Montessori is a truly unique method. One of the main characteristics of this philosophy is that it requires parents and teachers to acquire a particular list of habits, behavior, and attitude towards children, learning, environment, and a certain mindset.
I have great respect for parents who choose a homeschool Montessori path of education for their child and have no background in this area. After a few years of working in the Montessori classroom, I learned to entirely rely on my inner guidance and intuition, teaching children in the Montessori setting became like second nature to me.
I am talking about supporting children’s work, discipline, giving lessons, setting up the environment, etc. This means that now homeschooling using the Montessori method my own three-year-old child comes naturally. I have to say I am quite pleased with the results I see in my child. This is why I decided to write this post – to help you deal with issues that may arise during the times when you introduce your child to the world of Montessori materials.
First of all, I would like to say; you have my uttermost respect. I can imagine how many frustrating moments you have gone through in the process. The apparent difference between teaching children in the classroom and at home is when you are a parent teaching your child to grade cylinders from thickest to thinnest you have million other things going through your mind, whereas when you are teaching in the classroom setting you to leave all concerns behind the door.
On the other hand, homeschooling allows parents to be more flexible with their time. So I would like to share with you a few tips towards successful homeschooling based on my experience in the classroom and at home. I will mainly focus on the so-called three-hour work cycle – how to make working with Montessori materials more effective and enjoyable.
* Even though the Montessori method is all about individual work and concentration, be ready to work very closely with your child. For them to be able to work independently, they will need you to give them a lesson on every material and establish clear expectations – placing work back on the shelf, using a mat when working on the floor, learning to interrupt, follow instructions, etc. It will take time and lots of patience.
* I found that consistency in routine is key. Find a routine that works for you and fits your schedule. The most effective time to learn new skills and gain new knowledge is after morning tea – from about 9 am. You may find that at the age of three children may not need three hours every day.
Anywhere between 1,5 – 3 hours is a good start since you do not have to deal with 25 children, there is plenty of time to support and dedicate each of your children sufficient time. Older children have more potential to spend a more extended period of time and do not require as much assistance as three-year-olds.
* Quality is better than quantity. It is far more effective to have three or four lessons at a time rather than rush to present as many materials as possible.
* When starting your learning time, allow children to choose their activity first. If there are materials that you would like to present which they do not gravitate towards yet, offer them a choice between the two you have in mind. For example, you may say: “You worked hard with the trinomial cube today, now it’s time to work with the number rods or moveable alphabet, which do you prefer”.
* Positioning your body correctly is very important. When giving a demonstration, make sure you sit at the right side of your child is right-handed and left if they are left-handed. This way you will give them the best chance for success to remember all stages of presentation.
* Set them up for success. During the presentation make sure they are sitting properly at the table – legs down and hands on their lap, or with legs crossed and hands in their lap when working on the floor.
* Add a bit of fun. I found that my child had no interest in sandpaper letters and numbers. The 3-period lesson was too boring for her and she would quickly lose interest. So I decided to add a bit of fun to it by incorporating the “What is missing” game as the third period in a lesson. At the end instead of asking her “what is this sound” I hid the sandpaper letterboard behind my back or turned it face down and asked her what was missing. Oh boy, did it change her attitude? Now the sandpaper letters and numbers come as the first request.
* Always ask this question after finishing your demonstration: ” Did you enjoy working with …?” If the child says “yes” – tell that he or she is welcome to work with … any time they like.
* Lost concentration – time to move on. Once the child lost interest and seems to be getting distracted – time to pack their work away and move on to choose a different activity.
* When giving a lesson use minimum words and make your movements very precise.
* If the child is working independently – choose your work from the shelf and work as if you were extremely engaged, interested, and focused on what you are doing. Children are the best imitators.
* Keep praise to a minimum. This will encourage the child to gain intrinsic motivation from within. When the child proudly presents you their finished result, you may say: “Oh, it looks like you worked hard, good for you”.
* Encourage your child to ask for help. Encourage them to seek help if they need to and restrain yourself from correcting them. Allow them time to figure out if they made a mistake. If you see that they made a mistake, point to it and ask if there is anything there they would like to correct. If they say “no” let it be, do not correct it for them. Next time when they take the material, ask them to have a turn first and demonstrate the correct use of the material.
* One last piece of advice – never stop learning and educating yourself.
Here are some examples of the homeschool activities my children would do during their work cycle
I invite you to join my Montessori Nature Homeschool Community if you are looking to connect with like-minded homeschoolers or if you need help getting started and would like to learn how to incorporate Montessori principles and natural learning into your everyday life.