Sunday, November 15, 2009

Montessori at our house

As part of my work responsibilities, I started visiting a local Montessori preschool last spring. Everything about the environment appealed to me: the soft, solid colours, the art on the walls, the entire airy, organized space. The children in the school were calmer and more self-controlled than any of the children I had witnessed as other preschools and daycare centers I have visited. My interest was peaked, and my natural inclination for research took over. I had to learn more about this.

Previous to this experience, the only thing I knew about Montessori school was that Anne Frank had attended one. We read her famous diary in English in junior high, and I remembered that she had to leave her beloved Montessori school to attend a Jewish school when the Dutch segregation began. After learning about the Montessori method, and seeing the difference in approach and its resulting effect on the learning atmosphere, I can understand why Anne saw the change as a loss.

After months of research through books, magazines, blogs, websites, and even YouTube videos, I have slowly brought some Montessori-inspired changes into our home. The Montessori idea that has most resonated with me is one of the Prepared Environment. That basically means making a child's environment accessible to him by using low cupboards, shelves, and child-size furniture and tools. Making these modifications to my home has been a labour of love, and I am delighted to share them with you.
This first modification is something many families may have in their home, but definitely is in line with the idea of the Prepared Environment. Nik is able to take out and put away his own jacket and shoes, thanks to a Shaker-style peg rail I picked up at the local thrift store.

Adding a Rubbermaid foot stool to our livingroom has made the space much more functional for Nik. He can use it with the coffee table for snack, or playing with table top toys.

It is also so lightweight, that he can move it around himself to explore or access things that are otherwise too high for him to reach. Here he is standing over our cabinet stereo, watching the cd in the cd player spin.

More involved changes have been things like Nik's kitchen cupboard.All of the child size dishes and cutlery can be found here, organized and ready to use or explore. Favourite things included in this cupboard are
Child-size metal cutlery in a miniature cutlery tray, and A stoneware creamer used for pouring as a child-size pitcher.

Both the cutlery tray and the creamer were thrift store finds. I have yet to order even a single item from the high-priced Montessori supply catalogues.

I have saved my very favourite home Montessori spot for last: our mini-classroom. Against one wall in my small home's very small office, we have this area:
It consists of a child-size table and chair, bulletin board at child-eye level, drawers for art supplies and an open shelf of table tasks. Based more on what I have seen at the local Montessori preschool than what I have read in books, this area is designed so that Nik can choose his own task, and bring it to the table to work on.

He loves his "desk". My husband and I both have desks in this room, too, so it is satifying to him that he has not been left out, I think. His current favourite 'work' is a toss up between pressing alphabet cookie cutters into homemade playdough, and stringing buttons on shoelaces. See photos below for a few more details of this space.

Playdough and accessories.

Work shelf with stringing beads, buttons, puzzles, hammer toy, alphabet desk and peg board.


Sylvia said...

I love this! Especially the little toddler cupboard in the kitchen. Your boy is going to grow up SO independent, I love it :) Despite the tiny size of our home, I'm thinking I may just have to try making room somehow for a setup similar to yours (though perhaps on a smaller scale).

Queen Bee said...

oooh! very impressive mama. i like what you have done around your home & think the mini-classroom is great!

you've given me plenty of ideas for little changes around our house. have you read "Montessori From The Start"? if not, it's a good book about following the Montessori method within your home from baby's birth and beyond.

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