Monday, 2 October 2017

How to "Montessori-fy" Your Home

A few of my friends have asked me to write about how I first discovered Montessori and started implementing it in our home, as well as a good first step for them starting out. For this reason, I thought it would be beneficial for me to devote my post for this Montessori Monday to this topic.

I first started seeing Montessori on Pinterest when I was searching for ways to fill my days with Jerome when he was quite young. I remember the night I first discovered Kylie's blog at How We Montessori, and I honestly stayed up all night looking through her Photo of the Day feed and pinning like a madwoman.

From there I read. I wish I could tell you exactly the steps I took and the blogs and articles I read, but I cannot. I was insatiable for knowledge about Montessori. One blog I really appreciated reading was Sugar, Spice and Glitter for how detailed her posts are, such as this lesson on moving a chair, as well as all her descriptions of terms and materials (seriously, for those of you that want to learn about the materials, start here.) Another thing I really appreciate about this particular blog is that she has videos on many of the things she writes about, and sometimes this is exactly what I have needed to really make a concept stick. More of my favorite blogs were ones like How We Montessori, Kavanaugh Report and Every Day Begins New, which made Montessori seem so much more approachable and attainable for a regular family.

Another really informative blog I just discovered (and am really excited to further explore) is Carrots are Orange. From what I have read of it so far, it is well-organized, and her posts are very well-written. I think it will be my favourite resource for Montessori homeschooling and I highly recommend checking it out. Suffice this all to say that I do not feel qualified to share Montessori 101 advice, but there are definitely lots of people out there who are already simplifying Montessori whom I really believe are worth reading.

Over the past year I have been reading and rereading the Absorbent Mind, one of Maria Montessori's many books, and I have felt it to be a very good place to start, complex as it has been to understand at times. I would also recommend Tim Seldin's book, How To Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, and have listened to an audiobook version of Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook. (There are so many other books I have on my reading list, like The Mass Explained to Children by Maria Montessori and Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard, which I hope to order soon.)

As for how I first started implementing Montessori in our home, I have to admit, it started very small and is always changing in small increments. The very first thing I changed in our home, with Montessori as my inspiration, was on the bottom shelf of our pantry cabinet: a plate, a cup, a spoon, and a banana. Jerome was not ready for this and barely even noticed it. I had a shelf in my room with books and a little bowl of large rocks he could manipulate. A small puzzle. It was the smallest of baby steps, but I remember how often I would come in to find him, my tiny 20-month-old, sitting on the rug in my room exploring this shelf I had put together for him.

From here I read and read about materials, and stressed about it a lot. I watched videos on Youtube of Montessori moms baking with their kids. I googled the real-life things I was dealing with day to day, like how to show your young toddler to gently handle books (seriously, this is intense, there is a Youtube video and everything) and I was impressed by the sheer comprehensiveness of the Montessori method. It can be overwhelming, but for me it gave me this intense purpose as well. It rang true for me, and every single time I hungered for a new answer, I found one, and it added to the truth of the method.

Honestly, do not be afraid to just start. A few small pieces of advice (aside from reading as much as you feel capable of from the resources, and my own blog, I listed above.) are:

Start small, with just a shelf, just a room. Get down on your child's level in this space, and try to see it as they do. Are things presented in a way that is inviting, orderly, and adapted to their needs? If you have your toys all thrown together in large bins or a toy box, limit what is available to your child and place just a few items out on a shelf, ledge, or even along the edge of the room if you do not (yet) have a shelf. Group like objects, like wooden train tracks or small toy cars, together in a basket. Watch how your child interacts with their environment, the materials and items they are drawn to and do not be afraid to rotate, rotate, rotate if they do not seem to be engaging.

{Our play room. Some elements I have found to be really key are the low table for the boys to bring their work to, and the separate shelves, one for more "play related" activities, like train tracks and toy cars, and one for more "work related" activities, like puzzles and craft trays.}

Start with practical activities. Ask your child if they would like to help you mix up a batch of cookies, let them be hands-on in the process and do not make a big deal about the mess. Offer them a rag to wipe up a spill, and model how. Arrange your child's clothing so they can have independence in this area. Allow your child to use the vacuum, stand up at the sink and wash a few dishes, or carry a dish to the table. Maybe it goes without saying, but do not start with things that really stress you out (like allowing your child to use a knife or have free range of snacks, small and relaxed is always better.)

Focus on giving your child motives for concentration and on following your child's interests. Do not pay attention as much to what the children on Montessori Instagram accounts seem capable of doing, and just let your child show you what they are needing from their environment. Another huge focus for me has been my journey as a Montessori parent, becoming more supportive, peaceful, and attentive to my children without feeling the need to intervene or discipline violently, they need freedom and this can be difficult to allow as a parent.

I do not feel it is necessary to run out and buy a bunch of things right off the get go. Get a feel for how Montessori fits into your home, and use as much of what you already have as you can. When you are ready to start changing over to more Montessori-friendly materials, remember that natural materials like wood, glass, and material, are always preferred over plastic. Trays are useful for housing different kinds of activities and works, as having everything grouped in an orderly way can help a toddler not to feel overwhelmed.

Lastly, be gracious with yourself. I think (mostly) everyone feels overwhelmed when they first become interested in Montessori, and that is totally okay. There is a lot to learn, and a lot of it is pretty counter-cultural, but little-by-little it all starts making sense.

{The materials you provide for concentration (a huge part of what Montessori encourages) can be as simple as this Hi-Q game I found at a thrift store for $1.00} 

It is only a year and a half, really, since I first started learning about Montessori, which is why I am so hesitant to write like I am an expert. My goal with this blog is to share my passion for learning about Montessori, as I believe it should be shared. And, as important as it is for the older children in the Montessori classroom to give lessons to the younger, therefore benefitting themselves equally as much as the child on a different plane, I know that sharing my meager understanding helps to cement it so much more for myself.

As always, thank you for reading. Please comment, subscribe to the blog, and check us out on Instagram! If you have any questions about Montessori or our family, please feel free to contact me either through the blog, Instagram, or Bloglovin'. I will do my best to answer your questions, or will point you in the direction of another Montessorian I know will be able to assist you.

God bless,

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