***This has turned out to be a monster of a post, so go and put the kettle on!***
I have been asked a couple of times by moms that are new to Montessori on where to start, there is so much to read and so much equipment and usually so little time it all becomes overwhelming. I admit, I was in exactly the same boat and I did start a post in respose but it ended up as pages of waffle. SO, I have asked some other Montessori moms if they would be willing to share their top tips for Montessori newbies, there are some great ideas, so get yourself comfy and read on.
These are mine....
- Read The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori and if possibly Discovery of The Child too, I don't think you can grasp the Montessori theory properly without reading them. Then if possible read anything else you can find about the Montessori theory, without understanding the theory you can not understand the reasoning behind the equipment properly.
- Before worrying about equipment, set up your home to make it as child friendly as possible, have steps to the child can reach the sink and toilet, have pegs at child height to hang coats, have all their things at an accessible height, a child sized table to work at etc. How To Raise An Amazing Child has some good tips for setting up the home. I have also always used real plates and cups for Ebi-kun, he started off with an espresso cup to drink out of, he has never had kids plastic table wear and we have only ever had one breakage.
- Don't stress about getting all the equipment, you are schooling at home, there is no way, unless you live in a massive place and have plenty of money, that you can have a set up like an actual school. Instead set a space in you home as your Montessori space. Set up a couple of low shelves (or have the equipment on low shelves and use the higher ones for storage). Also set some time aside each week so that you can make up new pieces of work. I have almost given up with PL work on the shelf, we do PL around the house, the laundry, cleaning windows, pouring milk etc. PL in a a practical way. It is easier to just get on and do it yourself, getting the child engaged may take you longer to hang the laundry but you also get some quality time together and they learn how to match socks, use pegs, how to hang and fold T-shirts...
- Learn to compromise, being at home you might not be able to afford the top notch equipment used in some schools but neither did Maria Montessori, she made or had made all the materials she used, there is no reason why you shouldn't do the same. If you know someone handy with wood working tools, get them busy! I no longer laminate all the cards I make, I make an educated guess on which ones will get used the most and just laminate those. Rope in friends and family too, get them looking out for things that you need or ask them to check their cupboards for anything they are willing to donate.
- Which equipment to buy? For me, I started with the pink tower, metal insets, brown stair and knobbled cylinders. I got the pink tower and brown stair because they looked like core pieces of equipment, I would have had them made if I had know anyone in Japan who could do it. The other two I picked because they are both pincer muscle strengthening equipment, Ebi-kun was already showing a strong interest in colouring and could hold a crayon properly from the offset, I thought having equipment that would help these muscles would be a good idea. Later I bought the maps and biology puzzles plus most of the bead material, the decision for these was either I couldn't make it myself or financially it wasn't worth my while making it.
Finally, the obvious piece of advice is to follow the child, that is what it is all about anyway.
Now we move onto to Meg, from Sew Liberated who managed to take time out of her busy schedule to share her tips, she was a Montessori child herself and as an adult a Montessori educator and now she joins the gang as a Montessori mom. Meg was also one of my mentors as I was starting out and I learned a great deal from her.
Next up is Amy from The Wonder Years she is a Montessori educator, mother of a toddler and a pre-schooler, she sent me these tips...
And that's not all, Shannon a SAHM to a pre-schooler posted her top tips on her blog, go and have a read here. Shannon also shares lots of great internet resources each week.
Sarah from The Forest Room is a homeschooling mom, she shares her tips here, if you are looking for some outdoor inspired projects, Sarah has some great ones on her blog.
And last but certainly not least, pop over to What DID we do all day? To read what she has to say on the matter and as mom of two young boys that she schools at home, she has plenty to say on the topic.
All these mama's come from different walks of life, some have grown up with Montessori and others, like myself discovered Montessori when a child came into their life, yet many offer the same pieces of advice. The internet has become a great resource for us to share and learn, so take what you like from the advice given and what you don't, just leave it behind.
I know there are many mama's and papa's out there who could also share advice and I only asked a small handful, so if you would like to share your top tips, please put a post on your blog and add it to the comments below (Use the link to the actual post, not just to your blog). If you don't blog but you have some pearls of wisdom to share please pop a comment in the comments section. Thank you!!
I will add this post to the big Montessori links page and if you are ever trying to find it again, click on that button to the left, the one that says Montessori Links.
Finally, a big thank you to all the mama's who took time out of their busy schedules to help with this post. Please take time to look over their blogs too, they all have a lot to offer.