Gabi: loving life as a Montessori childminder
‘The children become like a member of your own family. You naturally feel so proud of their achievements and you feel so happy when they succeed and take a step forward in life.’
Gabi started her childminding business ‘The Little Children’s House’ in the South Hams 3 years ago. She currently supports children ranging from babies to four year olds from six local families. Gabi has an Early Childhood Montessori teaching diploma which she uses to provide flexible Montessori childcare to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage in a child-led environment.
Gabi explains how she became a registered childminder, what a typical day looks like at The Little Children’s House, and what she absolutely loves about it.
“I never considered myself as the type of person who ‘loves little children’ but I discovered Montessori education when my own daughter was a toddler and fell in love with it.
I trained as a Montessori teacher and taught for several years in a preschool. I realised some children didn’t cope well in a noisy, busy setting and so decided to set up a small, home-based version of a preschool to offer a gentle alternative and work as a childminder.
Working alone means everything is my responsibility and measures up to my high standards and in the way I believe works best for the children.
I use skills from my previous career in publishing and graphic design to create learning materials, design reports for the Learning Journey folders and make new matching cards. I use skills from being a mum myself such as using Makaton, playing my own instruments for music sessions and designing healthy menus for the children.”
Gabi explains a little more about the Montessori principles:
“Montessori education promotes independent learning through free choice within reasonable boundaries. It encourages experience of the real world while surrounded by beauty, using multi-sensory activities, and with an emphasis on peace and freedom from interruption to aid the child’s developing skills of concentration and self-construction.
I follow Montessori principles in planning topics, assessing the children’s progress and planning future work. I believe in developing the child’s initiative and respect for themselves and for others. The children choose their own activities and are free to be inside or outdoors.
I believe that children learn and develop in their own ways and at their own rates, and I promote this through every moment of our day. From the youngest age children learn lots of useful skills including pouring their own drink, serving their own food, choosing how much they eat. We practice spreading, peeling, chopping, baking, washing up, setting the table, mopping, sweeping, polishing etc. to make them independent.”
So, what does a typical day look like?
“My children arrive from 8am so I get up early, walk our dog, help my own child get ready for school then when the children arrive we settle and choose what to do.
I prepare snack food around 10am and drinks are always available for the children to help themselves. Lunch is at midday, and I cook this myself, often the children join in by choosing and preparing vegetables or fruit. Every Wednesday we bake – this term its pizza for lunch.
After lunch we have Quiet Time on floor beds when I read a story then play quiet music for half an hour or longer so children can relax or sleep. This is my chance to write in the child’s daily diary, a summary for the parents to read what’s gone on during the day.
When parents arrive to collect their child I always offer time to chat, sometimes a cup of tea. After everyone has gone home I clean the playroom and kitchen, wash the towels, restock the art supplies and tidy the garden etc.
During the evenings and on Fridays I do my admin which involves typing up observations for the child’s Learning Journey, invoicing, book training courses for myself, updating my website or Facebook page, start planning for the next week, and write reports. I meet with families twice a year when we discuss simple targets for the next 6 months – this is enjoyable for all of us and shows Ofsted that we have good planning and information sharing.”
Gabi previously worked in publishing and graphic design, so what led her to childminding?
“I was really keen to do things ‘my way’ to really help settle sensitive children and let them enjoy spending time apart from their families.
I was supported by my family who agreed it was a sensible career choice so I could still be at home for our own child’s sick days and for the school run, my husband has helped me with the accounting side.
I did my childminder training, my first aid and safeguarding training with the local authority and it was brilliant – really thorough and helpful and supportive. I already held my Level 4 early years teaching qualification from Montessori Centre International in London. I now keep up my training by attending conferences and professional development meetings.
You need to refresh your essential qualifications every 3 years, and I’ve also done local authority training courses in the evenings for subjects like autism and safeguarding.”
Gabi explains that whilst setting up her own childminding business was quite scary at first, she has grown in confidence each day:
“I expected to enjoy the control and flexibility of working on my own, using my own ideas. At the start I was scared that childminding would overwhelm me – the paperwork, understanding the small print, the rules and regulations, managing a budget, invoicing etc. but you learn as you go, each day is different and each day you learn what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt to follow my instincts.
It was tough being the only person instead of working in a team but working on a small scale with just one or two children is surprisingly peaceful and not as difficult as a group of 28 children at preschool.
I was surprised how often parents asked me for advice about all sorts of parenting topics – I wasn’t expecting them to see me as an ‘expert’. But now I am proud that families trust me and I can give them honest and useful ideas to help them on their parenting journey. I have even run a parenting course for my families to develop their own confidence as parents too.”
So, is childminding a good career choice?
If you want it can be a career which takes you to higher levels of study and qualifications, even doing research and training education students. As you develop your business it can grow larger, with one or two employees, and you can decide to work in partnership with local schools and charities doing some work hours on their premises.
You may find working with professionals like health visitors or social workers can open up new avenues for you to specialise in, such as special educational needs, vulnerable children or supporting older children from home-educated families. You are the boss so you decide the working hours and how much holiday you take; childminding fits well around my own family commitments.
Childminding is a business – you are an entrepreneur – you get out what you put in.”
Gabi explains what she loves about being a Montessori childminder:
“I get up and look forward to work because their children are always happy to knock at my front door and smile. Each day is different and each day is special.
You have to be organised and reliable, honest and friendly. Parents tell me the routine at my setting helps them set a routine at home to suit their child. They also like the Montessori way I do things and when they try it at home it really helps them and their child be happier and calmer.
I believe the children do well socially and emotionally because they have steady, predictable and warm care from me. They develop confidence and good self-esteem because my setting is always the same and they know what to expect, I work hard to understand them so they can trust me.
They also develop lovely caring friendships with each other, like siblings in a family. I hope they carry their independence and curiosity forward into later life. They’ve also learned to love our big friendly springer spaniel so they are not scared of dogs!
The children become like a member of your own family. You naturally feel so proud of their achievements and you feel so happy when they succeed and take a step forward in life.”