I’ve been meaning to write a more in-depth post about our adventures in Montessori learning for a while now and I’ve finally taken the time to snap a few photos of some of the changes we’ve made around the house to incorporate this new philosophy into our family life.
Since I’ve studied education in the past, I came across the Montessori Method long ago. I always loved the idea of learning organically and without limits and, the older Knox gets, the more I feel that he is meant to be a Montessori learner. It will probably take us a while to truly implement it into Knox’s daily life. There are many things that I’m still struggling to pull off, especially since I’m not a trained Montessori educator and I’m still doing lots of research as I find the time. However, here are the main things I’ve been able to execute consistently in our household.
The first step I took regarding Knox’s toys was to move them into our living space. We have a playroom that is very separate from the area of the house where we spend most of our time. I discovered during my research and by observing Knox’s playtime that it is best to incorporate his learning materials into our lives, rather than keeping them separately stored. He needed to have the freedom to explore the toys as he became interested in them, not just during designated times. This allows me to observe his “work” more subtly, simultaneously allowing him to observe my “work” and each of us are able to participate in each other’s work as desired.
So, this shelf was moved from the playroom into our living room. The next step was to organize the toys in an aesthetically pleasing way, but also in a way that enables him (and encourages him) to put his toys away independently. Before the makeover, I did have toys in the living room for him to play with, but they were all thrown into one big chest.The toys now each have their own specific spot and I have noticed that, while it doesn’t mean he cleans them up consistently, I have definitely seen a dramatic change in his understanding, willingness and ability to do so.
The toys are also regularly rotated. I’m still learning about how to best implement this practice, but so far, he seems to be responding well. I try my best to observe his play to determine which toys should remain and which should be exchanged for a new, more or less challenging or interesting toy. I also try to figure out why he likes certain toys the best so I can provide him with similar or more challenging versions of the toy. If he shows a lack of interest in a certain toy, I typically leave it out for a couple of weeks to give him some time to warm up to it. I will initiate play with it and demonstrate it’s use, and, if he still shows no interest, after those couple of weeks, I will exchange it for another toy that he has not yet mastered. Mastered toys that he is still enjoying are left out until he loses interest. Mastered toys that he has become bored with get changed out for new toys. It’s a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what he needs and what he’s interested in, which is tough especially when you don’t have a lot of money to spend! I’m still searching for a good place to buy used materials and working on lots of handmade projects as well, but these things take time.
These blocks live permanently under the coffee table at the moment, as they are so versatile and also seem to be one of Knox’s favorite activities. I rotate out toys to incorporate with them (wooden cars, animals, trains, etc) and he is very creative in how he plays with them. It’s so fun to watch and play with him.
Music is another big interest for Knox right now, so I made a little music corner complete with drum, rhythm sticks, jingle bells, dancing scarves, harmonica, train whistle and, of course, his guitar. As I mentioned, I teach an early childhood music class twice a week and he attends with me, but we also have lots of music time at home with Daddy.
I’ve always tried to provide Knox with plenty of books, however, the older he has gotten, the harder it has been to keep up with his desire to devour book after book. I’ve set up 3 reading nooks throughout the house (living room, bedroom, playroom). I try to rotate each spot at least bi-weekly, making trips to the library, used book stores, and the $1 store to stock up. Surprisingly, the $1 store has some great educational board books. I usually check there about once a month to see if they’ve gotten new ones in. I love that he loves books. He will definitely read independently, but really loves to share a good book with Mommy & Daddy whenever he can…and we love it just as much.
I’ll write more in a separate post about the practical life skills environment changes and some specific learning activities that I’ve been trying out with Knox recently. I also want to put together a post of resources that have helped me get started in this overwhelming endeavor. I hope this post wasn’t too long and boring…and that it was at least a little informative or entertaining. :)