Setting Up A Montessori Environment
Dr. Maria Montessori talks about the traits of the Montessori Children's House in great detail in her handbook of Montessori educational philosophy. She states that the Children's House acts as an environment that offers maximum developmental opportunities for the child. This is a special house in which the conventional, strict concept of schooling is not in practice. Instead, it caters to the individual differences of the children and facilitates learning opportunities accordingly. It can be flexibly adapted to each household’s financial situation and the strengths and learning paces of each child.
In a Montessori environment, there are no restraints on the lessons and activities due to lack of financial resources, as is often the case in conventional schools.
As the name suggests, Children Houses should be prepared by keeping the children in mind instead of adults—it has to be completely child-centered. It serves as a learning and developmental haven for children created purely to facilitate maximum opportunities for growth and progress.
Dr. Montessori suggested that this space should be a real house that is adapted as a Children's House. Adequate space is one with areas for reading, resting, eating, sleeping, and playing. It also should have a garden and open area for keeping pets. Gazebos or benches and some age-appropriate playing equipment in the garden or back yard can offer several developmental opportunities for the children.
Montessori gives much importance to an open-air space full of sunlight, natural views, and proper ventilation, along with being shielded from rain and dust. There should be shaded areas to protect from the heat too.
Specific Rooms, Furniture, and Other Equipment:
The equipment in a Montessori environment can be very diverse. This is because the toddlers are not only being trained academically or physically but also socially and in other practical aspects of life. They learn to sweep, wash, dust, clean, polish, pour, fold, wrap, and even cook some snacks. Every single task that they do requires age-appropriate material and equipment.
Keep the following points in mind when selecting equipment:
- All toys, furniture, learning resources, shelves, cupboards, chairs, etc. must be picked according to the child's age, size, and level of development
- The color of the furniture must be light so that dust and dirt can be easily spotted and cleaned right away. They should also be easy for children to wash with soapy water
- The furniture shouldn’t be heavy to make it easier for children to lift and move around as needed
- There should be different sizes of tables in the classroom to enable children to form small or large groups during material presentations, reinforcement exercises or conversation time. Individual or combined lessons can be performed using small round tables and large rectangular ones accordingly
- Regarding material, wood is preferable to wicker, and stone or wooden flooring is better. This is to increase familiarity with nature instead of artificial or synthetic materials such as plastic or synthetic carpeting
- There should be comfortable couches, cushions, or sofas for reading or relaxing
- The workroom must contain cupboards and shelves suitable for placing any learning material in order. The didactic material is commonly shared and owned by the children
- Each child has his drawer to keep personal items. These drawers must be within easy reach of the children according to their height
- The workroom also should have different size rugs that can be used during floor exercises. You can pick different colors for the rugs too, to differentiate each area of ongoing activity in the room. This room should have adequate space to enable free-spirited activity or accommodate multiple workstations
- Install some hooks where children can hang aprons, table cloths, etc. (always at appropriate height)
- Set some corner tables on which to place vases with flowers. Children can gather fresh flowers from the garden and help turn them into beautiful arrangements
- Hang all blackboards must at the children’s eye level. This way they can jot down whatever they want to or stick pictures or artwork
- Consider adding a growth chart where children can check their own or their peers’ height
- There should be a shoe rack at the entrance of the classroom so that each toddler learns to place the shoes in order, which will also permit them to be more comfortable while working
- Another room can be set up as a sitting room. This room can be like a sun-room or club used for candid talk among the children, playing games, etc. The furniture here should be comfortable, such as toddler settees, couches, round tables with illustrated books, walls decorated pictures, photo albums, etc. The children can also place small pots with seeded plants as an indoor activity
- The walls may contain small alcoves to display the children’s artistic crafts, attractive pictures, or educational material they like
- There can be a small kitchen area where children can learn to make simple snacks like fruit salads, sandwiches, etc.
- The dining room in a Montessori-friendly environment should have small tables and chairs to facilitate appropriate sitting arrangement for the toddlers
- There should be a low cabinet for the cutlery that is accessible for every child. They should be able to take out and put away the plates, spoons, napkins, etc. on their own
- The glasses and plates should not be plastic and should be appealing to the children’s sense of beauty and aesthetic. Glass or china are the preferred materials for this
- The washing area should have a sufficient number of washing basins and soap containers
- If there is a dressing area, it should have a sufficient number of chests of drawers for each child to place their bags containing personal items such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes or combs, napkins, etc.
- Each area or learning corner of the Montessori classroom should have a distinct color. Specific sets of materials for different exercises can also be color-coded to help the child in remembering the tools used in a particular activity
- The walls and equipment should not be painted in too many bright colors. This could distract the children from the didactic materials displayed on the shelves
- The didactic material placed on the shelves must be in progressive order according to the learning sequence in each subject
- The library or reading corner should have bookshelves accessible to the children
- If possible, there should be an area for pets. For indoor pets, consider fish, turtles or birds. For outdoors pets, consider rabbits
While your home environment may be a familiar place for your toddler, it may lack the proper order or structure to ensure maximum learning opportunities if you have decided on homeschooling your child. The tips provided here are based on the pure Montessori concept and will facilitate a systematic, individualistic and creative environment for your child. Raising your child in this sort of development-friendly atmosphere will help you to help your child realize their full potential, along with keeping track of their learning pace.
The Montessori method proposes that such an environment is like a triangle. The material and resources for the class are on one corner while the adult and the child represent the other two corners. This way, each of the three corners are interdependent for the optimum developmental outcome. The absence of any one of them will result in a vain effort on the part of the remaining two. All three of them give shape to the most powerful opportunity for revolutionizing the education system most positively.
Another very distinctive trait of a Montessori children's house is its discipline while catering even to mixed-age groups of children. Toddles ranging from ages two to six, and everything in between, develop a calm and peaceful way of working that can be truly mesmerizing to onlookers. Children are so indulged in satisfying their internal urge to accomplish a meaningful activity that they don't even want to argue or waste time making noise or causing a disturbance. Choosing their activity, taking out respective material from the right place, sitting on their choice of rug or table, calmly paying attention to their work, then finishing up properly, putting the material to its corresponding place—this all requires some extent of control, sense of order and responsibility, and innate discipline. These children being raised as Montessori toddlers also exhibit a mutual sense of respect and are inquisitive by nature.
Children in Montessori also learn to share the common material and become patient in waiting for their turn to use it. They are provided with enough activities and material exercises to engage in and do something constructive without wasting their time. Each exercise has a purpose, a set of direct and indirect goals, and points of interest. Most of the Montessori material tends to be self-exploratory and can be quite easy to handle. All the equipment is appropriate to the size and age of the child, and they each learn it at their own pace. There is no concept of a mainstream classroom lesson or combined lectures. While there are some group lessons, these are mostly the oral practice of language or involve pre-reading games—they in no way involve passive listening on behalf of the children.
The environment also has historical timelines, interactive calendar displays, and cultural maps or globes to enrich the children with geographical, historical and cultural information.