Over the past five years of having children in Montessori school our home has been adapted and readapted in order to fit their needs and involve them in most all parts of our daily lives.
Our kitchen has a separate cabinet down low for the girls to access their own plates and glasses. There is a drawer for all their utensils – from forks to child-size pizza cutters, spreaders for butter and whisks for making eggs.
But I must admit lately I’ve been slacking off readapting these environments for my younger girls to be self sufficient. As my oldest gets older, she does things easily for herself and her sisters.
Since this week is Montessori Education Week, both of the Montessori schools my daughters attend recently hosted workshops on how to practice Montessori principals in your home. My youngest goes to a different school that offered a class for one-year-olds, where the workshop was more geared to toddlers under age three.
I left both workshops with a fresh dose of inspiration to create better spaces for my children, and realizing (once again) we have way too much clutter and toys in our house for the girls to take ownership of it all in a manageable way.
Feeling motivated on Sunday, my oldest daughter and I went to the store to come up with a new system that would work better in the room she shares with her five-year-old sister.
Previously there was a large shelving unit on the wall that could hold a total of 12 one-foot cube baskets. The piece was eight feet tall. My oldest daughter also had a desk on her side of the room. Neither was working.
The shelf had become a tower of clutter with four bins of stuffed animals deemed “too special” to get rid of. The desk was nothing but a landing spot for “important” papers that continued to live there way past their expiration dates.
When my five-year-old’s new space was finished she was ecstatic to have more open floorspace. She didn’t ask one time what happened to all her special stuff.
Now her mirror and hairbrush is easy to access while getting ready in the morning, right next to her hanging outfit that she chooses from her closet the night before. Her jewelry box of necklaces and bracelets sits next to it, with her box of tissues that she always wants within reach – along with a trashcan next to it on the floor to conveniently dispose of the tissues.
Having these things on a new shelf at the proper height for her, with only three small bins to hold a few special items, made her glee with delight.
It was such an eye-opening experience for me. All those things I thought were so special to her were really not special at all.
What meant the most was having less things being more accessible.
Now she can keep her new space orderly, clean, and always knows where to find her headbands and favorite necklaces when she decides to wear them.
In Montessori there are three important factors to using principles at home and creating an environment for children to be successful.
The first is establishing order and independence. Keeping things within their reach, clutter to a minimum, setting up spaces with things such as simple bedding to make it easier for a child to make their own bed.
The second is to include children in your daily activities such as picking up toys, clearing dishes from the table, putting clothes in hampers or raking leaves. Sometimes it helps to have smaller size dishes or rakes handy for them to enjoy helping successfully.
The third is to be a positive, mindful model – creating daily routines, limits, clear boundaries and things like focusing on the effort not the result.
I think our little project on Sunday meshed some of these ideas together. It definitely inspired me to do more of these reorganization projects in other areas of the house.
Montessori principles have become more popular and there are blogs popping up displaying ways to practice them at home, sometimes through homeshooling. I’ve seen people set up whole rooms with expensive Montessori materials and have readers ahh and eww over the pictures. DON’T DO THAT.
It’s missing the point of what it means to bring Montessori principles into your home by just buying the stuff.
I surely can’t tell you why all in one post. So I’m including some helpful web sights you can go to for more good examples of using Montessori philosophies at home, while fostering independence and honoring a child in the ways a classroom setting accomplishes by creating a child-led community.
Helpful items to have around the house to make things more child friendly, and tasks more manageable, can be found at For Small Hands.
Lastly, the book In a Montessori Home, published by N. American Montessori Teachers Association, is fabulous.