Starting an In-home Montessori School

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Hello from Kathleen, the blogger who hasn’t blogged in a really long time! It has been a truly interesting last few months as I started work on my masters in Elementary Education degree and I opened a Montessori preschool in our 1,100 sq. ft. home. Whoa!

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The new school is called The Children’s House. All of you Montessorians know why, but for everyone else, this was the name of the first Montessori school ever, but the name was Casa dei Bambini since the school was in Italy.

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So, why did I leave my amazing job at one of the only Montessori schools in my smallish town? I had worked there for 5 1/2 years with 31 students each year and 2 assistants and while that was so incredibly wonderful,  I am ready to work in a smaller environment. I have 6 children and 1 assistant and while many things are familiar, I am blown away at the difference the small group makes. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but I am loving my new role as head of school/lead teacher/accountant/janitor. Seriously, that sounds like a lot, but I’m actually enjoying learning how to figure my time/space percent for taxes and how to use quickbooks. This is a new frontier and there are challenges, but I’m game.

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Montessori Kitchen

Montessori Kitchen

Thank you to this tiny blue house for introducing me to the free photo topper website canva.com. I’m loving it!

Here are some photos of how we are trying to give M independence in the kitchen. He is 2 now and he is such a phenomenal helper!

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M has his own small table and chair. He often eats with us at the dining room table, but he eats snacks here and does lots of pouring and chopping here. He has a basil plant that he likes to spray with a mister on the table as well.

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I have filled out this shelf a bit more to include all of the things that M needs to help set his own place at the table, pour water, scrub and chop fruits and veggies, arrange flowers and clean up spills.  I took out two links of the regular sized stiffer and now it is the perfect size for M. Thank you Molly Pepper for this great idea!

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After using a $2 apron from Lowes for several months, I finally bought M an apron from Montessori Services. It was a good investment of $17. He wears it when he helps with the dishes and with food preparation.

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I cleared out the bottom shelf of the fridge door and placed hummus with a spreader and crackers in a container, milk, a pitcher of water and a cup of very watered-down juice. M can use the glasses from the kitchen shelf to pour water of milk. There is usually a spill at this stage in the game, but it’s ok since we have the towels and sponge already ready to go.  I try to keep only a very small amount of water and milk in the vessels because M is too young to understand when to stop pouring.

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Here are some other prepared snack options for M to choose from the bottom shelf of the fridge.

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And finally, where would we be without this item? It gets daily use and I am so happy we took the plunge on this purchase. Yes, my kitchen is yellow with turquoise cabinets. The truth comes out.

Montessori for the Very Active Toddler

Montessori for The very active toddler

Isn’t every toddler a very active toddler? Yes, all toddlers are very active, and in the same breath, I find that my son is particularly active. It is rare that he will become absorbed in the use of a toy, even a really cool Montessori toy, for much longer than a few minutes. It could be that I’m a Montessori teacher and I have wacky expectations for my child to want to sit and use blocks for ten minutes all by himself, but in observing other toddlers, I can see a difference. I find that M is looking for something other than individualized Montessori works at the moment. He is looking for involvement in household chores, using WATER, outdoor exploration and lots and lots of movement.

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So, if you find that your toddler, like mine, is just not very interested in sitting and doing blocks or arranging small cars and trains, have no fear. Paula Polk Lillard is here to save the day. Paula Polk Lillard is the author of the book Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home from Birth to Age Three.  I was recently re-reading her chapter on practical life and I felt very relieved by what she had written.IMG_2360

She quotes Montessori in reference to children who are newly able to walk, “At this age just toys, especially light toys, do not satisfy the child. He can do nothing with them.” Tell me more Paula. Parents can include children in “setting and clearing the table, unloading groceries, preparing food, baking, pouring water and juice, wiping the table, washing dishes, sorting and folding laundry, putting away clothes, dusting, sweeping and mopping, washing a mirror or window, polishing a shoe, picking up a room, emptying wastepaper baskets, watering plants and arranging flowers” (Paula Polk Lillard).

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M’s Christmas Gifts at 19 Months

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Hooray! Christmas shopping is finally complete. We decided to keep it simple since M is far more interested in cooking, cleaning, listening to books and exploring the great outdoors than he is in toys. A few new toys and books are certainly exciting though. I am most excited about this Schleich animal set, featuring mom and baby pigs, cows and chickens. M was very interested in a set of animal flashcards that we inherited, so I thought these would be a nice way to expand that interest.  Continue reading

Montessori Style Entry Way

 

“…if we observe natural development with sufficient care, we see that it can be defined as the gaining of successive levels of independence.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 76)

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I was recently inspired by a blog post from  Frida be Mighty  to update our entry way to provide M, at 19 months old, the opportunity to independently hang up his coat, put away his shoes and to find his hat and mittens. It has been surprising how attached M has become to the routine of getting ready to leave the house and organizing his items after arriving home.

Because the space is orderly and child-sized, M is able to be independent. Spaces like this appeal to the strong sense of order that we see from children this age and they also build a child’s sense of order as the external order is eventually internalized by the child. Independently preparing to leave the home and organizing items upon arrival builds confidence, concentration and certainly fine motor skills. (zippers require a lot of finger strength!)

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I was pleased that I was able to use a drill to install anchors in the plaster walls of our 100 year-old home to hang the coat hooks ( I got the coat hooks from Lowes for $7.00).

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I then re-arranged a small shelf to serve as our shoe organizer. I added two baskets on top of the shelf. One for gloves and the other for hats. Finally I added a small stool for M to sit on while taking his shoes on and off. (Yes, the stool has M’s face decoupaged all over it. It was a gift from his aunt that makes us all chuckle.)

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Here he is holding on to the shelf to put on his own boots. That’s my clogging board in the foreground of the photo. M appears to be ready for a pair of his own tap shoes these days.