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Women We Love: Trina Tanlapco of @diycorporatemom and @alittlemontessori

Trina Tanlapco, known to many through her IG handle @diycorporatemom, fell in love with the Montesorri approach when she saw how it promotes respect for a child’s development and empowers children to take charge of their own learning- versus imposing knowledge on them. She founded @alittlemontessori, a shop where Parents can find hard-to-source materials so they could turn their houses into a Montessori home which encourages children to explore, use, and master their environment as an essential part of their learning.

She Talks chatted with Trina to learn more about her Montessori experience, and how Parents could make our homes more conducive for a child’s learning and development.

Photos courtesy of Trina Tanlapco (@diycorporatemom)

What is one mindset or idea that changed your life in terms of how children learn things?

I realized that a child learning on her own is infinitely better than a child being “taught”, however lovingly. I define “taught” as the adult putting knowledge in the child’s mind; worse drilling it in.

I discovered Montessori for my firstborn at 2 years old and adapted as I learned. They both went to the same Montessori school, but at home, our parenting had marked differences. I missed out some pretty crucial things I can now compare with parenting my second child with deeper understanding.

The value of real work : practical life and self-care. I did everything for my eldest out of overflowing, but misplaced love that she have everything she needed. I brought toys out of reach within her reach, played cutesy-spoon games to feed her myself, and overall, was very prepared-activities-based in my parenting. Not only was I very academic-oriented in why I was doing Montessori for my eldest, I also did everything “else” so that my eldest was only relegated to what I thought kids should do : just play. But with my youngest, I understood so much more a child’s desire to be part of her culture from the very beginning, and I embraced practical life and care-of-self as a first step. The energy that I would place on entertaining and doing everything possible for my eldest, I placed on preparing a home environment for practical life and put more physical order in our home for natural, free exploration for my youngest.

The differences are so clear to me. When Montessori said her method was “an education for life”, I now see what she meant. My eldest is whip-smart academic, but it was a retraining for life skills to do things on her own - to feed herself, even to think of what she would do if she was bored. In contrast, I see so much independent “executive functioning” and problem-solving skills in my youngest so early. Earlier this summer, my eldest was trying to open a knob-less pantry door, one where adults had no trouble because the edge to open was reachable. She asked for my help to reach up and open the door. But do you know what my youngest had figured out earlier? That she could reach under the bottom edge and open the pantry herself.

Photos courtesy of Trina Tanlapco (@diycorporatemom)

The value of waiting for readiness.

If I’m being honest, even with play-based learning with my eldest, it sometimes was like a race to learn. We did letter learning drills at two; she had ballet, art, yoga child classes, etc - these I no longer did for my second. I think such classes seem child-centred and play-based activities are fun but they were honestly still very “adultified”. With my second, I became aware of what it had been missing. That even if I package learning in a fun, hands-on way (my superficial understanding of Montessori), it’s still very much missing a “discovery of the first order”. It’s when a child discovers something through her own work. The adult and environment leads her to it, but tries not to rob the child of this joy. An early example is colors! I never taught my youngest the secondary colors. So when she mixed green on her own during a bath with coloured water for the first time, her eyes were full of wonder. When we wait for readiness, we are teaching something more : we are teaching a child how to learn. It’s a lifelong skill. An even wilder example is writing letters. We never did a single dotted-lines tracing work or used any tracing board, but at 4.5yo,she spent her first-day-ever of writing experience with two hours of chalkboard work perfecting her strokes.

Photos courtesy of Trina Tanlapco (@diycorporatemom)

2. What would your advice be to fellow moms who are challenged in adjusting to this school-from-home and work-from-home set up?

I’m really talking to myself here, too: parent yourself first. We put so much invisible strings and expectations on our children, and all of that is an unfair adult trigger of our own (mine was always triggered by a comparison). My worst parenting has happened in the first two months of school-from-home.

Aside from that I always rely on making changes to our prepared environment to feel immediate changes. There’s always a solution there and it helps me to feel in control of this situation where so many things have suddenly changed at the same time. Experts are always advising to have a routine to solve everything. But honestly, that’s an adult approach. If we were to be truly child-led, then we would know that a child’s response to her environment is the answer. For example, when we were trying to change our youngest’s bath schedule, I told yaya not to force her way, just turn off the aircon early and prepare a bath toy visible in the bathroom when she’s invited to have a bath. Zero conflicts!

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