Trying to start homeschooling, but feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start? You’re not alone! In fact, the number one challenge we see talked about in our Montessori Inspired Homeschooling group is how overwhelmed with Montessori - and homeschooling in general - parents feel.
Whether you have a young child new to homeschooling in general or transitioning to Montessori homeschooling from Traditional Methods, the process can be daunting. Considering many parents switching to homeschool were themselves raised with the Traditional Method, you can add “learning about Montessori” to an already full homeschooling plate. Montessori homeschooling can be a bit easier for parents who are starting from infancy, but it’s still a steep learning curve for most parents.
These tips will be instrumental in helping you reframe your view of Montessori homeschooling, avoiding homeschool burnout, and feeling like you’re in control once again.
Prepare Your Environment
When it comes to preparing your child’s learning space, Dr. Maria Montessori described the goal of the prepared environment as follows: “The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”
That said, I so often find homeschool parents overthink, overplan, and overbuy in order to best prepare their child’s learning environment. It’s no wonder they're then bordering on burnout! Homeschooling is not about buying all the right tools/furniture/materials nor is it about creating a classroom in your home.
Do not try to recreate a Montessori classroom
When it comes time to start homeschooling, your home should change in ways that benefit your child’s independent development, but you do not need to recreate a full Montessori classroom. In fact, I'd argue that doing so would actually be counterproductive.
Your home is naturally filled with educational opportunities! Reading aloud is language arts. Measuring and weighing as part of meal prep is math. And, let's not forget working on practical life skills like dressing themselves, folding laundry, and brushing their teeth. In Montessori methodology, practical life activities like these precede academic endeavors.
Beyond that, you can encourage freedom of choice within limits while still maintaining structure and order. Be intentional in setting out learning materials on low, easily accessible shelves. When you keep your homeschool environment as child-sized and accessible as possible, you minimize the child’s need for adult intervention and maximize self-regulated learning.
Remember the child directs the learning
Especially when you start Montessori homeschooling, you might be inclined to direct the trajectory of your child's education, but the sooner you understand that the child leads, the easier homeschooling becomes. Children quite instinctively want to learn. So, all you really need to do is put out materials that are age-appropriate and that will interest them. Think of your role as inspiring and supporting learning and their self-directed learning, not so much as a didactic teacher of facts and skills.
Again, your home is a home, not a classroom. So, you will have toys there. It's ok! Just aim for Montessori aligned toys - like blocks, balls, wooden letter blocks. These things make your child actively interact with them and ignite their imagination.
It’s also important to pursue what interests them. Your child will naturally wax and wane on the topics they find interesting. One week it might be insects and then the next month it could be learning to read. Let them pursue what interests them and you follow along. Using a Montessori curriculum that shows you how to do this, like M3 by Multisori, will transform your homeschool experience in the best possible way!
Utilize the great outdoors
One of the best ways to avoid homeschool burnout is by getting outside as often as possible. Nature is a huge part of the Montessori learning experience as there are so many real-life educational opportunities. Observing animals and plants, the changing of the seasons, and the weather are all important foundations for further learning, not just in science but across all topics.
A child grows when they spend their days observing and mentally processing nature: how insects go from egg to adult, or how birds fly, hunt and build nests, or feeling the cold winter air make way for warm spring breezes. Little minds process an incredible amount of information simultaneously. This observation paves the way for classification and mental organization, and this isn’t limited to just nature. The more they practice cataloging information they encounter with their senses, the better they will get at it. The Montessori sensorial curriculum supports this natural process beautifully.
Take Surprise Field Trips
Along those same lines, if there’s a day where you’re really struggling to get out from under the overwhelm, take a surprise field trip! Load the kids in the car and go for a drive. Let them try to guess where you might be headed. The park? A museum? The lake? Give them clues and make a game of it. Scavenger hunts are always a hit with every age!
How do I stop feeling like I’m failing with homeschooling?
If you stop to think about the biggest stressors of being a homeschooler, what are they really? Is it the amount of work? The personality of your child? The curriculum? Or could it be your own fears and expectations?
There’s no doubt that homeschooling can be hard, but having sky-high expectations for yourself and your child makes it so much harder! If you can teach yourself to pause, take a breath, and reset your expectations, you’ll find homeschooling to be a lot less stressful.
Don’t fret about changing materials too quickly
Many Montessori parents want to create lots of hands-on educational items for whatever they’re studying at the time. Additionally, they feel extra stressed because they put themselves under this perceived pressure to change out materials on a regular basis. If your child is enjoying what they’re experiencing, don’t put pressure on yourself to change materials out all the time. Let them linger on a subject or a unit if they find it interesting - it’s good for them and easier for you.
And when it comes to lesson planning, plan out what are referred to as Montessori work cycles. These are uninterrupted chunks of time during which children are able to explore and engage with materials of their own choosing. Don't pressure yourself to adhere strictly to the traditional 3-hour Montessori work cycle. Most homeschoolers - and many Montessori schools themselves - use shorter lengths of time. Think of this as an opportunity to optimize your homeschool specifically for your own kids.
Again, the name of the game here is for you to be as hands-off as possible (which hopefully means less stress for you!)
How long should a Montessori work cycle be?
90-minute to 3-hour work cycles are great for you and your children. 1.5 hours is a solid amount of time for children to get engaged in a concept, and if they’re able to stay attentive, move to longer blocks of time. The key is consistency and reliability - if they expect 3 hours of time to work with materials, ensure they have it.
These time blocks give them a reliable cycle to follow, and they allow you to schedule whatever work you have in consistent blocks. Establishing flexible routines in a Montessori household is key to a successful homeschool!
Always incorporate play in your day
Children who are homeschooled are not forced to interact with other children from a young age like Traditionally schooled students. Instead, they will learn fairness, kindness, and other social cues from you and their siblings primarily. Daily play requires them to interact, learn self-discipline and restraint, and understand how their actions affect other people. It also requires development of manners and conversation - especially imaginative/collaborative play and board games.
For you, their opportunity for play is a chance to unwind and do something unstructured, knowing all the while that your children are learning and growing . They will love the opportunity to play with you as well, creating bonding moments and lifelong memories.
Find what works for you
When it comes down to it, the best way to be successful as a homeschooler is to find what works for you and your family and stick to it. Too many families waste valuable time collecting free printables that are disorganized and fail to follow the authentic Montessori scope and sequence, rather than finding a homeschool curriculum that truly works for them. That’s why when you invest in the complete M3 Montessori Homeschooling Curriculum, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips to get started. Not to mention it’s a full four-year long curriculum!
Don't forget that you and your children are human. You will have bad days. And, they aren't the end of the world. When all fails or you’re feeling like you just can’t push through an already exhausting afternoon - read. Snuggle up with your little one, grab a favorite book, and take a moment to decompress.
Never forget you are an absolutely amazing parent (even when you’re feeling overwhelmed!) and your choice to homeschool is a great one. You’re here reading this because you want to offer your children the best learning opportunities… so, trust me when I say - you already are.