My printer has been smoking for the past few days. My office table is festooned with bits of contact paper. I’ve been finding some great free resources for homemade Montessori materials. I’m in heaven!
I previously posted about two handy lists for determining where to start for the 3 – 6 age group and the 6 – 9 age group. Personally, I already had about one of third of the 3 – 6 list, plus I ordered some supplies over the weekend to go into the tackle boxes that I’m working on for the next few weeks.
But…Montessori Method is not simply about the materials. Please pardon me if I already posted this, but thanks to Montessori for Everyone blog, I’m looking at a list of the 25 characteristics of the Montessori Method (scroll down for the list):
1. respect for the child
2. respect for one another
3. cultural diversity
4. universal adaptability
5. cosmic education
8. freedom of choice
9. hands-on learning
10. love of work
11. care of oneself
12. spontaneous concentration
14. lessons of grace and courtesy
15. intrinsic motivation
17. prepared environment
18. didactic materials
19. integrated curriculum
20. sense of order
21. heterogeneous grouping
22. refinement of the senses
24. auto education
25. teacher as facilitator
Only #17 and #18 refer to the materials. And a prepared environment for a home is different than it is for a classroom.
A prepared environment in a home is achievable financially since it means editing out clutter. A prepared environment in a way, reflects, William Morris’ dictum about having nothing in our homes which is not beautiful and useful.
My home is a somewhat prepared environment for my children, something I was already doing before I started learning about the Montessori method. The rooms on our first floor are painted different colors with none being white. We keep very few toys on the first floor. We have wall space. I have some framed pictures of art which I’m planning on adding to when the living room is finished. I also have several displays of photographs of the kids. The displays are only of the best pictures that I’ve taken; I don’t do snapshots.
The children’s bedrooms are fairly simple. We only keep books and a small toybox of toys in the little boys’ bedroom. My daughter’s bedroom has a few stuffed animals. Decorations are at a minimum, mostly because the walls are not good quality. My oldest son does have toys in his room, but they’re ones that are not safe for the little guys, like Legos.
The basement is the play area and usually the messiest. But, again, we don’t have tons of toys and I rotate toys monthly. The large Legos, building blocks and train stuff remain out permanently, along with large trucks and riding toys. The toys which are rotated are the smaller wooden Melissa and Doug type of toys. I do have two Fisher Price sets, an ark and a farm, put away, but honestly, I’m about ready to donate them. The kids aren’t into them, the ark doesn’t stay together, and they’re plastic. The only plastic toys with longevity inside our house are Legos and train stuff. If it’s got a battery and is plastic, it goes!
Outside is a different story when it comes to plastic, but we still exercise restraint when it comes to the amount of toys the kids have. After all, who wants to move a ton of toys every week just to mow the lawn? We also have perennial beds full of lots of flowers and berry bushes around the house and along the boundaries of our property. It’s a little more difficult to maintain these beds right now, but well worth the effort for the opportunities to learn about nature. The same with the huge vegetable garden that runs along one side of the property. At our dinner table, the beans we’re eating came from plants just outside the window, not from a bin at the supermarket.
One more notable item about our home is the atmosphere. I leave WRTI, the only local classical station, on most of the day. Occasionally I will switch to WXPN, but mostly we listen to classical music. We also have an art gallery set up on the basement stairs along with two frames in the kitchen for the best current artwork. When my oldest brought home his artwork from his coop this year, he was very anxious to hang up his work in the art gallery. The kids see me throughout the year spending time on gardening, canning and freezing food, making food from scratch, knitting, sewing, reading, etc.
The last intangible part of our home atmosphere is life with four children. We spend lots of time together appreciating the range of ages. Yes, the kids will bother and tease each other, but no one argues and fights. As the little ones are getting older, I can see their newly-found interests affecting themselves and their older siblings. It’s no longer simply myself and my oldest son working in isolation. We’re now living, working and playing in a small community of individuals which is making learning so much more fun and dynamic.
Well, it looks like this will be a series of ponderings!