How to Montessori Homeschool Your Preschooler
If you’re considering homeschooling your preschooler Montessori-Style then you’ve come to the right place. This page is an in-depth guide for using the Montessori Method to homeschool your preschooler.
When you are just getting started with the Montessori Educational Method, the sheer volume of information (and products) that show up when you search the term “Montessori” might feel a bit overwhelming.
But as a mom, you’re too busy to dig through a hundred different blog posts to find the information you need.
That means that you may be looking for a done-for-you Montessori Curriculum that will help you create a structured learning environment that covers all the bases.
But before you shell out hundreds of dollars for a curriculum that will probably leave you feeling overwhelmed, take some time to read through our comprehensive guide to homeschooling Montessori preschoolers.
- How to Montessori Homeschool Your Preschooler
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
- WHAT IS MONTESSORI?
- WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF MONTESSORI COMPARED TO MAINSTREAM SCHOOLING?
- THE 8 PRINCIPLES OF MONTESSORI
- How do I create a Montessori-inspired environment for my preschooler?
- THE FIRST STEPS TO CONSIDER FOR CHILDREN AGES 0-6:
- Montessori Preschool: Activities for Developing Fine Motor Skills
- Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Practical Life Skills
- Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Early Math Skills
- Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Early Literacy Skills
- Montessori Preschool Routine
- Montessori Preschool: Expert tips
- Keep Learning
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
WHAT IS MONTESSORI?
“Montessori” is the last name of Dr. Maria Montessori, a pioneer who developed a novel approach to whole child education in the 1800s. She used her own scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood in developing the model.
Dr. Montessori’s method has been around for over 100 years. It has been successful in virtually all cultures as well as in both short term and longitudinal studies.
The Montessori Method can be broken broadly into 3 points:
1. It revolves around creating a child-centered educational approach.
2. It views the child as a natural learner who is capable of initiating learning and acquiring knowledge if provided a thoughtfully prepared environment.
3. It values development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive.
That’s it. Yes, really. Everything else is details. (Which we will turn to next).
Please feel free to read those last 3 points over and over… and over again. They are the real take homes of Dr. Montessori’s work.
Using this information to reshape the way you think about education is a quick and easy way to begin your Montessori inspired homeschooling journey.
When you question what to do or how to do something on your homeschooling journey, ask yourself:
1) am I following my child’s lead?
2) is my child’s environment prepared in a way that meets his/her needs?
3) am I valuing my child’s physical, social, emotional AND cognitive development without an over or under emphasis on any one component?
These 3 underpinnings drive everything else we will discuss going forward.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF MONTESSORI COMPARED TO MAINSTREAM SCHOOLING?
One of the biggest differences between Montessori and mainstream education is that children in a traditional classroom follow a strict curriculum. In a traditional classroom, children will have very little say in what they learn.
In Montessori education, children are allowed to roam freely around the classroom. They’re free to explore different materials at their own pace, they are encouraged to and inspired to dig deeply into materials that interest them.
Dr. Montessori believed that children should experience self-discovery, and she wanted to create an environment in which they could learn naturally.
By letting your child choose his own materials, you’ll be helping him develop skills that will benefit him throughout his educational career. And you’ll be giving him the chance to enhance his curiosity and creativity.
THE 8 PRINCIPLES OF MONTESSORI
#1 – Movement & Cognition are Entwined
Dr. Montessori espoused that people learn better when they move. So, Montessori materials are designed to encourage movement throughout the learning process.
For example, children interact with large maps as part of their geography work, and use hand bells as part of their musical education.
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example:
My son and I do a happy dance when he spells 10 words in a row correctly. (He made up the rules!)
#2 – Learning and Well Being are Improved When People Feel in Control of Their Lives
Generally, in Montessori classrooms, children freely choose their work, and to work on it for as long or as short of a time as desired. Note: this really focuses on the perception of control.
Remember that the teacher chooses the materials that are available to the child. For younger children, guidance is sometimes needed.
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example
I really messed this up the other day. My son, who has been reading since age 3, FINALLY picked up a manipulative he’d been ignoring for months.
I thought he had already surpassed it and pushed him to do something he really wasn’t interested in (I wanted him to read to me! Bad mommy!). He wound up rushing through the reading, guessing and disengaging.
#3 – People Learn Better When They are Interested in the Topic
This probably seems pretty intuitive, but in most classrooms, children are forced to study what is presented, regardless of their interest level.
Montessori education is crafted to inspire children to want to learn — allowing them to focus on work that personally interests them fosters this. This also helps kids build intrinsic motivation (as opposed to extrinsic, which we will discuss next).
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example:
This is why I LOVE unit studies! You can sneak every subject into whatever your kids are into. My family has done unit studies on dinosaurs, outer space, the butterfly life cycle, horses and more!
#4 – Extrinsic Rewards have a Negative Impact on Motivation once the Reward is Withdrawn
The goal in the Montessori classroom is to assist the child in seeing learning as a reward in and of itself. So, there are no gold stars — and often no grades at all — in Montessori classrooms.
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example
My son loves to learn. He really is the cutest nerd ever 🙂 Oftentimes, I don’t even know when, where or how he learned something.
When he was about 3.5, all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, he picked up the abacus and started skip counting by 10s! I was astonished…. dumbfounded even.
He looked up and said “Mommy, isn’t skip counting fun!?!” He didn’t need a reward. He WANTED to learn, so he did. And he had a blast.
#5 – Collaboration can be Conducive to Learning
This is why Montessori classrooms are generally multi-age; so kids can teach and learn from each other. In a homeschooling environment, this can be tough to replicate.
I highly recommend you find a coop or other group of like minded moms in your area, and network. Eventually, you will find one or two other children that really match your child’s learning style. You can set up educational playdates, followed by fun at the park or museum.
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example:
We got SO lucky when we stumbled upon a bilingual, Montessori inspired family in our area. The kids love to learn together, so they get together in our Montessori classroom about once per month.
We are studying Asia right now, so they have decided to make an “Asian Recipe” — a chocolate dinosaur cake — decorated with dinosaurs of Asia! So fun!
#6 – Learning in a Meaningful Context can be Better Than Learning in Abstraction
This is best explained with examples. If your child loves paleontology, it’s great to read a book about it, but it’s AMAZING to bury dino fossils in cloud dough and give the kid a little shovel and paintbrush to play paleontologist!
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example
My daughter LOVES horses. So, we found a local farm, and once a week, they teach us about the horses, how to care for them, and let us ride them!
#7 – Particular Forms of Adult Interaction are Associated with More Optimal Child Outcomes
Dr. Montessori thought that adults should walk a careful balance in the classroom.
This is one of the things certified Montessori teachers learn during training — the skill of allowing a child to work and struggle just long enough to learn from it, but not so long that they become frustrated.
Real Life Homeschool Example
My son REALLY wanted to do a bilingual wipe clean workbook. He had done it before, but wanted to repeat it.
As he worked, he was happy and moving along swimmingly. All of a sudden, he got to something challenging.
I don’t really remember what it was, but I remember seeing the tiny little blood vessel in his forehead awaken. I calmly walked over and said “You’ve been working hard for a long while. I’m proud of your effort. I just wanted to check in and see how things are going.“
He proceeded to tell me all about the problem — and then solve it on his own! (All I had to do was keep my mouth shut – I don’t always succeed with that one LOL)
#8 – Order in the Environment Benefits Children
Dr. Montessori used order and predictability in the classroom to decrease anxiety levels, build independence and enhance children’s love of learning.
Real Life Montessori Homeschool Example:
Have you ever decluttered your child’s environment and noticed right away how much calmer, happier and interactive with their surroundings they are?
The first time I did this I was utterly amazed. Order is awesome!
How do I create a Montessori-inspired environment for my preschooler?
When you’re ready to start homeschooling your preschooler, you’ll most likely start looking for worksheets and activities to ensure that your child learns the foundational concepts needed before school.
The unique thing about the Montessori approach is the fact that it is designed to teach your child those foundational concepts through play.
Before you can even begin homeschooling your child, you’ll want to focus on creating an environment that is tailored to learning. In a Montessori Preschool Classroom, every “toy” is a learning experience.
Children are given the freedom to explore the classroom and play with the materials available. Typically, teachers in the classroom don’t call it “play” they call it the child’s “work.”
This is just one more way the Montessori method is set up to help children understand that we learn and grow through everything we do.
This means that teaching your child math skills, literacy skills and fine motor skills will be integrated into your daily life rather than something that you sit down to review.
Your child’s learning environment will be one of the most important parts of the experience. Taking the time to set up development-centered environment for your child will make all the difference between success and failure.
Of course, if you’ve never set up a “classroom” before, then the whole thing may feel a bit daunting. Below, I’ve listed the most important elements to help you get started.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a perfect set-up right from the get-go, you can always add new items into the room as your child develops specific interests.
THE FIRST STEPS TO CONSIDER FOR CHILDREN AGES 0-6:
– Toddler Table & Chair Set
– Child-sized Arm Chairs
– Tray Tables
– Bookshelves (***You will need to anchor these to the wall***)
Then, place toys on the shelves, with a bit of space between each one, so that they can explore what you set out on the bookshelf independently. (And, put the old toy box into storage – along with some of the toys – less is more with Montessori). Later, these shelves may hold “Montessori work“.
Place all other items at your child’s level. This means rearranging the fridge, freezer, pantry, drawers, etc… so that your children can easily access the items designed for them.
Use child sized utensils. I only purchased one set per child, and it’s worked out fine.
You certainly can spend money on child-sized spatulas, cutting boards, measuring cups/spoons, etc… My kids do great with the full-size items, though.
Your children probably enjoy “helping” out around the house, so I recommend starting out with a few child-sized items that will allow them to help you with chores.
In addition to folding small washcloths and using a towel to wipe up spills, my kids love the Melissa and Doug cleaning sets.
Transition to a low or floor bed. This doesn’t have to be painful!
We waited until the time was right for our family, bought memory foam mattresses, and simply placed them on the floor of our kids’ rooms. They love them. We got ours at Sams Club. Let your kids pick out the color sheets and comforter they’d like (limit their choices to 2 or 3 you pre-approved).
And don’t stress if you’re not comfortable transitioning your baby/toddler to a floor bed. Many babies get used are perfectly happy going right into a toddler bed!
Simplify and declutter your home. This is hard at the start, but so very worth it.
You don’t have to get rid of anything you don’t want to, and I don’t recommend throwing things away just because they’re plastic. Instead, find a closet you can use to rotate toys.
You can do this a few times a week, or a few times a month, whichever works best for you. You can use a 3 drawer plastic shelving unit or large storage bins or a closet with space.
Just label each set of toys with a day of the week or week of the month. Then swap out toys on those days – easy peasy.
Pairing your new Montessori Environment with some intentional activities to develop specific skills is the next step. Fortunately,
But, what makes an activity “Montessori“?
Remember that in Montessori, we want to help children become independent — so Montessori activities help kids learn to do something for themselves. This is why Montessori activities promote self-sufficiency, critical thinking, and motor skills development.
Remember that we want to follow the child. So the most important element of any Montessori activity is that it is tailored to the child’s interests and developmental needs.
Montessori Preschool: Activities for Developing Fine Motor Skills
One of the most important skills developed during the preschool years will be motor skills. In traditional preschools, this means your child will spend a lot of time working on handwriting and cutting skills.
In true Montessori fashion, this approach to fine motor focuses on integrating practice into practical life.
- Cutting bananas
- Measuring, scooping, and mixing while baking
- Pouring water (for older kids you can add food coloring and make this into a fun color mixing activity)
- Transferring dry rice, beans, or beads
- Arranging flowers (we bought fake ones for less mess and repeat use)
- Folding laundry (I give my youngest the small washcloths)
- Tearing paper
- Pulling scarves from a box
- Pulling lace or ribbons through a hole
- Sensory bins using sand, water, or cloud dough (sensory bins are not Montessori, but they can be of great help to kids with sensory issues)
Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Practical Life Skills
Although Practical life skills are definitely responsible for a lot of the other skills your child will develop, there are some practical life skills that can really be considered a category unto themselves. Below is a shortlist of ideas but there are many more!
- Playing with textured balls
- Real toolsets (for older toddlers)
- Cleaning windows (we also do this in the bathtub and shower)
- Balancing (investing in a balance beam might be a good idea)
- Watering plants
- Serve food that they’ve prepared
- Taking trips to the supermarket (and then including them in selecting and measuring fruits and veggies!)
- Setting the table
- Clearing the table
- Cleaning up spills
- Hammering toys
- Dressing and undressing
- Brush hair and teeth
- Wash hands (some folks set up a station for this)
- Tidy up
- Making coffee and tea
- Wipe hands and face
- Using remote controls (car, tv, vcr, etc…)
Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Early Math Skills
Montessori Math is one of the most unique elements of the Montessori Method. Students who learn Montessori math methods first often have a much better grasp of number sense. Below is a list of a few of our favorite math activities but you can also jump over to this post to get more information about which Math activities are appropriate for which age
- Number Rods
- Sandpaper Numbers
- Spindle Boxes
- Numbers and Counters
- Golden Bead Material
- Number Cards
- Stamp Game
- Dot Game
Montessori Preschool Curriculum: Activities for Developing Early Literacy Skills
Literacy is a fancy way of saying early reading skills. Of course, the earliest of that skill is more specifically about learning letter sounds and recognition.
As with all things Montessori, most of the literacy materials used for early childhood are focused on visual and sensory cues.
This is a list of our favorites.
Montessori, in the early years focuses heavily on Practical Life Activities, as well as sensory and gross/fine motor activities. So, this is a great list!
As you can see, Montessori homeschooling is something practical and it’s something we all can work into our daily lives!
Montessori Preschool Routine
Before you start planning each minute of your day, remember that freedom and choice are foundational elements of the Montessori philosophy.
So although a schedule isn’t necessary, having a routine is a great idea. Children feel a sense of security whenever they know what’s coming next.
Make sure you have clear routines set up for bedtime, eating, and potty training. Kids do great with visual cues and routines.
There are TONS of free visual cue options online, but I highly recommend finding one that is editable. This way, you can really customize it for your child(ren).
Montessori Preschool: Expert tips
Treat your child with respect.
Speak to them as you would any other adult as much as reasonably possible. Say please and thank you. Ask for their opinions and ideas.
Be a “guide on the side”
There’s a saying in the education field that aligns with the Montessori approach perfectly. ‘Teachers should be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage.”
On occasion, your child will need help in learning. But they should still do a large majority of the learning on their own, through exploration.
Allow your child to develop their ability to concentrate by not interrupting unnecessarily. Help when needed, but step back when not needed.
Incorporate nature into your routine.
The benefits of incorporating nature into your child’s daily life are indisputable.
My kids love simply going on walks and gardening with us and their other family members, but their absolute favorite is to go on scavenger hunts! I print, laminate and provide a dry erase marker for frequent use. Again, just google it.
There are TONS of online freebies. If you’d like to learn more about nature in Montessori education, check out this article written by Dr. Montessori herself: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078035.pdf
***Do all of this slowly, at a pace that is enjoyable. Involve your children in the process. Gauge their reactions and follow their leads. If something I’ve said here doesn’t work for them, don’t do it! If they do better with an alternative, go for and see how it goes. Don’t spend a ton of money. Focus on implementing the principles, ideas and philosophies we discussed in my last two posts on this topic. And, please let us know how it goes!***
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