Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Montessori Mentoring: Help for the Family

In our 4th parenting discussion led by Dr. Steve McFadyen-Ketchum (who is retired now!), we focused on how couples can work together, as a team, to bring up their children.  Here are notes from the last meeting.
What do lunchtime phone calls, bedtime Skyping and scheduled text messages all have in common?  They are predictable ways Mom and Dad can touch base with each other throughout the day, whether one is out of town or between surgeries, a few time zones away or just stuck at work late.

These are some of the ways our couples have tried to support one another in raising young kids.  Coming up with a plan to communicate and following through are key, says Dr. Steve.  We may not have seen our own mom and dad parenting this way, so we may need some help picturing how this works.

Enter the mentor.  Or mentors, I should say!  Because, according to Kerry Ann Rockquemore from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, there are many different types of mentors, each of whom helps us in a specific way.  Rockquemore came to town to give a lecture to university professors on the importance of mentors in the life of academics, from graduate students to post-docs to tenure track assistant professors and beyond.  A lot of her information seems to me to apply to marriage and family life, too, so I'll review some of her key points:

Carving out time on the calendar to meet other couples, or just go out without your children, is part of making your marriage and family life a priority.  It's a win-win:  a stronger marriage is a wonderful gift for your kids!

Rockquemore says to academics:  Identify your needs and get them met.  Ask yourself how many of the needs of academics may apply to you as a parent or teacher (I won't include all of the ones she mentioned):
  • A mentor to tell you how to do things (for example, how do you Skype?)
  • A mentor to give you emotional support, to "hold your hand"
  • A mentor to introduce you to the intellectual community (a book club, parenting group or Montessori co-op)
  • A mentor to serve as a role model (parents with children of similar ages, interests, special needs, or with similar professional demands or similar financial straits or similar faith background)
  • A mentor to hold you accountable for what matters (a spiritual director who understands your marriage and children, or another Montessori teacher who can remind you of your goals)
One of my mentors told me to get a good calendar...
...and as a homeschooler I use the calendar along with a Teacher's Planner.
Different people will fulfill different roles for you.  It's a shame that I often see young parents who are only friends with other young parents, lacking role models and mentors.  They may be confident of advice they read on the internet, but lack support when they encounter questions or problems best addressed by a mentor.

Some of the other things that Rockquemore said about academics which also apply to parents of young children (both in their relationship as a couple and as parents to young children) are:
  • Things that matter the most (such as discipline, routine, character development) have the least built-in accountability on a daily basis.  How can we make sure to check how we are doing on a regular, frequent basis?  Have we set specific goals for our children or for our marriage?
  • Do we align our time with our priorities?  In other words, if we look back over the day and over the week, have we spent our time in a way that makes sense, given our goals?  For instance, if we want to work on better communication in our marriage, have we set aside some uninterrupted time to communicate?
  • The most productive people don't wait for big uninterrupted blocks of time to work towards a goal.  In other words, whether you want to improve your communication within marriage or help your toddler learn his letter sounds, start with small, frequent assignments instead of waiting for a week-long trip to the beach with your spouse or a month-long boot camp on phonics.
  • Perfectionism reduces productivity.  Don't wait until all of the conditions are right to start working on improvement--just make a plan and start working on it.
  • Problems arise from poor day-to-day decisions, and these can have a snowball effect.  Be careful!  Our family has a habit of doing a daily examen of conscience at night.  Maybe you could apply this to your goals, too?
I try to keep track of the progress of the children who come to use the Montessori materials during our open class time and during our weekly Atrium time.  Everybody needs some kind of system!  It doesn't have to be this.  Actually, just taking photos of the children working is a decent way of keeping track, too.

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