Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Rest of the Manse Part One: What is NOT Montessori in our home.

As I said in my previous post, I have to balance the pro-independence/child-controlled tenet of the Montessori method with the put-the-child-in-lockdown/control-freak element of my own personality.  As much as I am comfortable I have prepared the environment in my home to support the Montessori philosophies at all times of day.  

This post is about the ways in which my home is intentionally NOT Montessori.  I have made several, but relatively few, pre-meditated deviations from "best practice."  If you want to read a beautiful post about how the home environment should be prepared, please see this one by Barbara at Mommy Life here.  I have chosen to ignore certain recommendations in order to preserve the patience and energy for the recommendations I try to observe.  I am offering full disclosure up front, otherwise these things will just pop up in the background of my photos and I can hear all of your collective Montessori minds thinking "doesn't she know that Maria said..."

Firstly, as previously mentioned, I created a "school room" that is not accessible to the boys unless they ask.  I suggest time in there daily because I understand this creates an "out of sight, out of mind" problem.  I also plan to put a big picture on the door of that room that labels it the "school room" and will catch their interest as they mill about the house.

practice" Montessori a child is free to leave his bed and to move about his room FROM BIRTH ON.  This is accomplished by putting the baby to sleep, from birth on, on a mattress on the floor.  The purpose of this is "to give the child, from to practice moving, and can see everything in the proper way, and not through "bars." "  This idea triggers the "You Have GOT to be KIDDING me" (henceforth UHG2BK) part of my brain.  (This part of my brain will not respond to logical, factual arguments.  It only exercises veto power, so don't bother to try changing my mind when the UHG2BK casts its vote). I do NOT wish my children to practice moving while they are supposed to be practicing SLEEPING.)  I guarantee, there are no "bars" on the inside of their eyelids. My three-year-old still sleeps in his crib, in a sleepsack, with a crib tent and I'll be happiest if he stays there for another year.  

When he starts asking to go potty at night, I'll have to move him out unfortunately.  That could be tomorrow, that could be next January.  We'll see. I'll keep you posted.  I know everyone is simply dying to hear about toddler potty activities.

Thirdly, many blogs on my blog roll will show you the rewards of having art supplies available at all times and set up so that the child can set up, complete, and clean up from an art project BY THEMSELVES.  UHG2BK.  I cannot wrap my brain around the concept of having PAINT and MARKERS and a BUCKET OF WATER available at whim, oh, until let's say high school.

We do art almost every day, and in a future post I'll show you our "curriculum."  Would they do more art if I had it out at all times...probably.  Would that art be ground into my white carpet (right on the other side of that gate in the photo)...probably.  Yes, I have taught Kal-El how to use and respect his art supplies.  I still feel he can use and respect them after ASKING for them. Me Too mostly EATS his art supplies (more on that later).  

Fourthly, the house is on total lockdown.  Nearly every cabinet and drawer are locked.

OK,  not that particular one :) 

The toilet is even locked (another interesting story).  I don't really feel this is against best practice, but rather part of best practice.  I feel I should mention it because so there are so many recommendations to not lock as much as possible. Because so much is on lockdown, they have complete freedom in the home during the day.  I do not relocate myself whenever they do.  I do not chase them around the house all day.  I know they are safe wherever they are and I don't need to have them in my line of sight.  As a side benefit, I don't have ask them to put away the entire contents of my kitchen cabinets a couple of times a day.  The only truly bad things they can do are turn on the gas stove (which I can HEAR from anywhere in the, childproof locks will NOT go on the knobs) or run the reverse osmosis tap in the bathroom (won't kill them, just really messy).  This freedom is also, in part, possible due to a very complicated system of locks on our doors to the outside. I'll talk about our locks in a future post.  Supernanny might want to take note.

Lastly, there is a lot of evidence that toddler tantrums can be best avoided if they can make a lot of their own choices.  What to wear, what to eat, etc.,  "Best practice" says to have a snack center available at all times so they can prepare their own snacks.


On the snack prep thing though, even though he can't grab his own banana and cut one whenever he wants.  When I give him one with a meal he does get to open, peel, slice and discard the trash himself.  And he shares it with his brother.  He cooks almost every day, and makes his own sandwiches, at lunch time, when I say it is time.  We have a toy kitchen set, although Montessori resources often recommend against them.  Both boys have more interest in cooking than I can possibly fulfill in a day without opening a restaurant.  I let them cook with me as much as I can and the toy kitchen handles the overflow.  

Hopefully this post will put some of my future, glowing, "Montessori is amazing" posts in proper perspective.  


  1. Tee Hee!
    You made me smile :)
    Thanks for sharing. I look fwd to reading more MOntessori!

  2. I know this is an old post but I just love it ... translating Montessori into a home environment that one can actually LIVE in requires these kind of compromises, and I love you for sharing this. We do the floor bed, its worked brilliantly for us, but I have never been able to get Munchkin to eat at the little table ... we value family meal times too much, and then when she and I are eating just the two of us, she doesn't want to do it 'differently' - she wants to do what we do! Yet, I have many friends for whom little eating tables work brilliantly. Each to their own!

  3. It is REALLY nice to hear that another Montessori mom is making a few exceptions according to what works in your home! I feel guilty when I deviate, but sometimes other convictions (like the floor bed, I have that UHGTBKM moment there too) win. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Too funny! I love how your devotion to Montessori and your devotion to your own sanity *both* come through loud and clear! Only just found your blog, so I have a lot of archive-reading to do in order to catch up. I'm really looking forward to it! My daughter is just about to turn 18 months, so I'm pretty much at the stage you were at when you started researching Montessori.

  5. This is the best post ever! Love it. We all make compromises.

  6. Fantastic. I am trying to 'prepare the environment' at home and failing but this post is really inspiring me to try again with what I feel comfortable with. Thank-you!

  7. I'm just browsing some of your older posts. I love this one, it just made me laugh (at your UHG2BKM moments ;)

    Every family has to make their choices for their own sanity, especially in those earliest years.

    I was able to leave everything without locks, because I didn't put much in the lower cupboards - definitely nothing dangerous, and mostly stuff children could use anyway (under kitchen sink: children's cleaning supplies; under the bathroom sink: my son's cloth diapers - now just toilet paper and spare toothbrushes and the like) - but I had a small apartment, so it didn't take much to provide complete supervision (and I had a licensed family daycare, so I really astounded the ladies who came for my licensing visits - they thought not having locks was bad at first, until they saw what was IN the cupboards, then they thought the concept was brilliant).

    But we had our art supplies put away except at certain times - the one time I left anything out, my son made our lovely bedroom wall (and himself) bright pink. ;)

    We did the bed on the floor, but I did it with him (family bed).

    I could go on, but we're on the same page ;)

  8. Hm ... I'm a bit new to Montessori and just started to look at some homeschooling sites for new educational ideas for my 3 year old. Interestingly, without even being familiar it was "Montessori way" we used floor bed for our daughter since she was 8 m.o., never had gates or locks anywhere in the house (explaining her the possible dangers and what is allowed and waht's not was sufficient), had accesseble food, plates and cups cabinet, unrestricted access to art supplies (incl. messy ones)from age 2 and encouraged her to do things for herself in general. That worked wonderfully for us with DD being so independent for her age. But I understand, people have different views, and that's ok. I'm just surprised what we did was actually "Montessori way" without realising it :). By the way your blog has a lot of great information, thanks for sharing!

    1. Dear Anonymous, not only do people have different views, people have different CHILDREN. My oldest is doing exercises to help with sensory integration. He is a tactile seeker, a proprioceptive seeker, and a vestibular seeker. In plain English, this means he almost irresistibly wants to feel everything, squish everything, crash into everything (and everyone), and jump and swing on everything. Now that he's nine, some messy things can safely be in his reach to use with permission. That said, we have always had cups and plates available and he's been fixing his own snacks for a long time, and learned to crack an egg properly at age 3. But explaining and expecting the child to stay out of enticing things . . . I'm happy for you that it worked.

    2. I loved this post! We have only just started Montessori in our home and I am still trying to figure out what will save our sanity. I so agree with the above post that every family is different as is every child. My first daughter could have done all of the above things. My first child we had hardly any "baby proofing". Now, we are on our third and I have had to go through and baby proof things for her. I know if I only had my first I would think everyone's kid should be like mine. I now have 2 more and yes, each child is different and each one brings about a certain need for sanity checks! I prefer to be able to make a meal and not have to worry about getting the toddler out of the cabinets for the 100th time. It isn't that the things are dangerous, but there is only so many times I want to clean up. I know it is Montessori to get her to clean it up, but it still requires MY help and I just don't have enough hours in the day to clean up every single cabinet 100 times! LOL

  9. I LOVE this! And I totally agree with you. You have to know what your limitations are in some areas so that you can have patience for the other areas. I know for me, my biggest compromises are in toileting. Yes, my little one is potty trained, but yes, I also help her a lot because I don't have the patience to deal with adapting everything in the bathroom to match her size (she's very petite for a 2.5 year old!). Reading this post just confirmed for me that that's perfectly fine :-)

  10. Well said Michele! I'm always happy to validate :) Off to practice that "patience in other areas".... lOL!