Montessori homeschool

As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, there are more and more curriculum options and resources available. This is wonderful, but it can also be overwhelming. How do you know which method is right for your family? Is it better to choose one curriculum and commit, or mix and match?

Educational choices are very personal. There is no one right way for all families, or for all children.

Here are some things to consider if you're thinking of using the Montessori method to homeschool your children:

1. The Montessori method is a mindset

Montessori materials are beautiful in design. They are designed specifically to draw children in, to make them want to touch and handle and master the materials. They often draw adults in in the same way, but it's important to understand that Montessori is much more of a mindset than a set of materials.


Montessori is about letting the child drive their own education, observing them carefully and preparing the environment to meet their own needs and interests. It is about giving the child the freedom to work and learn at their own pace, rather than according to a set of standards.

This sounds beautiful, but it's also hard. It's difficult to watch a child show no interest in reading and trust their interest will increase when they're ready. It's hard to let a child make a discovery on their own, slowly and over time, rather than jumping in excitedly to show them how it works or the "right" way to do it.

It's important to reflect and decide if this is in line with your personality because, even if Montessori is great for all children, it won't necessarily work for you as the teacher, or "guide" as the adult is often referred to in Montessori.

2. Uninterrupted time is valued

In Montessori schools, children don't move from class to class, switching from math to reading after 45 minutes. Instead, they have large—often three hour—blocks of unstructured time during which they can choose what to work on. These large blocks of time are essential to Montessori because they allow the children to dive deep into whatever they're working on.

Large time blocks are also important if you're using Montessori because if you let children decide what to work on themselves, some children will ease in slowly.

Just as some adults need to drink a cup of coffee and check their email before getting into real work, some children need to do a puzzle or draw a picture before they're ready to choose something academically challenging.

I had one wonderful little boy in my class who began every single morning with making a necklace. He actually made the same necklace every day, with one bead from every color of the rainbow. He then moved on to do a variety of work for the rest of the morning, but if he had only had a 45 minute chunk of time to work, he would have mostly made necklaces.

You have to ask yourself, are you okay with being home for large chunks of time, or are you happier going from activity to activity? Do you get stir crazy if you're home too much? If you would rather do 45 minutes of homeschooling work before taking your child to a different class or activity each day, Montessori might not be the best choice.

3. Follow their curiosities, not yours

As a teacher, you may go into each day with an idea of what lessons you want to give each child, but there is no overall plan for what the children will work on. The available materials are on the shelf and the children choose what to practice. They may practice reading all morning today and sewing all morning tomorrow. They may become so engrossed in learning about maps that they don't do any math for a solid week.

It can be beautiful to watch a child become inspired and follow their own curiosities and passions to learn more about the world.

Montessori is all about freedom within limits, so make sure you ask yourself if this kind of flexibility works for you. Taking a step back takes a profound trust in children and their innate ability and desire to learn. Letting go of control takes practice.

4. Consider the space in your home

Montessori uses hands on materials to help children learn and make discoveries on their own. Children use the movable alphabet, a set of wooden letters, to learn to build words. They use a material called golden beads to learn the decimal system and mathematical operations.

You of course won't need every Montessori material if you're homeschooling. You will however need space in your house with shelves for materials. You can rotate the materials you have out so it doesn't need to be a tremendous amount of space, but something you'll have to plan and think through.

5. A montessori teacher is different from a traditional teacher

The role of the teacher in a Montessori setting is significantly different than that of a teacher in a traditional school. A Montessori teacher's main roles are to observe the child, prepare the classroom environment to meet the child's needs, and present occasional lessons to show the child how to use a new material. The teacher guides the child's learning process, but the goal is for the child to discover things on their own.

For example, you might observe your young child trying to count their blocks. In response, you might prepare a counting work and place it on their Montessori shelf.

You would then present a short lesson to your child on how to do the work before taking a step back and letting them work with the material on their own for as long as they wanted. You would not correct their work if they made a mistake, but instead would make a note to yourself to show them the lesson again if they're still struggling.

If you're considering Montessori homeschooling, you'll need to decide if this is in line with your own educational philosophy.

Montessori homeschooling is for me and my family, now what?

If you think Montessori homeschooling might be right for you, request to observe a local Montessori school. Most schools welcome observers and this will give you a better idea of whether the model is a good fit for your family.

There are also many books written by Maria Montessori herself, as well as other educators that describe the method and materials in great detail.

If you're still not sure if you want to dive into Montessori for your homeschooled child, make or buy a few Montessori materials to try. After all, flexibility and the freedom to try different things are some of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.

You might also like:

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less

Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

Keep reading Show less