you because you are sharing life!
The following are some photos of the parent’s area
So, do you agree that it is one of the most beautiful spaces. I love the natural elements throughout the space, the natural light, and that low kitchen (!). Everything has been so thoughtfully put together for both the children and the parents.
Montessori is sure to take off in Portugal with this as an example.