Home Learning- Trying the Montessori approach for a toddler and 4 year old

As regular readers of the blog will know, I am a trained primary teacher with around twenty years of experience but I have found carving out a rhythm for homeschool to be such a challenge. Our 16 month old wakes frequently at night and can be tired and fussy in the mornings, before he naps at around 10.30am. Trying to help my four year old learn effectively has taken many weeks of experimenting with different times of day, locations and range of lessons. This is still very much a work in progress, as the boys have very different requirements in terms of toys and materials. Many of the learning materials needed by our oldest son are a hazard to our toddler and need to be kept in a separate area. So far we have settled on learning areas in two different locations- the playroom for our toddler and my four year old’s bedroom for his learning shelves. I now work with my four year old very early in the morning before CC has to set off for work and then allow him to explore his shelves whilst I do some more focused activities, such as shape sorting, with our toddler. This then means that the rest of the day can be spent playing and exploring at their own pace.

Our 16 month’s shelf activities

Allowing my four year old to work with me, and then independently using the Montessori approach of tray activities on open shelves, has worked really well so far. I love this approach for it’s simple elegance- a slow introduction to each activity on shelves, working from left to right and with increasing complexity. The focus on positive parenting, enabling children to do things themselves and the use of natural, quality materials are such a delight when setting up the learning for each session.

I think the slow, methodical and child-led approach to learning, progressing in each area from using concrete materials to the abstract, underpins great learning- some of the resources used by Montessori schools are objects of beauty as well as being so logical in their nature.

We have added some art to the learning areas, and plants, to create a calm and inviting atmosphere. We removed the glass from the frames to ensure that they were toddler-proof and put in some prints we had from the McMichael Gallery – part of CC and the boys’ Canadian heritage.

Most of the resources we have used have been home made – here I used a set of cards, passed on by a friend, with a large collection of old pennies from my grandmother. Earlier in the week I used the same coins for a posting activity with my toddler.

After focused sessions in the morning, we all enjoy a walk followed by lots of time spent in our garden. Sadly the grass is very worn from the constant wear and tear but the re-wilded areas make for a sensory delight for all. This week CC is gradually removing the raised vegetable beds (which are very unproductive as the trees have grown in stature), to make more room for play.

I know that our daily rhythm will need more tweaking as the weeks go on and I hope that we will find some sort of balance between the daily necessities, such as meal preparation and taking the time to truly enjoy the time as it unfolds. I’ll let you know the result.

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