The big question - Is it possible to use Montessori at home? 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!
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.
Many purist Montessorians think that it's not possible to provide a Montessori setting in the home for a variety of reasons:
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. We're not discouraging parents from sending their children to Montessori schools - 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 for the poorest children.
Parents aren't trained in Montessori
Parents aren't trained and certified to be parents either - but they've all made it through to this point. With total respect for those who have their Montessori certification, 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 from your local library. You'll learn a lot.
Parents can't afford the high cost of Montessori materials
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 twenty-five children 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. Many companies offer an economy line and of those materials you won't require them all.
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?"
We offer over 2000 printable Montessori materials in our store. Many of those will help you through with very little expense.
Inadequate space for a Montessori environment
Yes, Montessori materials do take up space. Especially when you factor in the wooden materials in the Sensorial and Math area - but bear in mind you won't require them all. One of the modifications you can make is to rotate some materials between being available on the shelves and being in storage. 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.
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 which can be stored in file folders, baskets, and cupboards.
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. We discussed the importance of observation here. 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 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.
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. 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 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.