The two-hour sessions are open to all parents and carers of children from birth to five and will take place over six consecutive Saturdays at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, in January and November 2014.
Each session will focus on a different aspect of the Montessori method, including the role of the parent, play, encouraging independent behaviour at home and stimulating the child’s learning journey.
Topics also include daily routines – sleeping, eating and potty-training, and setting boundaries.
The workshops have been developed as part of the charity’s Community Manifesto, which was launched last year, a two-year plan for widening access to the Montessori method to include the most disadvantaged communities.
MCI pulled out of running Government-funded CANparent parenting classes earlier this year, citing excessive bureaucracy and low take-up as reasons for its withdrawal.
However, following a Montessori for Families event at the V&A Museum of Childhood in October, which more than 150 parents and children attended, as well as other initiatives as part of the charity’s partnership with the venue, such as providing Montessori family packs to under fives visiting the museum, the January 2014 courses have been filled more than two months before the official booking deadline. Afternoon sessions have now been added to the programme to meet demand.
Barbara Isaacs, director of national strategy at Montessori Centre International, suggested that running their own courses meant MCI could reach more of their target demographic.
She said, ‘Although the CANparent parenting classes obviously didn’t work out, they sparked lots of other things for us, and we learned lots of ways to do things differently. Projects inspired by our Community Manifesto have shown us that we have got a contribution to make, and we have been able to reach a much more diverse, international and less traditional Montessori community than we were able to as part of the Camden project.’
Among the lessons the charity learned from the project was the importance of allowing parents to share their experiences among themselves, so online articles and other materials will be included in the 2014 courses. It also made the decision to refer to its sessions as ‘workshops’, rather than ‘classes’.
Other initiatives developed as a result of the manifesto include a Montessori for childminders course, three community interest companies in disadvantaged areas of the UK, and a teenage pregnancy project in Bristol, which gives young mothers the opportunity to study for the Montessori Foundation Certificate while providing them with access to a crèche.
Ms Isaacs added, ‘All of this has come out of the Community Manifesto. We’ve explored what might work and what might not work and I’m very positive about it all. It’s very exciting to have this opportunity. In all my years working in Montessori I have always been attracted to its original domain of trying to reach underprivileged children, which is how it began in Italy. It’s great to return to that.’