Kudos to you!
First off I would like to give you some kudos for taking on the amazing and exhausting challenge of homeschooling. Homeschooling was the original form of education for so much of human’s evolution, although it is not commonly referred to that way the fact remains that for the majority of our human history, children were educated by their parents. Whether you have decided to use some or all of the Montessori Method as your curriculum, I hope that you will find this page to be useful and helpful.
The main tenants of Montessori Education are freedom of choice, freedom of movement, conquests of independence, the prepared environment as the main teacher and assisting the child in their own self construction. Setting up an environment where your child has access to materials and experiences that are suitable for their age of development is crucial. If you are new to Montessori and are interested in learning more about Montessori Theory, click here. Particularly useful is the information about the Four Planes of Development.
Setting up a Montessori environment in your home
To allow your child access to all of the materials, you want to make sure that the bookcases and furniture in their environment is child-sized. Child-sized furniture will also provide them with opportunities to gain more physical independence as they will be able to do things like move the chairs on their own. It is not necessary to completely retrofit your house, there are ways you can modify your existing environment to allow your child move access, such as providing a stool so that they can reach the sink and thus be able to wash their hands or get a drink on their own.
In Montessori Theory, the materials are the way in which the child learns. They use the materials to make discoveries about the world around them. Historically, Montessori materials were expensive. In the recent past, this has changed as the market for affordable Montessori materials has grown and the internet has led to a wealth of information on how to make your own materials.
As stated before, freedom of movement and freedom of choice are essential aspects of the Montessori pedagogy. In my album it states that once a child is shown how to use a material, they are free to choose that work whenever and for however long they wish. Adults need to remember that the ways of the child are a mystery to us and that we can as easily be a barrier as we can be an aid to development. While we have to trust the child’s internal process to lead to optimal development, we also use our observations to inform which lessons we present to the child and what experiences we expose them to. We are also free to encourage other work as long as we are not coercing or demanding.
From my own experience, I know that it is far more difficult to ensure these freedoms with a class of one or two than with a class of 25 or 30 but it is possible. You will find that there are many times that you need to slow your response time and other times when you need to make yourself unavailable. This can be difficult to do and may clash with your beliefs about what it means to be a parent or educator. You are not simply giving space for your child to learn to trust themselves and allow their internal motivations and powers to do the work of leading the child on the path of their own development.
Encouraging Conquests of Independence
Each conquest of independence allow the child to do another thing for themselves whether it is combing their hair, caring for a plant, carrying a tray across the room, expressing their own opinion or financially supporting themselves. Each conquest is a celebration of their ability to be successful in life. As a purely selfish side note, each conquest of independence gives you a bit more time for yourself as you are then not needed to do these tasks for your child. We can help conquests of independence by making sure that child has access to the things needed to care for themselves such as the things discussed above in Providing Access. We can also encourage these conquests by allowing them to the opportunity to do as many things as possible on their own, even if it is something you think they are not unable to do, they may surprise you. If they become frustrated, ask them to take a deep breath to relax and try again. You can have a talk with them about how things may be difficult but they are still possible and after you do something a few times it gets easier. You can also show them an appropriate way to ask for help, this will depend upon them as well as you. Maybe you would like them to simply ask for help or you might like them to put their hand on your shoulder or you may ask them to say excuse if you are doing something else.
For me, one of the most brilliant aspects of Montessori Education is the way in which things are offered indirectly to the child. If we want a child to be able to be successful with a complex task, we first analyze that task and break down the skills required to accomplish it. We then brainstorm to see which materials or experience would teach those skill and then we present them to the child one by one as they are ready for them.
So many times, our response to the child’s behavior is displayed through the environment whether it be a material we present or a Grace and Courtesy lesson we share or through behavior we model purposefully in front of the child. This works especially well with children in the First Plane as they are functioning under the mysterious forces of the Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods. The approach continues to work for the Second Plane but for a different reason, because we are allowing them the freedom to discover things on their own.
Where to go from here
There are many resources on the web that will help you with setting up and running a Montessori environment in your home.
- One of my personal favorites is from Living Montessori Now, “How to Set up a Montessori Homeschool Classroom.” The post is filled with wonderful links she has collected of other people who are sharing their experiences, a beautiful selection of photos of different Montessori homeschool environments and a plethora of links on Montessori Theory, purchasing and making Montessori materials and how to layout your classroom environment.
- Montessori and Homeschooling – Gives a history of homeschooling and Montessori Education and touches on different topics such as making materials and socialization.
- The Overwhelmed Mom’s Guide to Montessori Homeschooling – This article gives many great tips for introducing and maintaining a Montessori program in the home without driving yourself crazy.
- Montessori at Home: 8 Principles you Should Know – This article is well written and clearly outlines the basic principles of the Montessori Method. What is best about the article is that after each principle, the author gives some ideas of ways to implement it in your home.
- Why We Love Homeschooling Using Montessori – This article explores the pros and cons of implementing a Montessori program in the home. They also give some suggestions for “essential” materials and provide solutions to the cons they list.
- Why Writing Comes Before Reading in Montessori – A fantastic article that not only details the theory and history behind why we focus on writing before reading but also includes a general timeline for introducing major Language concepts/materials for 3-6 year olds.
Montessori Material Making For The Home
- Make Your Own Materials List (montessorialbum.com) A comprehensive list of activity and resource pages that contain a “make your own” section.
- DIY Decimal Board #1 and #2 – There are two pdfs to download on this site that will provide you with what you need to create your own Decimal Fraction Board. Print these two files on cardstock and glue together. You will also need to purchase colored beads and cubes to go along with this material.
- Montessori Continent Boxes – Continent boxes are an extension of work with the Puzzle Maps in the Casa. Each box has items from a specific continent. These items are usually related to the Fundamental Human Needs: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, defense and spiritual. This link shows you how to make your own continent boxes.
- Where to Find Low to No Cost Montessori Materials – This post is a wonderful list of places you can go in your own community to find materials for your sensorial and practical life areas in your Montessori home environments.
- 20+ DIY Montessori Inspired Activities for 2 and 3 year olds – Written by Anastasia on Montessori Nature, I am going to make and put the stamp print on the line, open and close with coin purses and the art match activities on the shelf this week.
- Inspiring Wild Play in Your Own Yard – A wonderful how to on encouraging your children to play outdoors and providing them with tools that will further their explorations.