Montessori homeschooling: fantasy vs. reality
I love looking at pictures online of those beautiful Montessori indoor spaces and the adorable children working hard at the material contained within them. Heck, I have posted these photos, myself. And it’s real. The children are working hard and the workspace looks amazing…for that moment in time.
I’m sure some of these parents have just one child. Or maybe multiple children and help. Or maybe their children are older or spaced differently than my own. Or maybe they are just way better at this than I am. Or maybe they are doing exactly what I am doing, and only capturing the moments when everything is perfect.
My Montessori homeschooling reality
I have three young children at the moment; 4 years, nearly 2 years, and 3 months. Recently, I was on the phone with a friend who follows my blog and she had some questions about the “logistics” of my current situation. I realized, as she was listing her questions, that I’ve read similar questions online on Montessori forums, traditional homeschooling forums, and unschooling forums. I was inspired to answer some of those questions right here on my blog. So, here we go!
In your house, is it really like the pictures in all the Montessori blogs and Instagram posts?
Yes, when stars align and Mercury is in retrograde. No, really, we have plenty of those moments in this house, but it’s not an “all day, every day”.
Can kids help keep Montessori materials organized?
Do you really keep the Montessori materials out and the toys and block displayed in shelves? And do the kids put their things back in the right place on the shelves after they are through with them?
Yes. I actually recommend this to everyone, if for no other reason than it’s easier to clean and it’s easier to teach the kids to put things where they belong when there is a place for everything. We do have some loose toys and parts in a little toy bin, too, though.
And, again, yes…mostly. The 4 year old does about 95% of the time and the 2 year old does about 75% of the time. It didn’t start out that way, though. It took a lot of modeling to get to this point, though. I do involve them when I’m cleaning up the times when things aren’t put away, too.
How to teach children of different age groups which materials are appropriate for them
How do you keep your 2 year old from taking the 4 year old’s materials from the shelves?
It took time and patience, but I taught him which materials were for him and which were his sister’s. It was a mess at first, though. And sometimes his lack of impulse control still gets the best of him. Sometimes I give him a mini-presentation to help him feel included. After all, he is probably getting the materials down because he love his big sister and wants to be just like her, and maybe he even has an interest in learning what the material has to teach.
Can you use the Montessori 3 hour work cycle in a homeschool setting?
We’re going to move onto the next question because I know you’re just joking. My 4 year old enjoyed the 3 hour work cycle when she briefly attended a Montessori school, but it isn’t practical in a home setting without multiple other children in the same age range.
How do you teach Practical Life Activities in a homeschool?
Well, luckily, my eldest is pretty proficient with those things, and just needs supervision for certain things. So, often I will put the baby in a sling and have my 2 year old stand on a chair and stir or participate in cooking some other way. Some of the Practical Life things he enjoys are: helping to pick up toys and puzzle pieces, putting clothes in the hamper, helping to transfer things from the washer to the dryer, helping his big sister set their little table for meals, feeding the dog, sorting clothes, lining up the shoes by the front door, washing the table after meals, washing his hands and face, ECT. Nothing organized, just involving them in the normal day-to-day stuff.
Every single day?
No. Some days we just do what needs to be done to get through the day sane. When you are caring for 3 little ones, every day is different; not everyone is feeling collaborative every single day.
How often do you get to do Montessori presentations with your 4 year old?
That is based completely on her interest. Sometimes daily and sometimes we will go a month without doing anything more than the Sandpaper Letters here and there. She has her favorite materials at the moment; all math materials, and she enjoys doing those on her own.
How do you handle it when your 2 year old interrupts her and messes with the beads and other small parts while she us working?
When possible, I sit nearby, let him know that she is busy working, and redirect him to an activity that I think will capture his interest. I have also instructed my 4 year that when I am unavailable to help, she can tell him “I am working right now”, and take her materials to another room and close the door.
What Montessori activities can young babies do?
Babies are pretty simple (Simple, not easy.) They just need love, smiles, conversation, and free-time to explore. He doesn’t always enjoy being worn in a sling or carrier, nor does he appreciate being flat on his back. So, he stays in my arms a lot, sits on my lap while I read books to my 2 year old, and relaxes in his bouncy seat (Not “Montessori”, but good for babies with reflux.) while I sing to him.
Do you feel like you are doing enough “schooling”?
I do. Most of our days are spent with the older 2 chasing each other, flipping through books, singing and dancing, jumping in leaves, and looking for bugs under the moss. Doing what children have done since the dawn of time; being kids. Playing. My belief is that there is more for them to learn than can be taught, and I would hate to get in the way of their learning. I’m a big advocate of free-play, and so much is learned through our conversations throughout the day. They seem to be thriving!
What is a day is a day in a Montessori homeschool really like?
It’s not everyday, but today…ha! Right now, my 2 year old is screaming because my 4 year old won’t let him sit on her lap…she’s on the toilet. And my 3 month old (Hello, 3 month growth spurt!) won’t stop nursing long enough for me to address the mountain of laundry in the middle of the living room….which I desperately need to take care of because there is about a gallon of baby puke saturating my current shirt and I really need to find a clean one.
Also, I have no idea what we are going to eat for dinner tonight, but I really don’t feel like having three kids help. So, I will probably just put out a box of crafting supplies to keep them busy.
And I’m tired.
And I feel like crying.
Because that’s real. That’s motherhood. And there just isn’t an Instagram filter that could make today look any better.
So, there you have it! It’s not picture perfect.
But, I’m curious to know how homeschooling works in your home, Montessori or otherwise. How do you manage the days?
I’m really hoping for some feedback!