DVMS Mom File: Caitland Tuinstra

By Jason Phillips

The other day, we came in to a wonderful email from one of our newer parents
describing the positive impacts Montessori has had on her children — one in
Casa and one still a toddler at home:

I just wanted to send you a note to say how much we appreciate your amazing
school and how pleased we are to have our son be a part of it.

It’s surprising how much our parenting style and techniques have been
changed and improved upon over the past year since our son’s enrollment in
your school. Our younger son, who is now 17 months old, initiates helping in
the kitchen with baking and even goes as far as pointing and grunting at
what he would like for breakfast and then pushes the stool over to the
counter where I have placed the items he has asked for so he can climb up to
help prepare his meal. He can’t speak yet but he can make his own breakfast.
This is attributed to watching his older brother over the span of his short
life become so independent as a direct result of your dedication to sticking
with what Maria Montessori had in mind when she created her school.

The other major change we have made is praising our kids’ efforts instead of
them directly; and let me just say that it is so amazing as a mother to
watch my toddler achieve a goal he’s been working toward and see the smile
come across his face, feeling proud of himself not because he got praise for
it from me, but because he is truly pleased with himself and his own
efforts. We look forward to watching our boys grow up to be intrinsically
motivated and, most of all, happy with themselves.

Thank you to you and your staff,

Caitland Tuinstra.

Awww shucks…thanks Caitland.

We wanted to share it here to, admittedly, toot our own horn a bit, but also
as an example of the great benefits Montessori can have not only for the
children directly involved but also for families and homelife. Caitland
graciously agreed to answer a few questions to let us delve a bit deeper
into how Montessori has impacted her family.

Can you tell us little bit about yourself and your family Cait?

I am an Early Childhood Educator who has worked for many years as a nanny
and am now home with my two boys. I grew up in Dundas and my husband,
Devin, grew up on a farm so we decided to settle in the country just outside
of town to raise our family.

We loved the story of how your 17-month-old wants to make his own breakfast just like his independent big brother (3-years-old). Can you share any more examples of your children’s independence?

Just after Rain began at DVMS he started to let our dog out of her cage
every morning and measure out her food and feed her and take her water bowl
to the bathroom sink and use the stool to fill it up. He also lets her out
on her leash and in as well. He is keen on making mom and dad breakfast in
bed, although we haven’t accepted the offer yet. Rain sets the table for
dinner, helps prepare meals, and loves baking.


Jarvis is extremely independent, trying to dress himself and put on his
boots and take his shoes off as well as getting down out of his stroller
and highchair. Last night he took all of the foods he wanted to eat out of
the pantry and placed it on his high chair tray. At the grocery store, he
walks beside me and helps to carry the groceries.

The other part of your lovely email discussed the ways in which you praise
your children, which is something we have been emphasizing regularly with reference to the work of Carol Dweck. How did you come to learn about the subtleties of praise?

When I was attending Mohawk College, I was lucky enough to have Karyn
Callaghan as one of my teachers. She is an amazing and passionate person and
a real advocate for children. She touched on the idea that children who are
not praised by adults become intrinsically motivated to do well because they
want to, rather than because they are told that they are doing well by an
authoritative figure. I didn’t completely understand this concept at the
time, being a person who was raised on praise in the public school system.
It wasn’t until Rain started at DVMS in the fall of 2012 that I fully
understood and adopted the concept.

Are there any other ways you have brought Montessori into your home? There are a number of resources dedicated to doing Montessori in the home, notably aidtolife.org; did or do you use any references?

We basically follow the philosophy of: if the kids are not hurting
themselves, each other, or wrecking anything, they get the green light to
explore their environment.kids_on_car (1) We also rarely told/tell them to be careful and,
in doing that, they have learned and are still learning what they are
capable of and their limitations and they rarely get hurt. When they do get
hurt, we don’t dwell on it and they seem to brush it off. The other benefit
we have noticed is the significant increase in their dexterity and motor
skills. Coming from my background in Early Childhood Education, sensory has
always been top of mind, so when the kids were babies we would do things
like place water or rice on a tray under their feet while they were in the
jolly jumper. Television waching is not a daily or even weekly occurance
for the kids in our home just because I’ve read studies about the drawbacks
that TV lends to children’s creative development, among other things. We
also both read the DVMS newsletter every month as well as this newsletter
(PATH). And when DVMS bring speakers in, one of us attends and gets a lot
out of it (so please bring some more inspirational people for us to learn
from Tony!! )

What advice would you give to other parents who want to try and bring a bit of Montessori into their homes?

We always try to slow down to our kids level and see the world through their
eyes, as well as empower them to grow within themselves as opposed to just
directing for the sake of directing them.

How did you and your husband come to find Montessori and choose it as the educational model for your children?

I am a HUGE fan of Chantal Kreviazuk, so when we found out she was playing at
DVMS a few years back we jumped at the chance to come and see her perform
in such an intimate setting, and it was an amazing concert!! When we were
there, we spoke with the staff (Sylvia mainly) and the number one thing we
noticed was that the staff were not in any way burnt out. And they were
really open and willing to answer any and all questions we had around
Montessori and the school itself.

Are the expectations you had for your children in Montessori close to what you’re seeing?

Absolutely! We continue to see positive growth within our kids and attribute
it to the Montessori lifestyle.

Thank you Caitland.swings

If you have tips or stories about bringing Montessori into your home, we’d love to hear them. Leave your comments below.

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