Friday, March 07, 2008

How to Get Started Montessori Homeschooling

Nicky asked about this in a recent comment. "Where to start" is a question often asked at Playschool6 too. Here are my ideas on how to get started Montessori homeschooling ...

1. Read a brief overview of Montessori

Dr Montessori's Own Handbook by Maria Montessori is the best place to start in my opinion because it is a quick read and an excellent synopsis of Montessori. There are some lovely anecdotes from the earliest Montessori classrooms, which give a picture of Montessori in practice.

An even briefer overview of Montessori can be found on my website.

2. Read an introduction to the materials and activities

Elizabeth Hainstock's two books: Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years and Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years are condensed Montessori manuals. They do not include as many activities as other manuals but this means that they can quickly be read from cover to cover, giving the reader a view of the Montessori progression, which I think is valuable to get early on.

3. Support groups

Playschool6, Montessori homeschooling discussion.

Montessorimakers, discussion on making Montessori materials.

4. Observe the child and start making and collecting materials

Observe your children. What are they interested in? What absorbs them? What causes them annoyance? What activities in their daily life are they striving to master for themselves?

Start preparing materials for Montessori activities. Any Montessori activity you think your child will be attracted to. Maria Montessori stressed that although her activities are designed in logical sequences, building on each other, the best order in which to introduce them to an individual child depends on the child.

Montessorimakers is a great source of information on different ways people have made Montessori materials.

There are a number of websites offering printable Montessori materials for download.

5. Start presenting Montessori activities

If the child enjoys an activity, allow them to explore it and work with it freely; then, over a period of days and weeks, continue with the activities that follow on. If the child is frustrated, put the activity aside for a while; try something easier next time.

I have found that doing Montessori at home means the adult needs to initiate more activities than a Montessori teacher in a classroom might. In a classroom, the children get ideas for work from watching each other. At home, the adult getting an activity out and working with it attracts the children to the work and reminds them of the choices available.

6. Observe the child and the environment and remove obstacles

Anything that hinders the child ... tv; playstation; toys that are just getting in the way and not satisfying the child; clutter. There might be more specific obstacles: a bulky jacket that makes it hard for the child to make full use of their hands; the child enjoys sweeping up spills but can't open the cupboard where the brush and pan are kept.

7. More information

Check out the Manuals, Books and Links page on my website for more exhaustive Montessori manuals than Hainstock's books.

One of the books that has helped me most in my homeschooling is Maria Montessori's Discovery of the Child.

Chapter 27 of The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori is all about the teacher's role in a classroom of preschool children new to Montessori.

A note on reading Montessori manuals

Montessori manuals (often called albums) give step by step instructions for presenting activities. I often find the steps hard to follow if I just read them. I have learned to read Montessori manuals with the Nienhuis catalogue open beside me so I can see what the materials look like. If I have the materials for the activity or similar materials, I have them beside me too, so that I can follow the steps with the materials. If I don't have the materials yet, I use pencils, paper and scissors to make makeshift materials as I go along.


poornima said...

Thank you for your article.

bassem said...


This article was very interesting. As a side note I recently found a site with tons of montessori exercices which can be used in homeschooling too. You might want to check it out:



Lisia said...

Thanks, Bassem! A great website. I'm going to add it to my list of online Montessori manuals next time I update my website.

Anonymous said...

I needs some information on teacher presenting activities in sequence, from the first step to the last step, to the montessori children.

Lisia said...

Sorry I didn't respond to this at the time! A good source of information on presenting the activities is Maria Montessori's book Discovery of the Child, especially chapter 7, The Exercises.

Anonymous said...

Your guide to getting started is very straightfoward and helpful! Thanks!

Can you give me an idea of reasonable budgeting expectations for Montessori Homeschooling?

Anonymous said...

Also, would it make sense to buy manuals that give lesson layouts ( so that I don't have to reinvent the wheel? They are expensive, but I think it could pay off in the long run so that I don't spend all my valuable time researching scope & sequence and ideas. I would still want to individualize, but at least it gives a layout. What do you think?

Lisia said...

Re budgeting expectations for Montessori homeschooling, I think anything is possible. You could borrow Maria Montessori's books from a library, study Montessori manuals available free online, and make materials from whatever you have available at home. Or if money is no object you could enrol in an expensive Montessori training course and purchase Montessori materials from Nienhuis.

Some Montessori homeschoolers purchase Montessori manuals and a lot of Montessori materials. Things I have spent money on are: books by Maria Montessori, Montessori manuals (I only purchased manuals for subjects and levels that were not available free online), Montessori-like materials (e.g. wooden base ten blocks which I used for the golden beads activities), and lots of card, beads and foam etc. which I used for making materials.

Lisia said...

Re manuals that give lesson layouts (I haven't looked at the ones you refer to), the manuals I recommend are listed in my Montessori Manuals post. Those manuals give very good descriptions of presentations and sequences of activities.

I have seen lesson plans that list particular Montessori activities for each school day of the year. I imagine that would be helpful for parents and teachers who do not want to provide a Montessori education but prefer to provide a traditional education using Montessori materials and activities.

The child's freedom to choose their own work is fundamental to a Montessori education, as is the teacher presenting activities and modifying the environment in response to the child, so lesson plans that set out activities to present each day are not helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info about budgeting and manuals. I have read several of the ones you listed and will read the rest of the list before I make my decision. I agree with you about not getting a rigid lesson plan list--it sounds easier, but would not be based on observation, which is the key.

Anonymous said...

However, I am also concerned that I at least know what all the lessons are which are taught. I have not yet found a comprehensive list/explanation (other than buying expensive manuals). My idea is not to teach them automatically, but to have a over-arching guide to lessons that can be taught. The bits and pieces I get frustrate me because I want to know the scope and sequence of all to make sure I'm hitting everything, not just the lessons I stumble upon and also so I can have some idea of sequential order of presenting, say, math lessons. Any ideas?

Lisia said...

For the preschool years, I had access to the Aperfield Montessori manuals for Practical Life, Sensorial, Maths and Language (Aperfield is a Montessori correspondence course offered in New Zealand). So I have to admit I was not relying solely on the online albums and books by Hainstock, Gettman and Montessori. However, I think the books and online albums do provide a comprehensive guide for the preschool years.

For the early elementary years (6-9) I relied on Don Jennings online Montessori albums and books by Hainstock and Montessori. I felt they provided a very comprehensive guide. (I only used Montessori activities for maths and language; I used other materials for other subjects because I couldn't find time to make all the Montessori materials.)

For the upper elementary years, I purchased albums from Montessori Research and Development. They covered all the activities but contained a lot of errors. (Once again, I only used Montessori activities for maths and language in these years.)

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