by Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School
One of the most frequent questions I receive, as the Head of School of a small Montessori School, is “How can we make a Montessori home?” This is a great question. It tells me that a family is engaged in their child’s development and eager to learn about and implement Montessori philosophy.
Keeping in mind that your home is not a Montessori school, and that unlike a classroom that is designed only for 3-6 year-olds, your home is a place for people of varying ages, here are some thoughts:
Keep it Real
Our classrooms use “real” things. We use glass pitchers and cups. We use ceramic bowls and plates. We use real silverware. We use knives to cut food. Our classroom materials are made of natural materials wherever possible, utilizing beautiful wood, fabric, and metal.
This part of our philosophy serves a few purposes. First, all of us react positively to beauty in our lives. Second, it demonstrates in a real way to our students that we take them seriously, and we trust them. Third, we can model that things are things. If a cup breaks, we clean it up. Knowing how to do that also carries a sense of independence and freedom. Fourth, it teaches students the importance of caring for things. If something is beautiful, we can model how to care for it, fix it, and make sure it lasts. When things are made from cheap plastic, we sometimes tend to toss it when it breaks rather than focus on care, maintenance, and repair.
Keep things in reach
If your child is old enough to set the table (starting at about age 2), they are old enough to have those plates, cups, etc. within reach. Imagine how frustrating it would feel for you, as an adult, to have to ask someone else for utensils every time you eat. Your child likely feels the same way. This is true for clothing, art materials, cleaning supplies (rags, water, non-toxic and natural cleaning sprays), and other things your child uses regularly.
A few things instead of all the things
Keep a few things out for your child to use, but the truth is that children play more creatively and better with fewer toys than with many. Also, when parents display toys on shelves with only 2-3 items per shelf, children can see what is available, and learn to return things where they belong. A toy box filled to the top with piles of toys makes it difficult to know what is available and where to return it.
Modeling & Contribution
Work alongside your child
No matter what your child’s age, their classroom at Stepping Stones Montessori School will include a guide and peers who patiently explains, demonstrates, and partners with students to help them learn how to do things themselves. Whether this is setting a table, pouring water, ironing a shirt, or mending a chicken coop, when your child gains a skill, someone has modeled it for them and has often shown them the steps. Block time in your schedule to do this with your child. Even 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
Expect your child to contribute to the family and contribute yourself. Chores are important for children. They teach confidence, belonging, and motivation. Here are some ideas to get started.
Provide unstructured time for your children and your family. Avoid the temptation and anxiety to provide lessons, museums, libraries and other activities at all times. Instead, give your children opportunities to become bored. Play a game as a family. Do a puzzle. Make up a silly play. Just sit and read together. After a full day at school for them and a full day at work for you, it is important for you both.
Our guides are trained over the course of years. They have learned meticulous details for creating a Montessori environment. We do not expect our parents to do this at home. The best way we can support you as a parent is to help you be present and free of anxiety while you’re with your kids. You don’t need to have the perfect Montessori environment at home. We have one for your child at school.
We know that working, keeping a house, and being a family can be both overwhelming and rewarding. We have abundant grace and understanding for you. We hope you read this as thoughts to share rather than as a to-do list. Thank you for being so engaged in your child’s development. Stepping Stones Montessori School is fortunate to have such beautiful and committed parents.