I discovered Montessori learning at home when I began researching school options for my first child, Nina twenty years ago.
I began a training Montessori diploma and observation programme and started applying it at home. Nina was only one and a bit at the time and using these principles worked wonders and promoted self-paced, and joyful Montessori learning at home.
Montessori learning at home taught me so much about myself and my parenting style. If you’re thinking of homeschooling your little one, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic, prepare yourself first before you set up you home learning environment:
- Be the guide. Make sure that you show your child how to do something and then allow him to try it by himself without taking over and doing it for him.
- Slow down. Allow time for your child to complete a task by herself without interference. Plan less and explore life with her at a slow pace and have conversations about your experiences together.
- Respect your child by speaking and listening to your child as you would an adult.
- Include your children in daily life. Young children like to be involved in food preparation, setting the table, cleaning and doing the shopping and more. Hands on learning provide concrete experiences for them to make discoveries by themselves. Dig in the garden or go for a walk and then find what you have seen on Google and read about it. Going to a library would be first prize but we need to stay home right now and that might be an option in a couple of years. Perhaps do a printout of what you have found in nature. For example, if you have seen a lavender plant, experience that. Smell it. Pick a piece. Name it. Go read a little bit about it. Print a picture.
- See things from the child’s perspective to understand and acknowledge their feelings and behaviour. Try to find out what may interest your child and how you can provide opportunities to nurture that interest.
The Montessori approach is not only an educational approach to be used in schools. You can apply these principles for Montessori learning at home, even if your child won’t end up going to a Montessori school.
You can be a Montessori purist wanting to eventually go all the way with Montessori learning at home with pink towers, metal insets and Kandinsky paintings on the wall, or if you you can apply fresh ideas to create a new, creative and productive learning atmosphere.
Setting up a room for Montessori learning at home is really simple, and may transform the way your child plays.
Choose toys carefully
Think about toys that develop fine motor (small muscles), gross motor (big muscles), art and music, books, and open-ended items like blocks and puzzles for creative play. Have one or two toys that are easy and familiar for your her to play with when she needs a mental break. Donate toys that light up or make noises to a worthy cause.
When you offer limited options with toys it becomes really clear which ones spark your child’s curiosity. Putting out just a few toys (and packing the rest away) and rotating them regularly, allows your child to really focus on what’s available.
- Think low – the furniture in a Montessori classroom is child-sized and the materials are kept on low shelves so that the child can access them herself.
- Give everything a place so each item has a space where it belongs on a shelf. Always finding things in the same spot is calming because it’s predictable.
- Include open space both on the floor and at tables. Having open space in the room allows for plenty of movement which is crucial in child development.
- Include nature if possible, choose a room with natural light. Few things are more beautiful than watching a baby discover shadows by playing in the changing light from a window or watching a child mesmerised by the rain. Include plants and animals in the environment whenever possible. Hanging plants or herbs with edible leaves are a great option for babies in the “eat everything in sight” stage. House plants also offer toddlers and older children a chance to learn to take care of something.
- Create a cosy corner is wonderful to include a cozy space, somewhere for your child to rest or recover from an upsetting moment. I am sure this is where my love for teepees developed as our teepee was my children’s cosy or “time out from everyone corner”.
Setting up a Montessori learning from home space allows you to totally pick and choose what works for your child and your home. The aim is not to teach facts, but to cultivate a life-long love of learning.