To date I've received a number of questions pertaining to how I enriched myself with Montessori knowledge (quickly) and how to get started on integrating Montessori into a homeschool environment.
I thought it'll be great to do a post to share my experience.
At ~10 months, my daughter (like all babies nearing toddlerhood) was perpetually wide-eyed, curious and wanted a hand in everything.
When she clung to my ankle as I made lunch, I figured she needed something to keep her little hands busy. One of the earliest activities had her plucking bakchoy vegetable leaves off stems. She was absorbed, and I sensed that she was finding joy in working with her hands. The setup wasn't Pinterest worthy and vegetables usually turned out mutilated and savagely-chewed, but I found it meaningful to engage her so, and turned it into a habit whenever I was busy in the kitchen.
Then I hadn't even known there was a name to these kind of activities, as I do today. Helping out in the kitchen is an everyday life activity, termed Practical Life Activity, in Montessori vocabulary.
Seeing the way I parented, my friend Angela suggested to me, "Read The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies. I think you'll find your ways quite Montessori-aligned."
And she was spot-on.
Deciding on Montessori
I read the book and fell in love with the Montessori philosophy of 'following the child'. It was respectful, authentic and I particularly loved the concepts of freedom within limits and empowering children with life skills to prepare them for the future.
I decided I wanted to raise my daughter in the Montessori way.
I contemplated obtaining formal Montessori training. However, time and lack of childcare help stood in the way. I couldn't set aside an average of 10-15 hours per week for academic learning or commit to a year-long practicum with children in a Montessori classroom.
Lack of Montessori Training isn't a Blocker for Montessori Parenting
Though I lacked the Montessori credentials and qualifications, I believed it was still possible to adopt Montessori in my everyday life with my daughter. Carrots are Orange is an inspiring example. Montessori is a way of life, not just a curriculum.
I spent 1+ year extensively researching and trying to make sense of everything Montessori. The Internet's rich (and free) resources was fodder for my learning. But like a double-edged sword, information overload and picture-perfect Pinterest setups also got me overwhelmed and discouraged.
Eventually I found my own comfort zone, my style, my system. It became clear to me that while I embraced many Montessori ideals, not all worked for me. For example, I wanted to encourage pretend play for boosting creativity and imagination, something not emphasised in favour of authentic experiences in Montessori.
Having clarity and knowledge about Montessori eventually gave me the confidence to decide to homeschool. Today I'm happy to share that my Montessori-inspired homeschool system is working wonderfully for my daughter and me.
I've crystallised the 7 ways that helped me learn and get up to speed with Montessori education, as well as get started on my Montessori-inspired homeschooling journey.
7 Ways to Learn & Start Montessori Homeschooling Without Formal Training
I hope this helps you in your research and Montessori homeschooling journey!
1. Learn from Montessori Books
Foreword: It could feel intimidating, learning about a schooling approach from scratch without tutelage, guidance or teaching whatsoever. It is.
But remind yourself that starting on a clean slate has its own merits; it's like being a sponge ready to take in all viewpoints and evaluate them from your own personal perspective (example: I read about drawbacks of Montessori education and eventually that got me choosing to do a Montessori-inspired approach vs. a full traditional Montessori approach).
Also, remember that the best teacher might very well be yourself. You decide how best you can learn, and then surround yourself with the right materials.
Personally I like harnessing Montessori knowledge from books as it offers data and explanations behind the Montessori philosophy, ideals and approach.
These are great books for Montessori 101, recommended by traditional Montessorians and Montessori-inspired caregivers alike.
- The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies - Great 'how-to' resource book with constructive sections like "Putting it into Practice" and "Instead of this, say this"
- Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard - Great resource for explaining and clarifying the fundamentals of Montessori (Not a 'how to' book)
- Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents - Collection of Dr. Maria Montessori's lectures addressing parents, explaining how to better understand parents' role in children's development
- Basic Montessori - learning activities for under 5s by David Gettman - Content-rich with Montessori activities with step-by-step guide for understanding young children's behavior
As Montessori is about respective parenting and positive reframing, these books are also extremely helpful:
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King - Real-life case studies on how to troubleshoot and seek cooperation of children through changing our language and approach
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck - Understand growth vs. fixed mindset and ways to encourage the growth mindset
- How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P Klein - Understand toddler brain and science behind success drivers such as resilience and empathy
Books can be heavy in content and take a long time to read through, stressful when there is limited time to hold a physical book to read. Trying new mediums to absorb knowledge like podcasts and audio books can be particularly helpful to integrate learning with everyday life. The Shelf Help podcasts by The Kavanaugh Report offers real life conversations about realities of Montessori parenting.
2. Glean Inspiration from Montessori Blogs
Stand on the shoulders of those who've gotten there before you.
This was definitely how I felt when I discovered Montessori blogs by other moms who had embarked on this homeschooling journey before me and are sharing their know-hows.
Blogs are free and many are frequently updated. They are a great source of inspiration, reference and guidance. Sometimes Montessori blog authors allow commenting and free consultation.
Blog reading has shaped my Montessori-inspired homeschooling curriculum and unit studies tremendously, as well as selection of books and toys for our Prepared Environment. These are the blogs I frequent and benefited most from:
- The Montessori Guide - Resource tool for Montessori practitioners. I usually reference my presentation of Montessori materials here. Tip: Look up Youtube videos to help visualise the presentation better.
- The Montessori Notebook - This blog is by Simone Davies, also the author of The Montessori Toddler book. Like her book, this website is informative, helpful and easy to read.
- CHALK Academy - Betty, a pediatrician mom, is passionate about Montessori-inspired activities to introduce bilingualism to children. Her book recommendations are extremely useful for caregivers looking to introduce a new language to little ones.
- Guavarama - Informative Montessori + Chinese resource
- Montessori in Real Life - I enjoy her updates about the development of her toddler and baby, D and S. Particularly inspired by her posts on tackling toddler tantrums and transitions, and shelf activity ideas for baby and toddler.
- The Kavanaugh Report - Inspirational for how to integrate Montessori into family life with 3 children, with newly launched podcasts to address common questions about Montessori parenting and shelf activities.
- How We Montessori - Kylie D’Alton shares her beautiful journey of raising 3 children the Montessori way from birth to 6 years.
- 3 Minute Montessori - Jasmine's independence promoting activities and tips for setting up a Montessori home in small spaces are useful and inspirational.
- Even Better Parenting - Practises calm and respectful Montessori parenting and that theme carries through in all her posts.
- Carrots are Orange - Rich resources, ideas and learning materials for incorporating Montessori at home, on a budget. She inspires a Montessori lifestyle that is accessible and within reach for everyone.
3. Harness Free Montessori Printables
Purchasing traditional Montessori materials can be costly, and there are limited places to procure them. Making them from scratch is time-consuming and laborious.
The sweet spot? Free online resources.
These are online platforms for free download of free printables and 3-way cards. 3-way cards are important for building of knowledge and skills in vocabulary, classification, reading, writing, culture, geography and art.
- Pinay Homeschooler - Huge collection of free printables. My favourites are her life cycle and animal habitat cards.
- Teachers Pay Teachers - Has both free and purchasable items. Search Montessori and filter by 'free' (or click on the link to be directed)
- Trillium Montessori - Particularly fond of their free nomenclature cards.
- CHALK Academy - Printables Library for a variety of bilingual resources. Subscribe to gain access.
4. Find Support on Montessori Facebook Groups
Many Montessori-aligned Facebook Groups offer free courses/units and a rich support international group. It's a great platform to ask questions and seek tips from traditional Montessorians and Montessori-inspired parents/caregivers.
These are curated and well administrated Facebook Groups.
- Montessori at Home: 0 to 3 Years
- Montessori 101
- Montessori Inspiration At Home
- Montessori Toddlers
- Montessori Homeschooling
- Montessori Inspired Learning in Chinese
You can also find country or even state-specific Montessori Facebook groups to connect with those in your local communities.
5. Being Resourceful/Crafty with DIY
I believe Montessori is possible on a budget.
For the crafty moms, improvise activity setups with everyday materials, recyclables. For instance, math counters could be made from upcycled bottle caps. I use a lot of cardboard and nature loose parts in my activity setups. A family member good at wood work could help make the kitchen helper or pikler from scratch. DIY tutorials and Pinterest are a great help when improvising.
Also tap on your Montessori network to trade, buy or sell used Montessori materials. Sometimes, thrift stores might offer surprises. Montessori materials are usually of good quality that last ages and hold up to wear and tear. Some common Montessori materials that could be found at thrift stores are wooden jigsaw puzzles.
6. Financial Planning/Help for Montessori Essentials
For the things that can't be DIYed, make a list of big ticket items that you need in your minimalist Montessori home, that can grow with your child and have high mileage.
If you don't have a big budget upfront to splash on these items, fret not. Save consistently to afford them and use alternatives in the meantime. For instance, in place of a kitchen helper, my daughter used a foldable chair (back turned) to access the kitchen counter top for the longest time.
Rally family and friends to help with equipping your home with Montessori essentials. For instance, a Montessori gift registry for birthdays and special occasions (Christmas) would help loved ones understand what your home needs and support you in your Montessori journey.
These are Montessori items I would consider 'essential':
- Kitchen tower
- Kitchen tools
- Water pitcher
- Realistic books
'Good to have':
- Pikler triangle - for gross motor skill development
- Child-sized cleaning tools
- Work mat
- Art trolley
- Open-ended toys (for 2YO)
Beyond materials, there is an incredible amount of learning that can take place through everyday life (practical life activities) and outdoor exploration in nature. It can feel insecure about not getting everything but honestly, you're building a Montessori home that is prepared and inviting, and it does not need to look a classroom. Sometimes, the expensive materials like sandpaper materials don't appeal as much to children as DIY cardboard cards.
7. Making It A Montessori Lifestyle
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Montessori isn't just about the education, schooling or learning, it is about a lifestyle. Think of ways to 'Montessori' your life and take baby steps towards them until you achieve your desired Montessori-life integration.
Here are some of the ways Montessori has changed my lifestyle (for the better, I would like to add):
- Intentional time for nature and outdoor exploration - I'm not an outdoorsy person and dislike to perspire. But I know the importance of being in nature which is crucial for children's development. Now I set aside time for strolls and actively research neighboring nature spots (forests, trails, lakes, beaches etc) to bring my daughter to.
- Picking up kitchen skills - Exploring foods is great for children's sensory learning and understanding of healthy eating. But I was terrible at cooking in my pre-mum days. Embarking on Baby-led Weaning (BLW) acquainted me with meal preparation and these days, I strive to create varied, enjoyable and nutritious meals for my toddler, a little foodie.
- Taking care of plants - Family and friends know my inability to keep plants alive. But learning to be a steward of our environment is important, and I believe the appreciation for plants should start from young. Now I'm gingerly restarting my 'gardening' journey with growing vegetable scraps (green onions, celeries etc) and teaching my daughter about how plants make food, and how to take care of them.
- Practising grace and courtesy - I'm extremely patient with my daughter, but that doesn't usually extend to my husband. "He should know better!" I inwardly think and am guilty of being short-tempered and raising my voice sometimes at. him. I'm actively working on eliminating those double standards, and often remind myself that my child is observing our interactions which will shape her perception and understanding of marriage and relationships.
- Teaching 'gentle hands' and responsibility - We've switched out plastic for the use of glass, noticeably in my daughter's drinkware. The use of glass teaches her to be careful, mindful and accountable for her actions. Other physical ways of teaching responsibility include providing her with functional knives for kitchen work and working scissors for cutting activities.
- Making my home a child-friendly one (inviting and functional) - It's important to look at everyday life from a child's standpoint and find ways to empower them to be independent with practical life activities. Examples: (i) Step stools to access sinks for hand-washing independently, (ii) orderly system/shelf for toys and items so children know where to look for them and return them to, (iii) low table/high chair they can climb into on their own to dine with the family, (iv) access to snacks and water, (v) access to cleaning tools to tackle mess and spills, (vi) access to clothes and underwear and (vii) access to open-ended art tools for self-expression.
- Print-rich environment - Examples: Ensuring my daughter has access to books, nurturing a love for reading through storytimes as well as introducing print labels for everyday items at home.
- Recognising own role as enabler/supporter/nurturer vs. teacher - This holds true particularly for toileting, as Montessorians believe in guiding and empowering children to naturally learn about toileting when ready vs. caregivers picking a 'time' to 'potty train' with incentives/penalties.
- Acknowledgement and feedback vs. praise - To reframe the way we respond to children so as to nurture a growth mindset, critical for later success and self-perception. More about this in an earlier post.
I hope these recommendations are useful and I wish you all the best in your Montessori homeschooling journey!
To follow our play adventures, follow our Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook Group.
Note: As mentioned, I'm a regular mom who's not Montessori trained but hugely passionate about the Montessori way of parenting. The information shared is from research and recommendations from a Montessori-aligned community. I welcome suggestions to improve the accuracy or quality of this post. Thanks in advance!
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.