Sunday, November 8, 2009

Montessori Supply Storage

I just love it when Montessori bloggers take pictures and let me snoop around in their closets. We get to see their learning spaces on a pretty regular basis, but I love to see what is going on behind the scenes. What do you do with all that stuff that isn't out on the shelves?

(Warning: a few of you may find this interesting in an odd way, the rest of you...prepare to be bored. Sorry.)

There is a very awkward closet tucked away in our school room. It is awkward because the room is round, and therefore the closet is round. Have you ever tried to hang shelves in a closet that has a round back? I solved the problem by installing part of an "Easy Track"-type system. You are supposed to hang uprights like this from a hanger at the top of the closet. I couldn't install the hanger (wall not flat) but installed the uprights directly to the wall.

This allowed me to use as many pop-in shelf brackets as I want, wherever I want, and move them around whenever I want. The shelves touch the back wall on the sides so there is a couple-inch gap at the back of each shelf in the middle but that is just fine with me.

Adding to the awkwardness, the closet extends about a foot to the left. It is hard to get things in and out of there but I am grateful for the extra room.

It also extends about 8 inches to the right, but for now the small shelves in this section (the narrowest part of the closet) hold computer equipment and other odds and ends.

I have at least one shelf for each Montessori subject, one shelf for purchased materials still in their boxes, two shelves for trays and containers, and one other for what I call "raw materials." I'll work my way down from the top.

I keep the purchased materials that are still in their boxes on the top shelf. Every time I receive a new material I write the name of the material on every side of the box with a Sharpie so that I can see what it is no matter which way it is turned.

The next shelf down holds language materials. The little hardware cabinet holds phonics objects. We must have lost the "U" last night when the boys were working with the cabinet.

The third shelf from the top is currently Maths on the left and Culture on the right. Below that is are what I call "raw materials." Here I store odds and ends I use to make materials (contact paper, foam board, duct tape, felt, etc.,).

We are pretty early in the sequence so don't have a large amount of math materials and I have two cabinets of manipulatives/counters out in the school room so math didn't need a whole shelf. I can see that Culture is soon going to take over like gremlins though and I will have to do some rearranging at some point.

Below the raw materials shelf is the first of two shelves for practical life and below that is the first of two shelves for trays and containers.

This photo shows both of the shelves for trays and containers.

Second from the bottom is the Sensorial shelf. On the floor I have small bins that pull out and hold practical life odds and ends (tongs, sponges, suction cups, lacing strings, etc.,). All the way to the left is the box for the red rods because it just doesn't fit anywhere else.

I keep an inventory of everything that is in this closet, otherwise I would absolutely forget about most of the neat things I have. I usually skim the list every day either while the boys are in their working and I need something to do, or later in the evening. Right after the boys go to bed each night I go into the school room for about ten minutes and make any changes that are needed for the next day. I change the language objects, add sandpaper letters and numbers, and put out any new materials that they might be ready for.

This inventory used to be scribbled on paper, but this week I entered my entire inventory into LibraryThing. Tomorrow I will post and let you know how you can access that if you would like and write about some useful tips for those of you who might be using LibraryThing yourselves.

Obviously everything is not in this closet. Large items that are not in use yet like the maps cabinet and botany cabinet are stashed elsewhere in the house. I also do not keep seasonal items in here. The closet would explode if I were storing things like a cauldron in there! I have four bankers boxes in the basement labeled Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. I know some teachers have a box like that for each month of the year, but I am hoping that for our small homeschool seasonal boxes will suffice.

My apologies for the low-quality photos. My photography skills are not advanced enough to manage great photos of the inside of an unlit closet. I had hoped that the shelf labels would have been legible at least, but I overestimated my skills.

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  1. I also love reading about storage! It's definitely one monster that I haven't conquered yet. I am soooo intrigued by LibraryThing. I haven't let myself look at the website yet because a) I know I'll want to organize immediately and I simply don't have the time right now and b) I'm still without home Internet (grr). Once I get Internet straightened out, maybe I'll post on my storage too. For now, I'm restricted to short iPhone posts :)

  2. Oh yeah love these types of posts too!!

    I just regsitered for Library Thing (am yet to add anything though) and I noticed you had started adding your montessori materials (exactly what I want to do, plus I'd like to add somputer software and other education toys) you seem to have worked how to put them in a seperate folder from your that easy to do?

  3. I'm organizationally challenged, so this was very useful.

  4. How very timely as I'm currently trying to rearrange our materials.

    A you put something new out every day in the schoolroom? Right now I do a big change out every Sunday night, and I can't decide if I'm happy with that or not. It feels like all I ever do is plan and set out Montessori lessons!

  5. Nicole,

    I had the first year and don't really have anymore now that they are much further into the "traditional materials" in all subject areas. I know you are already past that though, so I think maybe you are hitting an upswing I haven't hit yet. The first year, when I was mainly doing practical life and pre-language, pre-math, pre-everything materials this was more of a "question." At the time I asked around and got differing opinions on that. Some families changed one thing every day, some did it once a week on Sundays like you mentioned.

    Once I got into the more traditional materials this problem went away (for now), particularly since I purchased most of my materials rather than made them. (Although I think you purchased pretty much the same things I did.)

    Anyway, at the beginning I tried it both ways. For our family once a week worked best. When I change a lot at once we seem to have one day of "flitting around" from work to work, but then were settled in for the next week/couple weeks. When I changed one thing a day, they only wanted to do THAT thing everyday and seemed to want something "new" all the time. I didn't like that at all so I changed once a week.

    Right now I feel like I am mostly "adding" and not really taking away. That said, I change practical life activities once a week (Sunday, like you).

    I go in the school room each night after I put them to bed and spend 5-10 minutes thinking if they are ready for the "next thing" in any area and put it out if they are. I change Me Too's I Spy objects and Kal-El sound sort objects at this time. I switch up the sandpaper letters for Me too. Kal-El focuses on a couple different sounds every couple of days and likes to glue cut-outs of them into a little book so I put those out. But really, this all just takes a couple minutes.

    Here's the thing...from what I can tell there are Montessorians who like to have lots of different things in their rooms (life cycle cards, holiday activities, whatnot) and Montessorians who are kind of "if it's not in my manual, we don't do it." I tend toward the latter not for philosophical reasons but because I don't seem to have the time to be printing and cutting out lots of new things.

    It makes me feel better knowing that if I only do the things that are on the Gettman list or the AMI primary guide I will still turn out educated kids.

    I have a feeling that I'm going to have to up my game a little bit as we progress in the language area. I just know I'm going to HATE making three part cards.

    It looks like the "culture" area might knock me down in the future too. Yikes!

  6. Thanks so much for the reply. It is SO helpful to hear what other Montessori moms are doing! I know *exactly* what you mean by the "flitting around" - that's also why I switched to doing the big change once a week.

    I suppose that organizing your Montessori area is kind of like decorating your house; you're never truly done!

  7. I love reading about storage too .. I could get totally carried away! We don't have nearly as many great container stores here in NZ, so I'm always so jealous of you guys in the States! Thanks for sharing. Sorry I've been so slack with comments lately, our baby has been teething and has been up ALL evevning just about every evening so computer time has become a rare treat!

  8. ohh- i love the organization! i can just smell the sharpened pencils and chalk now... (sorry, seeing school supplies tucked away so nicely reminds me of my old classroom!)
    looks great!