I am delighted to share with you a new and super inspiring Montessori playgroup in Berlin set up by my friend Katelynn, also known on Instagram as @montessori.mother.
Katelynn is a Montessori 0-3 guide from the United States who recently opened Germany’s 1st Montessori Early Learning Center in Berlin. Her school, Montessori Mother ELC, is a place where toddlers and babies attend weekly Montessori classes to grow their independence, social awareness, curiosity, and self-esteem.
I asked her if we could have a virtual tour of her new classroom and am so grateful she said “yes”!
Hope you enjoy the tour and interview as much as I did. And that woodworking corner is equally scary and exciting. I need to increase my confidence with tools myself and think about adding one of these corners to my own classroom.
1. How did you find out about Montessori and get into working in Montessori?
My Montessori journey began in Moscow, Russia when another teacher gave me a copy of “The Secret of Childhood” by Maria Montessori. A couple of years later I received my AMI 0-3 Diploma in St. Petersburg. In Moscow I arranged Montessori home environments and gave private classes for babies and toddlers. I started Montessori Mother in 2017 to share advice and materials for using Montessori at home.
2. What do you find resonates most with you about the Montessori approach?
This a difficult question because EVERYTHING about the Montessori approach resonates with me deeply. When I look at the big picture, I think it’s that Montessori is an Education for Peace. For 100 years Montessori schools have been making the world a better place by providing the environment for growing free-thinking, responsible, and creative individuals who know their place in the world and have no limits when it comes the the skills they can learn or the places they can go.
I get to observe this this every day in my classes. For example, in one class I might have 10 toddlers, born in 10 different countries, learning 10 different languages — all sitting together at the group table, babbling the same beautiful babbles, serving each other bread and bananas, and shining through barriers.
3. How did you come to start your own playgroup? What have you enjoyed most? What has been most challenging?
When I first moved to Berlin I was surprised to find that Montessori wasn’t as widespread as I imagined it would be. I couldn’t find a single school or centre which I felt had a quality Montessori environment for children under 3. I posted on a local Facebook group for expat moms to start a Montessori playgroup, and was met by a community of enthusiastic and supportive parents.
One year later, I was teaching pop-up Montessori classes in 5 districts of the city and I was exhausted. I was transporting entire classroom setups across town multiple times daily. I spent more time setting up and deconstructing environments than I did teaching. While this provided a valuable learning experience to the children, our classrooms were still limited to how many materials I could fit in a car. I wanted a central location where I could offer a beautifully prepared, complete Montessori environment.
Finally in March 2019, I opened the door of Montessori Mother ELC to 56 families.
4. What is currently your favourite thing to do in the class with the children?
I love being able to provide a place where the children can follow their interests and discover new possibilities. One material I am especially proud of is our woodworking table which was built by my Montessori husband, Chad.
It’s one of the favourite activities in Montessori Toddler Class. Toddlers are fascinated by tools and the idea of using them, but very seldom have the opportunity to use them in a safe and constructive way. Even I did not learn how to use a saw until I was in my 20’s! Now the toddlers sit happily sawing, drilling, hammering and screwing/unscrewing away for upwards of 20 minutes!
We came up with a system where each of the 4 activities has its own woodblock. This block slides into an insert in the table which isolates the function of each tool and also holds the block stable while they work.
Small holes are pre-drilled in the hammering and screwing blocks so the toddlers can have more success. The drilling block has circles drawn where the toddlers know to drill the hole. The sawing block has three pieces of wood and a divot which both hold the dowel in place and show the child where to make their cut.
The safety limits of this area are: only one child may work at this station at a time; the tools may not leave the workstation; only one woodblock and tool may be in use at a time.
I really recommend this system and hope more and more Infant Communities will set up woodworking stations for their toddlers to enjoy.
5. What does a session look like in your playgroup?
I offer Montessori Classes for babies (2-16 months) and toddlers (16 months to 4 years). Each class includes a child-led work session with Montessori materials, a group snack time, and a music circle where parents and children enjoy singing songs together.
The school has five rooms which are adapted for the children. We have a garden, kitchen, and bathroom, and two large rooms for working with materials. The first is for practical life, art, and language. The second is for gross and fine motor development.
It was important to me that parents and children could work together in an environment prepared beautifully to fit both of their needs, so there is also a space for parents to relax, work, or enjoy some tea and coffee.
Thank you so much Katelynn for showing us around. If you are in Berlin, be sure to check out Katelynn’s website and the rest of us can follow along for even more inspiration on her Instagram and Facebook.