Why buying Montessori classroom materials for home is a big mistake

Why buying Montessori classroom materials for home is a big mistake

Have you thought about buying a set of sandpaper letters or number rods to help your child continue to learn her Montessori lessons at home?  Missing homework and think this is the answer? It’s a big mistake. Montessori classroom materials at home will actually negatively impact your child’s learning.  Here’s why (and what to do instead):

A Montessori at Home Toddler Morning

It can be difficult to wrap your head around creating, maintaining, and working with a Montessori-style space in your home, especially for toddlers. 

Your child is eager to do things herself, but seems to be more interested in dumping, throwing, and screaming than the calm Montessori toddler presented on your friend's facebook page.  

And concentration?  Forget it.

Don't loose hope just yet, with a little planning and consistency, you can create a Montessori space in your home too!  Here's an inside look at how I set up a space for this age, how we spend our time, and what concepts we work on.  

I've been working with K's family for a few months now as a parent home guide, and wow, what a difference!  When we started he was 20 months, and now at almost 2 he's talking in sentences, following simple directions, using the toilet successfully, and can recognize many of the letter sounds.  In addition to establishing routines and keeping a consistent, predictable schedule (critical for this age), I rotate and change activities to match his challenge level.  Here's a typical day for us: 

When I arrive, I set up 4-5 activities for the morning plus a basket of books, our song cards, an art activity, and any new or cooperative activity.  These are always set up in a similar order (books on the far right, song cards on the far left) and always on the fireplace hearth.  We spend about 2 hours inside with these things.

Activities available for the day

Some of K's favourite activities include puzzles, vocabulary cards, matching cards, shape sorters, stack-able rings, musical instruments, reusable sticker sheets, reading books, practicing letter sounds and symbols, singing, hiding and looking for things.

For art, he's practiced drawing with crayons, tearing paper, play-dough, painting with a brush, and gluing small papers to a big paper.

Around the house we do practical life activities like: washing dishes and objects, cleaning the window, sweeping and wiping the floor, walking on a line, throwing a ball into a basket, getting dressed (shoes, zippers, pants, jackets), raking the grass, scrubbing the deck, cutting bananas, peeling oranges, and spreading peanut butter on toast. 

I also make sure to weave in grace and courtesy lessons like: being kind to the dogs, gentle to flowers, asking for things, asking for a hug, asking for help, using silverware, drinking from a cup, wiping your face, waiting for something, and toilet learning.

We've even done a few larger projects like planting seeds, making bread, and making pancakes.

Around 10:45 or so, we start transitioning to going outside. This means using the toilet, washing hands, getting dressed for the weather, shoes, and sunscreen. If we plan to go for a walk, we bring his backpack with items for exploring nature, tissues, and space for treasures. If he wants to stay in his yard, I get out outdoor activities, like chalk, the watering can, bubbles, and yard tools. I try and stay outside for an hour, depending on the weather and his interest.

Around 12, we gather any things together and head back inside for lunch. Once inside, we take off our shoes, use the toilet, wash hands, and set places for lunch. K has all his table setting materials in a low drawer, and eventually will set his place by himself with no prompting. I set a place for myself, and get food out to eat. I make a point to leave most of the food I think he'll eat on a serving dish, and serve a few spoonfuls at a time, per his request. This allows him to practice good table manners, stay interested in eating, and not feel overwhelmed with so much food on the plate.

When K is finished, he wipes his hands and face if needed, and then the table (I often help) Sometimes, he helps load the dishwasher. I encourage him to use the toilet again, and then we get out his afternoon toys (the schleich animals, and some cars) before he takes a nap.  I say goodbye and the next time I'll see him (tomorrow, next week, etc).

K has learned and grown so much in the three months we've been together. By being there in his home, I'm also able to demonstrate techniques to the other adults for encouraging independence, cooperation, perseverance, managing emotions, and making requests. I check in with his mom from time to time to go over what we're focusing on and how she can continue things when I'm not there.  Now that K has an established routine, it's easy for the other adults in his life to follow along and stay consistent.  

Where to start:  

  • Choose one activity to show your toddler including where it "lives" and how to put it back.  Keep it short and simple!
  • Move your child's cup, plate, or silverware to a lower shelf, box, or cabinet.  Show her how to get her things out and set her place at the table.
  • Pack a travel backpack for walks that your child can carry.  Pack one for yourself too. 

Let me know how it goes!  

Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. 

A child Designed Garden

The system I used for a six year old to plan and execute his big idea (mostly) on his own.

A few years ago, I had the honor of homeschooling a five year old boy, S, and he decided to plan out a garden project. I wanted him to do as much of this on his own as he could, which of course began with a lot of questions. Where could we plant? What supplies will we need? Which seeds can we plant in the sun, and which are happier in the shade? What plants did we want to grow? How will we get the supplies? What work do we need to do to prepare the soil for planting?

A Child Designed Garden

I wrote each question on a separate card, and laid them out on the table. I suggested new questions if they were important to the project (like How will you keep the plants watered?) When we had both run out of questions, we gathered all the cards in a stack. Then, we tackled each question one at a time. This system was shared with me by a wise Montessori Elementary guide (Thanks Echo!) and is crucial for a child this age to develop a thorough, logical plan for their big ideas without becoming overwhelmed. It took us a few days to get through all the questions. On each question card we wrote notes, drew pictures, or taped more information on for future reference.

Some of the garden plans in the making.

I also helped S make a grid drawing of the 3 raised beds we had available to us. After we had made a list of plants he wanted to grow, we added the information of how many fit comfortably in a square foot of garden bed, if they preferred sun or shade, and any other special notes. I used an online garden bed planner to help me with this step, as well as a collection of seed packets. S even had the idea to do some companion planting after reading more about which plants like to work together.

We planted in the late spring, so we had pole beans, sunflowers, lettuce, pumpkins, and marrigolds.   S made signs for all the plants so he'd be able to remember which plants were where.

For the materials we needed to gather, S and I calculated an estimated cost and where we might need to look. Then, we wrote a note to his parents requesting the materials.

After all this planning, we were ready to actually plant! S and I searched for long sticks to construct the pole bean teepee one afternoon, and then we wove some yarn through the sticks so the beans had something to hang onto. We placed some rocks in the middle so it would be easy to care for the beans from the inside, and so there would be a dry place to sit!

S planting seeds

We prepped the beds by removing all the weeds, loosing the soil, and marking grid lines to match the square foot garden plan S had made. S also spent a good five minutes making sure the soil was nice and damp for the seeds.

We worked together to get all the beds planted according the the plans. I began with a demonstration of all the steps for planting on one, and then S did most of the others (I helped when he got tired). The first step was to make holes where each seed would go, to ensure they were spaced evenly. Then, I double-checked the plan to see which seed went where, and then placed each in a hole. Finally, I covered the seed up with soil and gently pressed down with the back of the spade. S added all the plant label sticks, and gave the bed a final watering before we cleaned up. The actual planting process took most of an afternoon.

We could have spent loads more time learning about plants, soil, growing food, worms, etc, but S was ready to move on to other things.

If your child is interesting in learning more, you should go for it! Build a compost bin! Grow heirloom varieties! Learn about natural pest control!

What garden projects have your children tackled? 

Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. You can always contact her for personalized support and answers to your questions.  Schedule a free 20 minute info session here.