I discovered Montessori when I started looking for DIY toys on Pinterest! I noticed that no matter what toys I purchased (and I purchased a TON!), my 14 month old twins were not interested for more than a few seconds. When I started looking at the DIY toys, I stumbled onto Montessori sites. From there, I read the book Montessori from the Start and joined some Facebook groups.
Initially, I only utilized Montessori activities – but I did not adopt a Montessori philosophy. When my husband and I started looking at home schooling math curriculums, we fell in love with Right Start Math. We were able to spend over an hour speaking with the creator Dr. Joan Cotter. In the conversation, I asked her what to do presently with my 18 month old twins. She told me and also encouraged me to look at Montessori pedagogy for reading/writing. From there, I dove into reading and learning as much as I could. As my toddlers gained more skills that I was recognizing, I wanted to employ more and more Montessori philosophy because it is a philosophy of support, encouragement, discovery, and freedom – all things our family is keen on.
Concerning our home set up, it was a gradual process initially with me placing a few things here and there for them to uitilize independently. I started with tooth brushing (which used to be where my current hair care is). Then I added their little fridge so they could access their morning smoothies. Next I think I added the water dispenser. Somewhere in there I purchased two shelves and placed activities on the shelves. But, my home overall was still for us. Their room at the time still had cribs, a large recliner, and a tall changing table!
Finally, we decided to overhaul our home. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to our old heirloom piano (non tunable), but that allowed us space to rearrange all the rooms in our house. While we didn’t move houses, the process of discarding, rearranging, and repurposing felt just as difficult as a move would have been (if not harder!). We lived in chaos for weeks, and that was very very hard on all of us.
These pictures are the result of an ongoing effort to streamline our home to be useable to everybody of all ages. There are more changes to come, but if I wait to share photos, then nobody will ever get to see. Plus, it’s important for people to understand that adapting your home for independence of all ages is an ongoing process – needs and abilities change, new babies come, toddlers get bigger, stools break, etc.
The biggest impact changing our home has had on us is that there is a more harmonious temperament. As Christians, we believe it’s the Holy Spirit in us that lays this foundation and guides us, so we couldn’t have harmony without Him – but living in chaos or an environment with constant whining x 2 because of not being able to “do it myself” does a lot to dampen my hearing the Lord! My toddlers are proud that they can do things on their own, they are eager to learn and contribute to the family as a whole, and parents are pleased to no longer be directly in charge of all minutia!
If you are just starting off in your journey – whether your goal is Montessori or just harmony, I’d suggest taking everything out of a room and asking yourself what you want the room to function as (and there will be multiple answers for each room). Then, put only the items back in that support that function. Don’t get rid of the other stuff just yet – you may want it in another room! Take some time to see how that works, adjust and rearrange. And certainly don’t neglect aesthetic – a warm, natural environment with personal touches is soothing and inviting to everybody.
If you have twins, triplets, or more, I’d suggest employing an environment supporting independence far sooner than you imagine. And while you do not need two of everything, I do find it nice to have two of some things, particularly gross motor items (we have two balance boards, two rocking horses, two push carts). I also have similar activities about for practical living like dusting with a mit and a lambs wool duster, a push mop and a string mop. This way everybody can do what Mom is doing if they like and they get different motions/benefits from each.
My favorite resources include books on Montessori such as Montessori from the Start (ignore breastfeeding advice), How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, Teach Me to Do It Myself, and Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under Fives. And not specifically Montessori, but I couldn’t live without it: The Homegrown Preschooler!
Favorite online resources includes blogs How We Montessori, Montessori Nuggets and Carrots Are Orange; Facebook groups Montessori Homeschooling, Bringing up Montessori Infants and Toddlers, sometimes Montessori 101, and The Homegrown Preschooler (for purchasers of the curriculum). I also like perusing Janet Lansbury’s website, though I have a different foundational philosophy than her, so I don’t employee/agree with everything there.