Printable Montessori materials for Montessori learning at home and at school. 
Printable Montessori Materials

Use Montessori at Home

Is it possible to use Montessori at home

When people learn I have a background in Montessori (20+ yrs) I am often asked my thoughts on using Montessori at home.  I say 'Absolutely!'  Now if you had asked me that question 15-16 years ago, I would have said "no".  But time has a wonderful way of making us wiser and helping us realize (through twists and turns) that life isn't black and white. Life offers a spectrum of colors that should be embraced.

Each child is different, and each family situation is different. Some children require additional services that are not available in Montessori schools, and many families can't afford to send their children to Montessori schools. But thankfully, Montessori is suitable for everyone and it is possible at home!    

The Montessori method is the best guide

As a mother of 3 children I've come to believe that if we do the best we can with what we have, with the best of intentions, the greatest amount of love (and a lots of prayers!), our children will grow up to be confident and intelligent individuals. Now the important thing is to make sure that we have the best information to guide us on how to guide our children. I truly believe that the Montessori method is the best guide.

Modifications to the Montessori environment

Of course there are modifications that you'll have to make, and you must be willing to bend your mind a little to accept it's not going to be a perfect Montessori environment. Including Montessori in the home can mean different things to different people. There are as many opportunities and variations on how Montessori can be used, as there are family situations. You can:
  1. set up an entire Montessori environment and homeschool full time
  2. supplement your child's 'regular' schooling with a Montessori environment at home
  3. use individual Montessori materials for certain areas that your child may be struggling in (ie. math, language)

Many purist Montessorians think that it's not possible to provide a Montessori setting in the home for a variety of reasons. I'm going to touch on four of the most common reasons that are given for not being able to successfully provide Montessori at home. And I'll give you some ways to work around the issues.  
  1. parents aren't 'trained' in Montessori
  2. parents can't afford the high-cost materials
  3. inadequate space for a Montessori environment
  4. parents lack 20-30 children for a 3yr social environment

I feel very strongly that it's possible to work around those reasons and provide a beautiful Montessori education at home for your children. It won't be perfect, but neither are the Montessori schools.  To be clear, I'm not discouraging parents from sending their children to Montessori schools. Over the past 20+ years I've seen many beautiful and successful Montessori schools that have educated thousands of children. I've helped to start up 2 schools, and I've also run a school. I'm not anti-school. But not everyone has $3,500 to $5,000/per child to spend on 1 year of tuition for half-day Montessori. That's the approximate cost here in Ontario Canada to attend a Montessori school (full day is $9,000 to $12,000). Money shouldn't be the factor that prevents families from offering the best of Montessori education to their children. After all, the Montessori method of education was developed in the slums of Italy, using the poorest children as the guinea pigs.

On to the arguments!

#1 - Parents aren't trained in Montessori 

People weren't trained and certified to be parents either - but we've all made it through to this point. And I say this with total respect for those who have their Montessori certification. I too am certified (AMI), and obviously it does give us a head start, but it doesn't mean that non-certified people can't use Montessori. Listen up parents - you simply need to do what you did when you first found out you were going to become parents. Come on, admit it! You all went running to the book store (or the library) and wore a path down the isle of the "Parenting" section. You then spent countless hours reading and learning how to care and raise your new baby. 

So take some time to browse through shelves of Montessori books. And I will point you in the direction of the most thorough, affordable, and accessible book for parents wanting to learn how to make and use Montessori early learning activities at home:

Montessori At Home!

Bring Montessori learning in to your home school adventure today with printable Montessori materials

This book is available in digital eBook format (pdf file) and on CD Rom. It gives you complete instructions on making and using over 200 Montessori early learning activities, adapted for use at home with 3-7 yr. olds.

Information is included on Montessori education, teaching techniques, making and using learning materials at home, and how to be a great Home Teaching Parent - everything you and your child need.

Most of the activities are made using items you already have at home or which can be easily & inexpensively obtained anywhere. Recommendations are also given on affordable Montessori materials for the home, as well as for over 100 websites offering resources and materials- many of them free!

Everything you need is here to give your child the benefits of a Montessori preschool - right at home.

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#2 - Parents can't afford the high cost of Montessori materials 
Fifteen years ago I would have agreed with the argument that parents can't afford the high cost of Montessori materials. But these days it's no longer an argument that holds water. You could re-mortgage your house and purchase $30,000 of the finest Montessori materials by Nienhuis or other high-end Montessori suppliers - but why would you want to? You're not opening a school where the materials need to survive a group of 20-30 children each year for 10-20 years. You likely have 1-5 children in the 3-6 age group and you need materials that will survive their use.

There are many materials that can be substituted for the traditional Montessori materials. The most important thing to remember is the concept of each material. When you're thinking of making a substitution for a material be sure to ask yourself  - " Does this material support the concept that the material was intended to teach?" 

Here are a few examples of substitutions that could save you a lot of money - and I'm only showing you 4 examples of average quality materials and not the high-end Nienhuis materials that we all drool over. Can you imagine the amount you could save throughout an entire Montessori home environment if you just think creatively!

Montessori Sound Boxes can be used in your Montessori home school environment.
Approx. $110.00 vs $40.00

Montessori Spindle Boxes can be handmade using pencils and plastic containers
Approx. $95 vs $3

Montessori Golden Beads can be exchanged for Base Ten Blocks
Approx. $300+ vs $80
(value is for a full set - photo does not show a full set)

The Montessori Addition Snake Game can be handmade with plastic beads and jewelry wire
Approx. $125 vs $30

And then factor in all of the printed materials that are required. I could give a hundred examples of differences in cost, but it's clear from only 1 example just how much money you can save if you simply do your homework.

Montessori cards are easily printed and laminated at home using our printable Montessori materials
Montessori Services:  $38.95   vs     Montessori Print Shop $3.49    

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#3 - Inadequate space for a Montessori environment 

Yes, Montessori materials do take up space. Especially when you factor in all of the wooden materials in the Sensorial and Math area. One of the modifications you can make is to rotate some materials between being available on the shelves and being in storage. I know this makes Montessori teachers shutter at the thought that all of the materials are not easily accessible to the children at all times but, that might be one of the modifications you might have to make in order to bring Montessori to your children at home. After all, you have to find a way to make the best use of the space available in your home.

In our early homeschool adventure we turned our dining room in to a Montessori environment. It was not ideal, but we made the best use of the space we had, using some 'real' Montessori materials and lots of substitutions. It included 6 inexpensive shelves from Wal-Mart (we added additional shelves in to each unit where possible - you can see the math shelves are pretty full) and a computer printer stand. We worked on the carpet and at the table, and we had a small child-size set of table and chairs (not visible in the picture).

Bring Montessori learning in to your home school adventure today with printable Montessori materials

Montessori lessons can be placed on inexpensive shelves from Walmart in any room of your house.
This set-up allowed us to enjoy the sunlight, have adequate floor space, and still be able to use our dining room for family gatherings. In fact, I fondly remember watching my children give their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, lessons after a big family dinner. Our "classroom" environment really was enjoyed by everyone who spent time in our home.

Most practical life lessons can take place in the kitchen using every day kitchen items - just use items that are smaller in size so that the children can manage with them.

Language lessons are primarily printed materials and you can see just how much we were able to fit on one shelf!

Montessori Pink Blue Green Language Series, Grammar, and reading materials fit on simple shelves.

Be creative with the storage of the printed materials. You can use hardware towers, plastic bins, file folders, etc. Again, it may not be ideal as in a regular Montessori school setting - but it doesn't mean it can't be effective at home.

We've since redesigned all of our Pink Blue Green Language Series (or Step 1, 2, 3 if you don't want to use a color-coded system) to fit in to space-saving hardware towers. Not only does it help to save shelf space, it keeps everything organized! You can learn more about the Pink Blue Green Language Series here.

Montessori Pink, Blue, Green Language Series is easily printed and used at home or at school.

Our Montessori Pink, Blue, Green Language Series is easily stored in hardware towers.

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#4 - Children and a 3 tier social environment 

The number of children available to be a part of your Montessori home environment is going to be a bit of a  problem, unless you've given birth to several sets of multiplies in a few short years. The 3 year age mix and 1:30 ratio are key components of the Montessori philosophy. (1:30 ratio = 10 three year olds, 10 four year olds, 10 five year olds to 1 trained Directress and an assistant). The mixed ages of the children is crucial; the children learn from each other, care for each other, and help to eliminate the crutches that would otherwise occur if the children were all the same age.  The children gain more independence and have less dependence on the Directress.
You can read another article on the student-teacher ratio here.

Obviously you'll have to make do with the number of children you have in your situation. You'll need to become acutely aware of your actions to ensure that you do not overly involve yourself, interfere when it's not necessary, or become a crutch to the children. I discussed the importance of observation in this article. Be sure to spend time making good observation notes so that you can make clear decisions on how to alter the environment or your behavior as the adult/teacher to help make up for the lack of the mixed age group.

Before you invite additional children from the neighborhood or other homeschooling families to join in on your homeschool during the 'regular' school hours, become familiar with the laws in your province/state.
If you add children in to your homeschool it may be considered a 'daycare'  in the eyes of the law and then you are required to register and follow guidelines that you might not want to adhere to. There is an article here  on Montessori Candy regarding homeschooling and including a Co-op. It's a great post with lots of ideas and information that I'm sure you'll find useful.

So to wrap this all up - yes, it's very possible to bring Montessori in to the home! It will not be perfect. You will encounter challenges and frustrations, but you will also be providing your children the opportunity to become self-directed learners. And if, over time, you find that
your home or life situation changes you can always alter your homeschooling program or try something different. In my opinion, Montessori is a way of thinking, an approach to life. It's more than just the traditional Montessori materials, the mixed age, or the trained Montessori teacher. If you're familiar with Montessori then you can take pretty much any 'lesson' and put a Montessori spin on it.

So relax and enjoy learning about Montessori, share Montessori with your children, and forget about making it perfect.

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