How to Support a Montessori Education at Home

Monday February 13, 2017

Before Bean started her Montessori school, I had gotten used to trying to replicate the Montessori school experience at home. But now that she’s actually being taught by trained professionals, I’ve had to take a step back and re-evaluate.

First, if a child is receiving a formal Montessori experience, it’s best not to duplicate the work at home. Like, I know that Bean spends much of her day working on metal inserts, but the best way forward is to not buy her metal inserts at home.

Her teacher explained the metal insert progression to me last week, and it was eye-opening. Like, oh, she’s not just tracing and then drawing lines inside? There’s a method to all this? There are specific steps you’re following? This is what a parent would fail to realize at home, and just dump metal inserts on the floor for the kid to mess around with. Likewise, kids in Montessori learn how to write letters before they learn how to read. They also learn the phonetic alphabet (ah, buh, cuh) rather than the usual A, B, and C. And, they learn cursive and not print. This is the opposite of what we all do.



In order not to totally mix up your kid, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

Second, instead of duplicating what they’re doing at school, my job is now to support what she’s learning in school. This means knowing when to step back and knowing what gaps to fill in.

Here’s a list of ways to support Montessori at home, without stepping on the teacher’s toes:

Provide a healthy, clean, and organized play environment, similar to what she might see in school. (See here about how to set up normal toys in a Montessori way.) Also provide a small table and chairs if she likes to work at a table.

Encourage her to clean up her toys once she’s finished using them, just like at school

Provide child-height areas in the bathroom, kitchen, and entryway to encourage independence in getting dressed, putting shoes on, setting the table, and getting washed up

Letting kids help out in the kitchen, baking together or preparing dinner or a salad

Letting kids help clean the home, with their own set of appropriately sized tools

Outdoor anything — hiking, riding bikes, gardening. This is exactly what kids need most of the time, and they usually don’t get it at school.

For play, building toys (blocks, Legos, screw and bolt kits, Magnatiles, train sets) are a fantastic tool for her to put to use everything she’s learning in school. Space management, 3D visualization, shapes, mathematics, physics. Building toys are endlessly versatile.

Also, imaginative play. Montessori classrooms typically don’t have any imaginary play. At home, Bean has dolls and a dollhouse, and stuffed animals for tea parties and play dates.

Music. It’s tough to incorporate music into a peaceful classroom. At home, though, Bean has access to an iPod stocked with music, which she can play over speakers or on headphones, and musical instruments. (It’s something special to walk in on your 4 year old playing the bongo drums along to the Afro-Cuban All Stars. This would never happen at school!)

Art. Montessori classrooms do have art areas, but Bean doesn’t use them at school. She uses her stocked art closet every day though, and I always leave out a jar of colored pencils for her to draw with when the inspiration hits.

Particular curiosities. Kids get hooked on certain things and can’t shake them, and that’s the best time to indulge their curiosity and gather as much as you can to satiate it before the educational moment passes. For a while, Bean was really into seashells and all their various shapes. Recently, it’s rocks. So, I’ve put out a rock matching game on her shelves for her to pour over with a microscope. A teacher may not be able to indulge each kid’s fixation as they crop up.

In many ways, this feels like a huge weight off. Someone else can take over teaching her to read and write and count? Awesome. The remaining job sometimes feels like just the fun stuff.


If you’re also a Montessori parent, I’d love to hear other ideas for how to support a Montessori education at home. Leave suggestions in the comments!



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