Child care professionals share a commitment to improving society by creating dynamic and nurturing care environments for Australia's youngest learners.
This month we are proud to introduce you to Lucette van Someren Boyd owner and director of Montessori By-The-Bay in Monterey NSW.
Lucette van Someren Boyd
Owner & Director of
Montessori By-The-Bay in Monterey
This month we are proud to introduce you to Lucette van Someren Boyd owner and director of Montessori By-The-Bay in Monterey.
C4K: What is your name and which centre do you work in?
LB: My name is Lucette van Someren Boyd. Many two year olds often call me ‘Aset' or a combination of my name with another educator such as ‘Lushen' or ‘Luraya'. I am the owner and director of Montessori By-The-Bay in Monterey, a bayside suburb of Sydney. We have a beautiful community of 25 children and their families, three staff a day and a part time administrator.
C4K: What is your background and professional experience?
LB: When I was 19, I began my training as a Registered Nurse and later gained Post Graduate qualifications in Paediatrics, Intensive Care, Recovery and Bereavement Counseling. My last nursing position was as the Nurse Manager of a Recovery Unit in an Operating Theatre complex. I loved nursing and still do but found that I was caring for a lot of very young people who had tried to end their life early. This prompted me to continue my career in a different direction.
Raising my four children and some enthusiastic and energetic foster children was an absolute delight. Not to say it didn't have its trials! As every parent knows there are times when you don't know if you are making the right decisions. The one decision we made that we knew was right was to send our children to a Montessori school. After seeing many young adults in pain at the hospital, having no hope for their futures or the future of mankind, I knew straight away where I hoped to make a difference.
The philosophy of this scientific educational movement (Montessori) was based on long-time observation of children. Dr Montessori's philosophy seemed to be a perfect combination of giving children practical tools to learn with, and also allowing them to develop self-respect and respect for the environment around them. In short, Montessori is education for Peace.
The children are joyful in their daily work and love to be active participants in their community. As a family we really enjoyed being part of this thriving community with my youngest child having the chance to go through Montessori until his last year of high school.
When my youngest child was seven, and my oldest 15, I decided to take the Montessori AMI training for three-six year olds. This was the first of many decisions to study and increase my skills for the children. I continued with my studies to gain a degree in Early Childhood Education, a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning Disabilities and a Master's degree in Special Education.
During these studies I worked in many centres based on other philosophies and although I acknowledge that each centre had its positives I knew that my interest lay in teaching in a Montessori classroom. I am currently undertaking a research Master's Degree that will hopefully lead to a Professional Doctorate in Education. Along the way I have gained qualifications as an Educational Kinesiologist, Children's Yoga teacher and Move to Learn Consultant. Each little piece of knowledge gained is an invaluable aid in the classroom, for me as an educator and for the children.
C4K: What does a ‘normal' day look like for you?
LB: A normal day for our classroom begins with a greeting. We greet each child and their family at the door with a handshake and a smile. From here, the child enters the classroom independently and puts their bag away, ready to then choose an activity to begin their work cycle.
The first ever Montessori three-six year old classroom was called "Casa dei Bambini" translating to "Children's House". This is precisely what the classroom is. The environment is prepared with activities set out beautifully on child sized shelves within easy access of the children. Everything in the classroom enables the child to feel ownership and care for the materials, and to aid in the growth of independence. For this reason, we ask the parents to respect the child's space and say "Goodbye" to them at the door.
Adults are welcome to come in if the children invite them for special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day or an observation. Parent's sometimes come in to garden, read books or share a skill. Recently we had a parent come in to play guitar and teach the children a Russian folksong and another to give a presentation on Canada.
We continue this ‘work' cycle from 8:00 am when we open, until 11:30 when we prepare for lunch. This is a dynamic cycle full of movement, socialization and discovery. During this time the Montessori teacher or ‘Directress' gives many individual presentations to children. Once the child has been given a presentation he or she may choose that activity whenever they want to. The children are free to ‘work' inside or outside doing many things such as gardening, bread buttering, orange juicing, working with the Montessori didactic materials, participating in small groups for Music, Geography, Botany, Art, Italian, and Grace and Courtesy lessons.
Some children choose to spend time refining gross motor activities, and some children will choose to take part in small group or individual lessons which enhance numeracy and literacy using the Montessori materials.
The adults observe the children carefully so each child's individual progress is monitored closely, documented and evaluated and planning is constantly in progress for each of them. The children work independently with activities of their own choice for as long as they wish until they are satisfied. Then they replace them on the shelf as they found them for the next child. They know this is a sign of respect for their classmates.
During this time, the children are also free to just sit and ‘be'. We have many lovely little seats in the garden or the library and throughout the classroom for children to relax and integrate their knowledge, observe others or read a book.
Children and adults sit together for lunch, which we like to eat outside. Before we eat we always say a verse as this is a sign of ‘thanks' for the food, those who have prepared it for us and the people we share it with.
After lunch many younger children enjoy a rest while the older children have Yoga and Relaxation sessions. They are also free to choose more activities for the remainder of the afternoon. As the younger children wake up they join their older friends. Morning and afternoon tea is prepared by the children and eaten when they wish. The families arrive between 3:00 and 4:00, and the children collect their belongings and say "Good-bye" and shake hands as they exit the classroom.
We are always mindful of the fact that no matter how beautifully we prepare the classroom it is merely a show room without the children who bring it to life.
C4K: What makes your centre unique?
LB: We are a small centre which is family owned and operated. For the past three years I have had the pleasure of working with two of my children on staff. This has enhanced the sense of community we have built with our families. Our centre offers an authentic Montessori program embedded in the long day care model.
During the day the children have access to the Montessori classroom "prepared environment" and Montessori trained Teacher "prepared adult". We offer Italian as a second language, this is not because Dr Montessori was Italian but because it was the language most of our parents chose. This is spoken in the environment during the day by a native speaker.
Dr Montessori based her method on the observation that movement enhances Brain development and accordingly we offer a dynamic Montessori environment that is movement based. As some children only have access to this environment two days a week we offer them a short Yoga and Relaxation session after lunch to enable them to have even greater body awareness and skills in coping with any stresses they may have in their everyday lives.
Our centre also has two teachers with Masters' Degrees and many years of Special Education experience allowing earlier intervention and implementation for children requiring extra help.
Our family is also excited to be a part of Forever Green Montessori, an environment, for the zero-three age group, opening in Surry Hills (NSW) in March. Many of our families will be attending this centre, which provides continuity for our existing families and a beautiful Montessori Environment for new families.
My daughter Saraya van Someren Boyd and her friend Jennifer Alsaleh will be the Montessori trained adults in this prepared environment.
C4K: What are some advantages of working in the child care sector?
LB: In our classroom the three-year age group allows you to see a truly beautiful transition in the child and in the processes of the community. Each year has a slightly different feel to it as the children and the adults really bring themselves and their characters into the classroom. Every morning I get to wake up and be a part of this.
The activities of the children as they use the prepared environment to create themselves and constantly build on these foundations allows us to see the full potential of the child. The classroom where children work individually and yet together is a microcosm of perfect society. Here we get to be a part of the true meaning of community. There is so much joy in these children! I know that in this classroom my talents and characteristics as a human being are best being put to use. Lately a lot of older siblings have come back for a visit and it is delightful to see how they are developing. In a way this is one of the few professions where you are actually having a direct effect on the future of our society.
C4K: What are the biggest challenges facing the child care sector?
LB: There are many amazing centres in Australia, following many different philosophies and theorists. There is a challenge in remaining true to that philosophy and having faith in your own knowledge and experience when trying to meet the NQF. Basically we all need time to investigate, evaluate, plan and integrate the NQF for ourselves so that we understand it and how it relates to our centre's philosophy.
‘Time' is the main challenge for the child care sector. It would have been useful to have a longer transition time to the new NQF so all educators had a chance to truly understand the process and the theory behind it.
The requirements for the EYLF and the other areas of the framework have so much documentation with reflective journals, portfolios, check lists, OH&S, planning and implementing parent involvement, staff meetings and ongoing education and revising Policies and Procedures that it can become overwhelming and negatively impact on the time and energy available for our main work of being with the children.
Some staff at our centre and at other centres are being confronted by the changes and the amount of paperwork and reading required. I have experienced this in the form of resistance to undertaking Certificate III by some staff. There is a challenge in making this ongoing education exciting to the staff who must undertake it.
Last year I attended a Child Care Community Co-operative Leadership workshop for four days. Out of this several participants have formed an interest group and meet monthly. We have discussed various ways of meeting the new NQF requirements and of implementing the EYLF. This has been of particular concern to me as a Montessorian as I have spent many hours correlating the EYLF requirements with the Montessori programme. Luckily, I discovered through my own investigations that we married well with all the Principles, Practices and Outcomes.
C4K: How has your centre changed to meet these challenges?
LB: We have no plans to change anything that will compromise our philosophy as the Montessori approach is what our parents have chosen for their children. However, we have changed a lot of our documentation and jargon to be more transparent and understandable especially relating to observations and quality improvement.
The EYLF encourages educators to follow the child's interests through observation and document them. Montessori Directors have been doing this for more than 100 years. Dr Montessori says the secret is to "Follow the Child" as it is the child who holds the knowledge and the wisdom for their own development and the adults who provide the tools.
This statement is being proved today as neuroscientists, through the use of the latest scientific means, are discovering through current brain research that Dr Montessori's theories, based on her observations of the child over 100 years ago are indeed correct. Medical research is only now catching up! Children learn what they live. And later on in life, live what they have learnt.
Montessorians have always used our own version of the Quality Improvement Plan. As part of our daily routine we observe each child at work, and modify the environment according to their needs. This was part of our AMI Montessori training, to provide a living, culturally appropriate environment for each child. To always ask ourselves "what is it that this child needs?" and "what can we do to facilitate this?" The improvement needed is always on our part – not the child's. If the child is not engaged it is the adult or the environment that is lacking!
Acknowledging that parents are the child's first teachers we have begun to gather more parent input for our program. This is gathered using Parent Questionnaires and through a Suggestion Box and documented in the Portfolios. This can sometimes be difficult to implement but is well worth the effort. I think the children feel more connection between home and school and we feel that we are getting to know our families better. I am trying to visit new families in their home before the child's first day of school as this also helps the child see the classroom as an extension of their home.
C4K: What advice would you give someone looking for a career or a promotion in child care?
LB: Child care is a profession like any other with its ups and downs, but unlike any other profession I can guarantee there will be laughter every day.
Child care is not only child care anymore it has become so much more, it is a changing sector requiring the adult to be increasingly prepared to meet community expectations. The NQF and EYLF have stemmed from an increasing awareness of the importance of the first six years of life. If there is a time of life that deserves the most respect and understanding it is these first years. This is the age when man is created.
In particular I would recommend a career in Montessori Education because of the underlying ethos of "Education for Peace." The Montessori philosophy has always celebrated unity in diversity and the child is recognized as a citizen of the world. The classroom is a peaceful yet active environment full of purposeful movement as the children take care of it and each other.
It is an absolute privilege to be given the opportunity to work with families who entrust us with their most precious children. How lucky we are to witness and be part of each child's growth and development and share this with their family.
A good place to start the process would be to contact the Montessori Australia Foundation email@example.com and they will help you get started. Whatever philosophy is followed ongoing education is vital as increasing our pedagogical knowledge and skill base ensures we are better able to prepare for each child's journey.
In a sense we can "touch the future."
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