Montessori. Some homeschool mamas read that word and turn tail and run because how could they possibly incorporate Montessori approaches into their homeschool when Montessori schools themselves are taught by specially-trained teachers and cost more money than typical families can afford?
“I can’t afford Montessori training,” they say.
“I can’t afford Montessori materials,” they say.
“I can’t even wrap my head around what Montessori is!”
Although having Montessori training and beautifully crafted Montessori materials can absolutely be helpful when trying this approach in your homeschool, it is NOT mandatory. Like all things homeschooling, this is NOT an all-or-nothing methodology. You, the homeschooling parent, can make it work for your homeschool family and you do not need gobs of money to do it. Be ready to customize to suit the needs for your family and whether you settle on creating a simple Montessori-inspired shelf for your homeschool or end up buying an entire Montessori curriculum, just know that all you truly need is an eager mind and open heart. But first, what is the Montessori Method? To answer this, we need to first learn who Dr. Montessori was.
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Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?
Full Disclosure: The following may turn into an entire paragraph of me fan-girling over Dr. M because she is a rock star and I want to be just like her when I grow up (I’m currently 39 so I suppose that should be soon, oh well.)
Italy 1892, a young Maria Montessori, having already studied mathematics, went to the University of Rome to study medicine. During her medical training at an asylum for children, Dr. Montessori’s life would change. She observed these children, children society had discarded because they were “retarded” or “insane,” playing with crumbs. The nurses dismissed this behavior as “greed” because they thought the children wanted more food. The compassionate heart of Dr. Montessori, coupled with her brilliant scientific mind, observed something completely different. Dr. Montessori hypothesized these children just wanted something to play with. Their minds needed something to play with. Children need to play. The first Montessori schools were established in the slums of Rome where she was able to observe children and refine her method. Fast forward over hundred years later and Dr. Montessori’s methods and school still impact education all over the world and over the last few decades have trickled into the homeschool sphere. Dr. Montessori’s story is fascinating and I strongly recommend reading her own words and story through her books, particularly The Montessori Method and Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E. M. Standing. There is also an adorable children’s book about her from the Little People, Big Dream Series, Maria Montessori by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vergara.
What is the Montessori Method?
The main goal of the Montessori Method is to promote the joy of learning through a hands-on and step-by-step approach that emphasizes repetition. The method is based on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.
In the early years, children are taught to develop their observation skills through a variety of hands-on activities that explore the senses, movement, and coordination. The child is provided with a safe but stimulating environment where they can explore and learn without fear of harm.
Grade school children are allowed to proceed at their own pace, exploring the subjects of math, science, reading, and writing in such a way as to develop their abstract thinking ability. There is a great emphasis on encouraging the child to absorb their environment and culture.
In Montessori education you will find that standard subjects like math, language arts, culture, science, etc., but you will also find that Dr. M also felt sensory learning and life skills are incredibly important to the development of the child. Therefore, you will find Montessori education treats Practical Life and Sensorial Learning as their own subjects.
I would also like to focus on two other aspects of Montessori instruction: the absorbent mind and sensitive periods. Because Montessori emphasizes observation of the child and respect to their development, it is important to understand that children have what Dr. M calls an “absorbent mind” and in fact she wrote an entire book about The Absorbent Mind.
Children cannot help but learn from everything that’s going on around them. You have probably experienced it when your small child embarrassingly repeats something you said when you thought they weren’t listening…That would be their lovely absorbent mind. So, teaching things like grace and courtesy for example, a hallmark of Montessori instruction, would be easily taught because they learn what they see anyway. Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy is a helpful book to help you address just that.
Regarding sensitive periods, these are the stages of development where the child just jumps ahead at a new skill. For example, there is usually a moment in a toddler’s development where they go from speaking a few words and phrases to suddenly talking all-day-long. Right there, that’s the moment they are in a sensitive period for language. That is your que to talk right back, ask questions, read lots of books, sing lots of songs, and do what you can to nurture their language development. Living Montessori Now has a wonderful post on encouraging your child's sensitive periods.
How To Start Implementing the Montessori Method in Your Homeschool
- NAMC's 3-6 Montessori Homeschool Program
- Alison's Montessori
- Montessori Services
- Montessori for Everyone
Montessori In My Home
Other Posts You may Enjoy
- What is Unschooling? How to Get Started
- A Brief Description of Homeschooling Methods
- Homeschool Montessori Preschool Program
- Your Stories: Mi Escuelita Montessori
- New Complete Montessori Homeschool Curriculum Now Available
- A Montessori PreK 9-Month Planner
© Can Stock Photo / trendsetterimages
Stacie Servantes Farias is an Army wife and mom of 6 with a “very healthy” obsession for Snoopy, Disney movies, Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, books, and homeschooling. Originally from Mission, Texas, Stacie and her high-school sweetheart hubby live with their kids and dog in a different home every few years, because that is the military life. She has big plans to write a book exploring her theory that La Llorona drowned her children because they would take their socks off all over the house and then would complain that they never had clean socks! Stacie also thinks she is really funny, but she is mostly lame awesome.