If you feel overwhelmed, underqualified to teach Montessori even at home, and/or afraid to get started, then this post is for you. Recently, I wrote the post How to Start Using Montessori at Home. I hope you read and follow the ideas. Still, you may feel hesitant to get started, afraid you’ll present materials incorrectly, or just feel overwhelmed by parenting and/or life in general right now.
Here are 4 tips to hopefully reassure you that it’s alright to start where you are:
1. You really don’t need Montessori training to use Montessori at home.
While my Montessori certification gave me confidence in using Montessori with my children, it wasn’t essential. I first began using Montessori education in 1975 at the day care center where I taught. I had the guidance of an Association Montessori International (AMI) trained teacher and her albums and read a lot of Maria Montessori’s books, but I had never even seen a Montessori school before I converted my classroom into a Montessori-oriented classroom. My first post here, How Montessori Can Be a Life Journey, tells a bit more about my Montessori journey.
I basically had no budget, although I had nice wooden shelves and traditional day care toys. I moved all the toys except the educational toys to another classroom; found a grocery store that would donate Styrofoam meat trays to use for my trays (imagine that!); created activity trays using the educational materials I had; and made Montessori materials using Elizabeth Hainstock’s book Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years. (How I wish I had photos from that classroom!)
The amazing thing is that it worked! The children were calm, happy, and learned a lot. I loved that many of the discipline problems day care teachers face disappeared. The busy but calm atmosphere in my classroom made me happy – and led me to a Montessori career and life.
But the important point is that Montessori education worked before I had adequate resources OR Montessori training.
2. Certified Montessori teachers can vary tremendously in how they present materials, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re presenting materials “correctly.”
One year, I observed numerous Montessori schools throughout Arizona. I’ve worked with a number of teachers who had American Montessori Society (AMS) training. I have Montessori albums from my training program, an AMI teacher, and three different AMS teachers. I don’t think that any of the presentations are exactly the same. There are a lot of similarities, but I’ve been truly amazed at the variations there are among certified Montessori teachers’ presentations.
When I give directions for presenting materials, I’ll typically use a link to a site like Montessori Primary Guide because the AMI orientation will be close to Maria Montessori’s original ideas. And I typically use traditional presentations and layouts of materials in blog posts to try to avoid confusion. But those aren’t essential!
Jennifer at Montessori Print Shop, who is a certified AMI teacher, also encourages parents to to feel comfortable using Montessori at home in her post Use Montessori at Home. And we both recommend John Bowman’s Montessori at Home e-book as a great way to get started.
Here are a few posts about presenting lessons:
You could start with an activity and presentation like my first Activity of the Week: Activity of the Week – Spooning Grains.
If you want to make the activity seasonal and fun, use acorns or Halloween “ghosts” like the Halloween Spooning Work from Chasing Cheerios. To make preparation simple, your child could even help you make the Halloween ghosts, also giving your child an extra interest in the work.
When your tray is prepared, put it on a low shelf; show your child how to get it from the shelf and use it with a presentation similar to the video; and show your child how to return the tray to the shelf. Then just leave the tray with the activity on the shelf for your child to choose when he or she wishes.
3. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, your children can still do wonderfully even if you don’t change your materials as often as you’d like.
A lot of Montessori schools keep many of the same materials on the shelves always. Of course, you’ll find LOTS of amazing ideas of Montessori activities online that can be changed each week or each month, and some Montessori moms like to do that. It’s great if you and your child are comfortable with that.
But sometimes children stay interested in a material for a long time and actually prefer it left out. At other times, you just might not have the time or energy to change materials. That’s alright. Your child can use the materials you have available. I doubt Maria Montessori was rotating materials all the time for her classrooms either. And look at the results she had!
Remember that Maria Montessori based her method of education on observing the child. You’ll help your child tremendously if you simply watch what your child is interested in and responds to.
4. If you’re having a problem, just ask.
If you ask a question at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page, I’ll try to help and often other parents and/or teachers will help out as well. And you’ll be helping other parents who have the same questions. I like to think of us as a worldwide community, spreading love and encouragement in the most-important task of raising children.
Here are a few thoughts I had after homeschooling my children through high school that I hope are encouraging for using Montessori at home for any age: Top 5 Homeschool Lessons My Children Taught Me.
Photo Credit: Photo at top of post by Feggy Art at Flickr Creative Commons (License).