When we hear the word “Montessori,” the image that comes to mind for most of us is a typical casa de bambini primary classroom. You know the one - it boasts the iconic pink tower, huge wooden knobbed cylinders, the glorious golden beads and of course, the calm, studious and ever-peaceful small children. This idea of the Montessori Method is based solely in schools outside of the home. While many of these schools are great, Maria Montessori’s message and method don’t need to be confined to an outside-the-home school structure. Her studies proved that children learn and explore from birth, and that her methods should be employed constantly during their development. In this way, Montessori can be thought of as more of a mindset that can be utilized both to educate and raise children, generally.
Montessori At Home Versus Montessori Homeschooling
As you dive into the wonderful world of Montessori, this is usually the time when the distinction between Montessori at home and Montessori homeschooling appears.
Though there is certainly a lot of overlap between the two, you can have a Montessori home without Montessori homeschooling your children. Likewise, you can Montessori homeschool your children without applying Montessori methods outside of the homeschool environment. While we here at Multisori are huge proponents of Montessori homeschooling, there’s much to be said about incorporating even just a few Montessori techniques in some areas and how that can greatly benefit your child and your entire family as a whole.
Let’s take a look at how practicing Montessori principles at home differs from Montessori homeschooling. Even if you cannot fully embrace Montessori homeschooling, a few small Montessori-inspired changes in your home life can do wonders for your kids.
What is Montessori at home?
At its core, Montessori is about raising children to be confident, gracious, peaceful, respectful, and independent. This is achieved in a Montessori school classroom by allowing kids to explore and learn at their discretion, based on their own interests within a carefully prepared environment that allows children to advance through a time-tested scope and sequence at their own pace. At home, however, these Montessori principles translate into rearing your child to be a responsible steward of themselves and their surroundings, helpful and respectful within the family, and confident and independent enough to anticipate and tend to their own needs as much as possible.
These objectives can be achieved through a variety of small changes in your behavior, how you approach your children, and a few environmental adaptations.
Remember that your children are extremely capable
Maria Montessori believed that children are highly capable and absorbent learners from birth. While modern sensibilities tend to have us doing everything for our children and talking in baby speak, Montessori teaches that we should not do these things. There will be some tasks a child will not be capable of doing but in general, if they can do something safely, they should be allowed to do so, even when it means cleaning up a mess.
Montessori believed - and research has since proved - that even from birth, children take in and sort of codify information. They might not be able to use complex concepts at an early age, but being exposed to full words and sentences rather than baby speak helps them learn language better and prepares them to grow a meaningful vocabulary over time. There's definitely something to be said about embracing Montessori with infants!
Children also love to help around the house, and the sooner they are allowed to, the better. This can be as simple as having them “help” with dishes or making snacks. Anything that allows them to be responsible and act independently, even in very small ways, is beneficial to their development and self-esteem.
Remove obstacles to their independent functioning
If you do a quick search, you’ll find a tremendous amount of Montessori furniture for sale online. This furniture is very sturdy, made for the rigors of childhood use, and most importantly, is designed with a young child in mind. But, don’t overspend just because you see the term “Montessori.” Here at Multisori, we realize that most families don’t need furniture that will withstand 30 years of 30-children classes. We strive to present Montessori on a budget whenever possible! Much of the purpose behind “Montessori” furniture can be achieved with a smaller price tag if given some thought.
One cool concept within Montessori furniture is the floor bed, which allows a child to get up and lay down on their own. This makes nap time intuitive and something they can control. It’s also great for when they wake up and want to explore their safe, prepared environment independently. At its core, Montessori furniture isn’t about buying expensive new furniture for your whole house, but about finding ways to make it easier for your child to explore at their own discretion.
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links below.
Additionally, consider adding an accessible wardrobe, dresser or nightstand in their bedroom. This allows children to organize their things independently and to get dressed all by themselves.
Another way to remove common obstacles is in the bathroom. Having a stepstool so they can brush their teeth on their own is a huge step towards self-reliance.
When it comes to Montessori kids in the kitchen, I highly recommend a kitchen helper. Better than just any stool, this piece of furniture will give your child safe independence in the kitchen as early as 1 year old! Simply observing you cook is hugely beneficial to their little minds, and will likely be extremely interesting.
They will, of course, want to do it with you, so you can have them help with child safe and child sized utensils. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated cabinet for their kitchen tools so they can make snacks for themselves - a little, separate kid’s pantry if you will.
Make everything clear
When you’re setting up child-appropriate modifications through your home, they must know what’s theirs and what they’re working with. For instance, if you have baskets of clothes or toys, label them with their name and for pre-readers, with a picture of the child to whom the items belong. Make sure the labels are obvious. Hang pictures that show the sequence of hand washing in the bathroom for pre-readers to follow. Hang them left to right, to assist with preparing their minds to read one day.
Systemic labeling and organizing also help them better put away and manage their stuff. It’s far easier for a child to keep their space tidy if they know everything has a specific space. When they learn to clean up and organize at an early age, they will be far more organized later on in life.
Positive discipline vs punishment
When taking a Montessori approach to discipline, you do not punish your child. Instead, you use positive, corrective language and behavior to change their behavior and understanding. For instance, if a child spills a cup of juice, don’t get angry - instead, demonstrate how they spilled it, why it happened, and how they can avoid doing it again. Then, show them how to clean up their mess. Once they know how to clean up their mess, make the expectation that they will do so. I say to my kids from birth, “Oh! I made a mess. Now I need to clean it up!” By 18 months old, they are modeling this same behavior and by 3, they’ve got a good handle on doing it themselves.
Likewise, in a Montessori home, the grown ups should be aware of overpraising. It is our instinct as caregivers to encourage our children, but saying “good job!” when they make art or complete a task is missing a golden opportunity to cultivate internal discipline and motivation.
For instance, a child who gets a pat on the back for all of their art might think that something that took them a week to complete is the same in your eyes as a quick crayon drawing. This type of reinforcement loses its potency over time. Instead, you need to focus on making them feel good about their effort. Say things like “I can see you worked very hard on this - you must be proud!” This refocuses their need for validation - which they are still getting from you - but instead makes them look at their effort and be happy about the outcome.
You can see that a Montessori household is based on mindful parenting and helping your kids become responsible, confident, helpful little people. You don’t talk down to them, instead realizing that they are humans and capable of a lot more than we often recognize.
Montessori homeschooling still utilizes all the Montessori homelife concepts from the above text, but it takes it a step further in educating your children on all topics. So as with Montessori at home, you focus on life skills, but you’re adding in actual educational topics like math, science, and reading.
Because homeschooling itself is a huge undertaking, it might feel overwhelming to add another layer of complexity with Montessori, but it’s oh, so very beneficial.
The research is clear: when it comes to traditional schooling vs homeschooling, homeschool students consistently score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of education or household income. Montessori homeschooled students typically perform above average on social, emotional, and psychological development measures.
Using Montessori methods truly takes the child’s interests to heart and allows them to learn through real life experiences.
What makes Montessori homeschooling different from Traditional schools?
Montessori homeschooling employs the above-mentioned mindful parenting, but it adds that methodology to education. This is expressed in a variety of different interactions and practices that are quite different from public or private schools you may have gone to as a child.
Montessori is child-led
This doesn’t mean your children will run amok and do whatever they want. Instead, you curate materials and subjects for them that are easily accessible on shelving that is perfect for their size. They are given blocks of time between 1-3 hours (depending on their age and ability to focus) to go through the materials, books, and manipulatives. Your role is to observe and intervene only if they are struggling to the point that it impedes their ability to learn.
Montessori is very movement-driven
The kinesthetic structure of Montessori is rooted in Maria’s belief that the mind and hand are connected. She is often quoted as saying “what the hand does, the mind remembers”. She believed that being seated for hours, reading and reciting information is not a great way for kids to learn. Their natural inclination is to move and engage with their education actively.
Additionally, much of Montessori-based material is extremely sensory-focused. This might be the roughness of sandpaper letters or the durable, appealing feel of wooden manipulatives. The colors of each object from the Golden Beads to the Pink Tower are chosen because they attract the attention of little, curious minds. Montessori education is, in essence, the original multi-sensory curriculum!
There is no lecture in Montessori
You will at times need to demonstrate how new material is to be used, or you can explain things on a nature walk, but learning is up to the child. They will fully explore each concept on their own, and you will quickly see how engaged and excited they become when they happen upon a subject that truly interests them.
Many times you’ll find that they are deeply engrossed in something, and you might have the urge to cut their time short - for instance, if a learning block of time is ending. In these situations, you should allow them to continue, and this is a delicate dance you’ll figure out joyously as you progress in Montessori homeschooling.
Your child will benefit from Montessori no matter what
The beautiful thing about the Montessori Method - whether fully embraced through homeschooling or simply as a way of life at home - is that you can use as little or as much as you like. Kids going to public school can still have a Montessori home and they will benefit immensely from it. Likewise, kids being homeschooled in a Traditional model can benefit from blocks of Montessori-inspired, child-led learning.
If you decide to go full Montessori for homeschooling, there are many resources and materials available to fit any budget. Finding a quality Montessori curriculum like Multisori can help you sort out how you will be teaching your child, and many of the materials are capable of being fully DIY.
In short, despite how expensive Montessori academies might be, Montessori homeschooling can be quite affordable, and the benefit it brings to your children is incalculable.
All children can benefit from the Montessori method at home, but if you decide to homeschool your children in general, Montessori homeschooling is a wonderful way to go. It will help your children grow into curious, confident, self-reliant leaders throughout their lives.