About a few weeks ago, I came across a comment relating to one of my popular blog posts entitled, “A Woman’s Water Birth Story,” where I featured a friend’s water birthing experience here in the Philippines. It came from a certain reader named, Mars M. and I am just so happy that my post on that subject has helped her out discover her options in her current pregnancy.
Little did I know that it would be a start of a good communication between us, and as I’ve looked closely into who she really is by clicking her profile, it came to me that she is also a blogger! I visited her site and I just love how she pours herself into what she loves writing about — education and kids.
Today, it is my joy to take you to the heart and soul of Mars Medina of “Montessori in Mars,” a young but promising personal site on Montessori, motherhood and more! I initially intended to sit down with her as I do this interview but since she is pregnant, we mutually decided to see each other again sometime after she gives birth.
Who is Mars, and what is Montessori in Mars all about?
I have been called Mars way before “mars”, “teh”, “girl”, “sis” became such a thing in the country. Since I became a trained Montessori pre-school teacher, handling children ages 2.5 to 6; I have been called Teacher Mars (although variations abound and my favorite so far is “Teacher Mouse”).
In my case, it was not that I always, always wanted to be a teacher. Actually, after getting an AB-Communications degree from Ateneo, I went on to work briefly for what was then my dream company, AC Nielsen Philippines, a market research agency (when I was there, they printed my calling card wrong — it said “Associate Director” under my name and at that time I giddily thought that could be auspicious and that I would one day be an associate director in a multinational company).
I did become a directress though (and janitor and night guard), for 2 years, when I put up my own little casa dei bambini or Montessori children’s house, in a small rural community.
I write about Montessori activities and anecdotes, principles, ponderings, and projects on my blog, Montessori in Mars. I encourage parents, to go more than buying toys here and there for their children, and to personally prepare and endearingly DIY some activities for them to enjoy–some ideas for this can be found on my blog.
And since the baby is coming some time in July/August, I hope to write about my experiences and experiments as a mother by then as well.
What can we expect from your blog, Montessori in Mars?
Aside from my little variations to Montessori activities and my own inventions which I test on the children in my classes and in our family, I plan to manufacture (with some modifications) traditional Montessori materials and make them easily available for purchase for every home (I’m announcing this for the first time here at Moomy Musings)! Presentation sheets (details of how to work on the material) and worksheets will be available for download on the blog.
So if you’re a homeschooling mommy, a thoughtful and purposeful parent, and you want to incorporate Montessori in your home and into your child’s learning experience, then this is something to excitedly expect from Montessori in Mars. That’s part of my efforts to let more children experience the Montessori difference.
Tell us something about how and why you started blogging.
I admittedly do not have a very good memory, but, after checking my oldest blog post, I found that I started to blog in 2009; precisely because I admittedly do not have a very good memory.
That year, 2009, was my first time to handle a boy diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified and I wanted, needed to write about him, so that I would remember and so that I can think more about him and how we would persevere with PDD-NOS. I thought then that maybe through writing, I can take just the right amount of steps back so that I can have a better sense of the world he’s in and so that I can also take a closer and more honest look at myself as his teacher.
It worked well, I got a lot of guidance and encouragement from fellow teachers who blogged at that time and we made a lot of progress (he enjoyed pouring water and working on the continent maps; and more importantly, he gained friends). This boy is now in a prestigious big school, doing well, according to his dad.
What makes your blog unique from other blogs?
I think that because I write mostly as a Montessori teacher, and soon, a Montessori mom; I’m bound to say the word Montessori more than other blogs.
More seriously though, I think that because I write mostly about tweaks I made on classic Montessori lessons because I found they worked better for the children I’ve worked with or about activities I invented altogether to address a child or classroom’s particular need, one’s bound to find an original thing or two in there.
What is the best thing about being a blogger?
I’ve always said that one of my goals in life is for what I do to have an intangible benefit, a good that I would not, could not be able to see or reap. When I became a teacher, I thought I was in a good place to start that goal. Now that I’m a blogger, it’s great that I get to think that I reach more people. The ideas and activities I have can benefit not just the children in my classes or in my family, but also, possibly, children I will never even meet!
And it’s great that I get to connect with different people, too, and learn so many things from them as well.
As a teacher, what is the best advice that you can give to parents in supporting their child’s education?
One of the more well known catch phrases in Montessori is “Help Me Do It Myself” and based on this, I encourage parents to help equip their children to be able to independently do as many things as they can. In a Montessori classroom, for example, children are taught how to fix their own milk/juice, spread jam on bread, set their own space for eating, eat independently, pack away after, and even wash the dishes they used. Children enjoy doing these things; they take pride in being contributing members of our classroom community.
In the same manner, I encourage parents to create a home environment and set-up that would increasingly allow the child to be a more engaged, independent, self-motivated, contributing part of the family; and eventually, of society. While this would usually mean some mess in your kitchen (especially in the beginning) and needing more time to do certain tasks (isn’t it just easier to dress them up ourselves instead of waiting for them to do it by themselves?), give your child the gift of space (a prepared environment) and the gift of time—and I guarantee you, you are giving them something that they would take through life.
Another important thing that I would like to stress is for parents to observe their child and respect his/her rhythm. I know that there is a lot of external pressure here and there for children having to be able to read, write, and add by three years old, etc. But remember that every child is different and every child has his/her own pace. Follow the pace of the child. And instead of insisting things they have to know, focus on and nurture their attitude towards and love for exploration and learning.
What is your favorite blog post so far?
It’s one I wrote a while back, Memory and Reading. Because it is, according to readers’ comments, packed with information; and because it still amazes me how a very simple material I invented for a child with a reading concern–a mat with three boxes–had such a profound effect on revolutionizing the way we teach reading in our school.
Another recent favorite is Storytelling with Papercutting: Fish. I have always wanted to write and publish a children’s book (maybe one day) so I always enjoy inventing stories for children. The ones in my classes always seem to find it in their hearts to show me that they liked the stories I make. But to have adults, bloggers, mothers, teachers appreciate my invented story-with-a-craft is heartwarming.
What is the sweetest reward for you being a teacher?
Aside from the occasional Red Ribbon mamon or bag of gummy bears or homemade cookies the children gladly insist on sharing with me, the sweetest reward is witnessing that very moment when a child suddenly realizes that he can do something he wasn’t capable of before — that’s when they smile the sweetest, I think.
Once you become a mom, what kind of parenting style do you think you’ll have?
I’m quite obviously going to be a Montessori mom. Montessori is more than its approach to education; it is, essentially; a way of thinking, a lifestyle. So I’ll definitely be doing my best to live up to Montessori principles and philosophies (some of which I talked about here), which are resonated somehow in Attachment, Natural, Democratic, and Active Parenting.
What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
Until we move to our own new house, it’s messing up my mom’s living room and kitchen as I do my arts and crafts and experiment on materials and activities.
And also recently, at nights I make soft sounds and subtle stirs to see if my husband would wake up just as he should when the baby arrives. And in the early mornings, I cook breakfast while belting out songs from Wicked–so basically, since I can’t sleep all that well these days, I wake everyone else up!
How do you see yourself 5 years from now?
At around this time in 5 years, aside from debating with my husband on whether to homeschool our child or send him/her to a big school for elementary (my husband is such a “true blue” that if we’re having a boy, he’s bound to go to Ateneo), I see myself travelling somewhere with my husband and our little 5-year-old. By that time, my child would have already worked with the Montessori continent puzzles and maps and other geography materials, so it would be nice to explore a country for real with him/her by then.
And I’d still be doing my best to fill our home with love and furniture (my husband and I joke that when we move to our new house, we won’t be able to afford anything else other than a mattress and a ref, so hopefully there’d be more furniture 5 years from now).
Any bucket list that you want to cross out this year?
This year, it would be to have my own business, a brand of modified Montessori materials and other learning tools. So I would need buckets of backups and a steady supply of support from you all!
Do you believe in the saying, “Spare the rod, spoil a child?”
If we’re talking about “the rod” as punitive discipline (including face-the-walls and time-outs), then I’m really not a believer of that since I’m always talking and thinking about more creative ways to achieve more desirable results.
And in my experience, I found that usually, to modify or redirect behavior, it is often more effective to control the environment rather than to control the child. For example, there was a year when some children kept on running around the classroom even if a usual Montessori classroom rule is that we walk in our school. After much careful thought, I changed the classroom layout, rearranged the shelves in such a way that there is enough space for work, but not for running.
Mary Conroy and Kitty Williams Bravo, The Montessori Approach to Discipline: “Whether in the home or the classroom it is important to keep in mind the ultimate goal of discipline. Too often we discipline for the moment, hastily solving the present problem, but possibly creating future ones. Disciplining with the long-range goal means keeping in mind the independent adult you want your child to become.”
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? How about with your husband/partner?
When I’m not teaching or blogging, these days I enjoy losing myself in good books and classic movies; creating materials and activities for children; trying crafts I see elsewhere; watching our cats; and going out with my sisters and my mom who looks just like we’re sisters, my husband’s sisters, and my best friend who doesn’t have a sister so I’m that to her.
Once a month though, my husband and I go out to try a new restaurant. But we said that every September would be for Antonio’s in Tagaytay where we got married last year. We also cherish visiting the house that we’re having built and daydreaming about our baby and our little family of three.
Mars: “I also enjoy cooking and coercing my husband to say that what I end up with was good.”
Any message for the parent readers of Moomy Musings and Montessori in Mars?
Congratulations and thank you for reading through that entire thing! That was lengthy already that okay, I’d make this one short and sweet.
You know how Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” So here’s to all of us, doing just that.
I don’t know with you but after my journey to Mar’s heart, it makes me feel more excited as to what wonderful doors of opportunities will open for her. I recommend that you visit her site and take advantage of her knowledge and passion on encouraging us become more understanding, supporting and loving parents to our children through the resources that she personally does and picks.
Thank you so much Mars for gracing my my blog and letting us look into your heart of hearts. I am truly glad that a lot of moms are now are becoming “purposeful” bloggers, and yours is such a great example to emulate.
Please visit Mar’s blog, Montessorri in Mars, http://montessoriinmars.blogspot.com/.