But you can successfully incorporate Montessori into your home in less than five minutes of prep time a day. Here are 10 tips and strategies to get you started: Forget the detailed descriptions given in written Montessori presentations and just remember this one rule: show children how to do things in a clear and orderly way that takes into consideration their hand size, hand strength, and coordination. Yes, some schools are very precise in how materials should be held, in what order they should be placed in front of a child, etc, but a lot of this is not really pertinent in the home.
2 Start out by teaching your child to use one household object per day. For example, grab a teapot, fill it with water, put out a few small cups and a cloth for spills, and teach your child how to pour and serve “tea.” (Bonus points if you actually make tea.) Or show them how to use a child-sized squeegee and spray bottle full of water.
It's okay if you forget to put out a couple of materials at first (I always forget to add the “spill cloth”), it will start to feel more natural with practice. If the activity is something that your child enjoys, they might suggest new activities that they are interested in, maybe asking to serve cookies with the tea, and a small invitation can transform into an hour or more of learning.
If you need to DIY your materials, try to start with simple projects at first to really get a sense of how much time things can take. I would love to have all of the hours of my life back that I spent hand-sanding wooden tiles for our color boxes, dowels for our red rods and number rods, and the prisms for our brown stair. For the color box tiles, I would have been better off either just cutting up paint chips (and maybe laminating them – you can use self-adhesive laminating sheets) or purchasing pre-sanded tiles.
4 Rather than searching for used Montessori materials (which takes time away from actually planning and setting up your own activities), put out the word that you are looking for them and let them come to you. Contact your local Montessori schools and daycares, give them your contact information, and ask them to get in touch if ever they are getting rid of materials – my friend scored a TON of quality materials from a school that was no longer using a specific brand and just requested that she make a donation in return for the materials.
Personally, I put up “Wanted” and “In Search Of” (ISO) ads on our area’s version of Craigslist, and within two months I had the majority of the Primary curriculum materials for $5-10 per material, plus I met two experienced Montessori moms in my city.
5 Try to set up ways for your child to explore their interests independently. Interested in bugs? Find a magnifying glass, maybe borrow a book from the library, and go exploring. You don’t need to worry about pulling together a whole mini-unit on bugs before you get started.
Chances are if your child is interested enough in something that you want to do a unit study on it, you probably already have plenty of stuff related to the topic, just try to be flexible. Pick up a laundry basket and wander through the house grabbing anything that can be “re-imagined” for your theme. I.E., for a quick construction theme:
- any construction toys or puzzles
- a can of playdoh, a blunt child’s knife (or cake spatula), and wooden blocks to make a fake wall
- plastic tweezers or kitchen tongs to lift blocks (or ice cubes) just like a crane
- books on construction, or things that result from construction (if you don’t have any, you can usually quickly call or hop on your library’s online system and order some books for pick-up for the next time you stop into your local branch)
- a bag of dried black beans and a scoop in a tub for some “tar” scooping (if you have little road signs for a train set or construction vehicles, add them into the tub to make the theme obvious and increase interest
- samples of different construction materials from around your home
7 Try to brainstorm how to make one task, or area in your home, more independent for your child every week. One week you can add light-switch extenders, the next, you can put a small end table in your kitchen and place some bowls, dry cereal, and spoons on it for self-serving.
8 Keep your ideas organized. I have a giant, indexed binder that I organize everything into and I jot down everything into it. There are sections for “Future DIYs/Projects,” “Mini-unit brainstorms,” “Kitchen invitations/recipes to try,” “Light table materials,” etc. If everything is scattered at the moment, try organizing one thing at a time – get all of your paper notes into a binder this week, next week take notes from your Pinterest pins.
9 Google whether your city or town has homeschool groups or children’s resource centers. You might not find something that is strictly Montessori, but you might find or meet other like-minded parents and be able to help trade-off and share some of the activity planning burden. Resource centers sometimes have ready-made kits that you can borrow to engage in a unit study; just unpack and enjoy!
And, just have fun! Don’t worry about doing it perfectly and if you don’t get a chance to pull together an activity one day (or for a month), just start fresh when you’re ready to go again.
(This is a re-post from my Montessori on a Budget blog. ~Lisa Nolan)
Hello, I'm Jennifer and the overall-and pigtail wearing kid hogging all of the cuteness in this picture is Miss G.I share Montessori and Reggio's inspiration, bits of psychology, kid-friendly recipes, book and product reviews, and indulgence for parents and caregivers. If you're interested in learning more about me and how Study-at-Home Mama is organized, please read about me here.