One of the best parts of homeschooling is the freedom to teach your child how you see fit. With so many different ways to go about teaching and varying opinions on education from teachers, parents, doctors, and more, it’s no wonder so many educational philosophies have popped up over the years. With the push for academics at an earlier age, children falling behind their peers, and other issues today’s children are facing at public schools, many parents are seeking laid-back, child-centered ways to teach their children at home.
Montessori is one such educational philosophy that focuses on letting children learn at their own pace and dive deeper into their interests. Teachers are there to provide guidance in children’s self-directed learning rather than to give rote lessons. Emphasis is also placed on independent problem-solving, practical skills, and social-emotional development.
As you can imagine, the basic principles of Montessori lend themselves well to home education. If you’ve been looking for a more hands-off approach to teaching that also instills a lifelong love of learning, Montessori may be right for you and your family. Read on to learn more of the whats and hows of this unique educational philosophy.
What is Montessori Homeschooling?
Many facets make up the Montessori philosophy. To make it a bit easier to digest, here are some of the most important aspects.
- Allows children to learn in a more natural way, with less formal teaching and lessons.
- Kids are given time to develop and pursue their own interests.
- Children learn at their own pace.
- Montessori focuses on the whole child, not just academics. (social, emotional, physical, etc)
- Children receive more individualized attention.
- Prepared environments with age-appropriate, self-correcting objects and activities allow children to learn what they are developmentally ready for on their own. This and a less hands-off approach from educators develops problem-solving skills.
- Instilling a love of learning is more important than children learning certain material in a specified timeframe.
This educational philosophy was created by Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female doctor. She was able to test her child-centered educational theories at her Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), an educational center for low-income children. Her goal was to ensure children of all backgrounds were able to get an education by enabling them to learn on their own.
Now that we’ve touched upon some important aspects and history of Montessori, let’s talk about whether it’s a good fit for home education.
How Does Montessori Fit in With Homeschooling?
The basic principles of Montessori go hand-in-hand with homeschooling. For starters, one of the main reasons many choose to homeschool is so their child can have more time to pursue their interests. Another big reason is so children can learn at their own pace, another main tenet of Montessori.
One aspect of Montessori we touched on briefly is learning practical, everyday skills. (This includes taking care of yourself, household chores, and even sewing and other handy skills in older age groups.) The home environment is much more conducive to learning these skills than a regular classroom.
The Montessori method is structured, but child-centered. As a homeschooling style, this not only helps children learn resilience and problem-solving skills, but patience and self-discipline. A parent’s role is to provide more guidance than strict leadership with a set program.
The “prepared environment” is easier to do yourself at home too. You know your child best and can include what you find important and more comfortable for them. Speaking of individualization, Montessori is more of a philosophy than a set program, so you can tailor it however you need to. (After all, Montessori is child-led learning at its finest.) Being at home, you’re better able to give individual attention to and cater materials and environments to your child’s needs and interests.
Traditionally, classrooms are divided into wide age groups, like 3-6-year-olds in one classroom, as opposed to having kids of the same age in each class. As you can imagine, this is another aspect that works well with homeschooling if you have children of varying ages. All of your kids can work together. Younger ones can learn concepts from and by observing older siblings. Older children can learn patience, leadership, and to look at things from different viewpoints. Kids also learn to get along with people of all ages, not just their peers, which is important in the real world.
How Can Montessori Be Incorporated Into Home Learning?
There are many ways you can incorporate Montessori learning into your homeschool. Remember, too, you don’t have to go all in right away. You can slowly incorporate different aspects over time or just start with a few to see if it works for your family. Regardless, here are some tips to begin.
A great starting point is to take some time to learn your child’s interests. Likely, if you’ve already been homeschooling or have a young child who hasn’t started school, you already have a good idea of what they’re into. Even so, it’s beneficial to really get to know what interests them since that is one of the main points of Montessori education.
You should also take some time to see what areas your child may need help in. While Montessori is less structured and formal than other forms of education, your child still needs to learn certain concepts in English, Science, Math, etc. Just keep in mind that all children learn at their own pace. One 5-year-old might be ready to start learning CVC words while another may not be ready for it until they are 6 or even 7!
Offer a variety of educational manipulatives. A quick search for the age of the child you are schooling and “Montessori manipulatives” for whatever subject will give you plenty of ideas to start with. Also keep in mind what your child should be learning (typical for their age), if they are ready to learn that material, and what subjects they may need some extra help in when choosing manipulatives. We also recommend investing in (or making your own) that are multifunctional and can be used for learning other concepts in years to come.
The “prepared learning environment” might sound fancy. But really, this just means making things available to children to learn on their own. For younger children, this could be building blocks, dress-up clothes, and art materials. For older children, it could be easy access to science kits, like a human body model, books on a variety of subjects they can read when they like, or even building or sewing materials.
Let children help with everyday things around the house and explore outside. Kids are actually learning a ton when they do these things! Measuring and following directions are two obvious things learned by cooking. Cleaning up after themselves, doing laundry, etc teaches responsibility. All sorts of things can be learned outdoors: tree names, leaf classification, gardening (soil amendments, how much water each plant needs, how much sunlight it needs), life cycles of insects, and more.
It’s important to keep your learning space uncluttered. We know. Easier said than done. This is also part of the “prepared environment” aspect, though. Organized spaces help children learn better, are less distracting, and more calming. Think of the saying “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. This will help children know where items belong too.
Get some child-sized implements, whether that’s cups and silverware, tools, or garden tools. If they are interested in something that is generally done by adults, try to find a child-sized version of it, like a loom, for example. These should still be usable things, not cheap kiddie versions that are more for show/pretend than actual work. Montessori is all about autonomy.
As if that’s not enough, here are a few more tips to make your home more Montessori-friendly.
- Have a small rug or two handy for floor work, reading time together, etc.
- Enforce quiet times where they choose a lesson and explore on their own. Stick to a daily schedule. Although exploration is encouraged, routines are important too.
- As far as materials, Montessori manipulatives and toys have traditionally been made with natural materials, like wood and cloth. They’re more delicate and children learn to care for their items instead of living with the “throw-away” mindset. You also want to look for things that help children mimic real-life activities, like cooking, and do away with “passive toys”. These are the ones that play music, light up, move on their own, and don’t really require much interaction from children. Look for items that use imagination and innovation to play with.
- Be prepared to change your own mindset about learning! As you have probably gathered, Montessori schooling is a lot more hands-off for the adult (providing guidance only if needed) and hands-on for children.
The Montessori method is a great way to further focus on your child and allow them to learn more about their interests. It allows children to be active participants in their learning and teaches much more than academics, such as a love of learning, life skills, and social development.