Practical Montessori for the Modern Home

The title of this post also happens to be the subtitle of the blog. While I hope the sentiment is an undercurrent to all of my posts I decided I could be a bit more direct with what “practical” means to me and my family. The intention of this post is to capture parents like myself who love Montessori ideals and perhaps have children in Montessori school but are overwhelmed by where to start. This post is dedicated to those of us that have no desire to homeschool or those who may feel inadequate when a google search returns magazine quality photos of toddlers concentrating deeply in well-appointed and calming environments.

So where to start? How do I create a Montessori home environment and implement a Montessori-inspired parenting style without spending thousands of dollars and needing Montessori certification? To help answer that question we have to boil down some big picture stuff into practical chunks.

Big Picture One: Montessori is a way of being with children. 

In a school environment Montessori is a curriculum, but more importantly it is a way to interact with children. Montessori is not pink towers and red rods. Montessori in the home, especially, is not “works”. It is the understanding and desire to treat your child with respect and work within his/her developmental limits. I love Merry Montessori’s document on the four planes of development. As a parent I focus in on the “Needs of the …Plane”. I have read and reread the description of each plane in order to gain a better understanding of my children. Armed with this information I can adjust my parenting to meet my child’s needs based in developmental science and not my guesswork. So how might I take this information and use it in a practical way? Practical example: My first plane son, 5 years old, has a developmental need for opportunities to communicate. As a parent I can make sure that when I have a conversation with him it is during a calm time of day with limited distractions so he can focus on both the listening and speaking components of communication. This means that I cannot be distracted with my phone or the needs of my other child. Time and space is all you need to fulfill this need. Other examples about how I have adjusted my parenting with my new 2nd plane kid can be found here and here.

Big Picture Two: A properly prepared environment is more important than what we tell a child when directing his/her behavior.

Montessori is all about structure and order. It may look chaotic but that is because we are used to seeing overt adult direction when it comes to children, particularly verbal direction (“Don’t touch that. Do this.”). The prepared environment is one set-up by adults with development and limits taken into consideration. Practical example: Your child is taking too much at snack time? Reduce the amount offered. They maintain the freedom to help themselves, but within the adult set environment.


Big Picture Three: Fostering developmentally appropriate independence is the primary responsibility of a parent. 

When it comes to Montessori in the home one of the best and easiest ways to foster independence is through every day tasks. This also goes hand in hand with the prepared environment as the environment will allow for the independence. Practical Example: Think about your child’s day from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. Make a list, in your head or on paper, about everything your child needs to do throughout the day. Travel from room to room as you make your list. For every action that your child needs to accomplish, can they do it themselves with no adult intervention? The goal here is to answer “Yes!” to as many tasks as possible.

Example of a morning for my 5 year old:

1. Wake up and get out of bed- yes, bed is appropriate height for him to get in and out of without help. Also appropriate size (twin) for him to make his bed every day without adult help.

2. Turn on his lights in his room- yes, he can reach his lamp, but no he could not turn on his overhead or closet light, so we added a longer chain to his closet light and we added a light extender to his overhead light. Small inexpensive way to build independence.


A simple tool that has made a difference in my son's independence.

A simple tool that has made a difference in my son’s independence.

3. Get dressed-yes, all of his clothes are in low baskets that he can reach. A place for his dirty clothes is also accessible.

4. Eat breakfast-yes, plates, cups, and pitcher of milk are all in low cabinets, drawers, and fridge shelves. On days when my husband or I don’t cook breakfast, he can access a bowl of cereal all on his own.

5. Pack his lunch for school-yes, explained in detail in this post.

6. Brush his teeth-yes, a sturdy stool helps him gain access to a tall pedestal sink, toothbrush and paste are all within reach.

7. Grab his backpack and out the door-yes, we keep our backpacks on low hooks.

My son can go an entire morning routine taking care of himself and his needs without adult intervention. This leaves time for conversation at breakfast and me feeling less like a task master.

Montessori is not all or nothing. Practical Montessori is about incorporating big ideas in simple and effective ways that create a calmer, happier child and parent.




Montessori Ideas: Getting a Reluctant Spouse or Partner Onboard with Montessori School

This time of year many parents are beginning (or in the middle) of discussions on the educational future of their children. Maybe it is selecting a school for a kindergartner, maybe it is debating whether or not to put your three year old in a Montessori school, maybe it is deciding to switch schools for a better option, maybe it is going over finances to see if you could swing a private school…

If one of your discussions included a Montessori education then I have the post for you! It often seems that one parent gets onboard with a Montessori education, but one parent (or grandparent) is reluctant or downright opposed. On many message boards and parent education sessions I heard from parents that their partner wasn’t as “into it” as them. I will say that my husband has always been 100% onboard with sending our kids to a Montessori school, mostly because we sort of fell into it and both discovered it at the same time. I hope this post is a jumping off point to many future discussions between partners and within a greater educational context.

The first step in this process is to have a discussion with your partner about educational goals and outcomes for your child(ren). This is not the time to bring up Montessori. This is the time to share hopes and dreams for your child. It is a way for couples to find common ground and clarify who they hope their child will become. This is best reserved for a time you are both in a happy and content mood with alone adult time. Perhaps on a date to a coffee shop or other quiet place. Maybe it is just on the couch after the children have gone to bed. Questions may included: Is college a requirement? Are sports or particular extracurriculars a requirement? At graduation what skills do you hope our child has gained? Is prestige or name of school important? Can we afford a private school? Have we explored all of the public school options in our area? Are we open to homeschooling?

Once you have discussed goals and found common themes, you can bring up Montessori.

A good place to start is with basic background information on Montessori. Since Montessori is often lumped into progressive or innovative buckets people assume it must be new. That it must be untested. That their child might be an educational guinea pig! If this is the case, share these facts first: Dr. Montessori opened her first “Children’s House” for children ages 1-6 in 1907, putting her years of research and observation into practice. An educational curriculum that is 108 years old and practiced throughout the world is well-tested and nothing new!

Other resources that may help lay the groundwork are:

Still not convinced it is right for your child? Try the scientific approach. Dr. Montessori was a physician (the first female one in Italy!) and a scientist. All of her theories and practices were carefully crafted from observation and based on childhood development. Today because of brain scan technology we know that her theories over 100 years ago about how a child’s brain develops were spot on!

Dr. Steve Hughes is a pediatric neuropsychologist and president of the American Academy of Pediatirc Neuropsychology.

You can watch him discuss Montessori here:

Last but not least are two videos that show a Montessori school in action.

A Montessori Morning: A glimpse of a Montessori 3-6 year old classroom. This one gives me the warm fuzzies, big time!

Inside Melbourne Montessori School: A wonderful introduction and overview of a school as a whole.

Who could be reluctant knowing all this! If you are held back by not being able to afford a Montessori education, consider fighting for a public Montessori option in your area. My children are able to attend a wonderful public Montessori school (PreK3-8th grade) because Montessori educators and parents rallied around the need and worked hard to make it a reality. I am helping pay it forward by working on a committee to bring a public Montessori High School to my area through Friends of Montessori. 

What are the reasons you choose to send your child to a Montessori school or not?

Top 5 Posts of 2014!

Another great year is now coming to a close. I am very excited to continue blogging in 2015, but first I wanted to share one last post looking back at the most popular posts from 2014.

  1.  5 Montessori Take Aways– This was a great way to reflect on a great school year.
  2.  Montessori Ideas: Entering the 2nd Plane-The 2nd plane is great!
  3. Parenting: The Long Run-Growing adults is hard, rewarding work!
  4. Learning to Take the Fear out of Parenting-Still a struggle. Still worth trying.
  5. Adventures in Cooking-Little brother has also taken to cooking since this post.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through shares, follows, comments and likes. See you next year with new posts!



Parenting: The Long Run

I feel like we are entering a clearing, in a few weeks my children will turn seven and five. Five was a turning point for my daughter and looks to be shaping up similarly for my son. Parenting small children is a whirlwind of stage after stage, milestone after milestone, with little time to stop and take stock of how it’s going. Parenting a baby. Parenting a toddler. Parenting a preschooler. One right after another with different needs, tricks, and challenges. Now we stand ready to parent kids. Just kids.

Now that we can see past the next urgent stage, I have been thinking more about parenting as a long term process and not just a day to day attempt at keeping everyone alive and relatively well. Maybe it is the teacher in me, but backwards planning my parenting feels totally logical and a bit insane all at the same time. For non-educators what I mean by backwards planning is the idea that I should look at who I want my kids to be as adults and let that inform my parenting now.

This type of parenting is often seen in the extremes, hyper-tiger-mothers that say brain surgeon or bust or the willful stage parents with stars in their eyes and dollar signs above their kid’s head. That is not the type of planning I am talking about. I do not wish to dictate what my children will do as careers or their political beliefs or how they will love. I do, however, wish to do my best to set my children up for being functional adults. Adults able to care for themselves and others. Adults that can handle life’s challenges. Adults that have a strong sense of self and purpose regardless of what that may be.

I know that sounds all well and good, but what does that look like? Here is what I am thinking.

1. Acknowledge that we are raising future adults. It is very easy to think about parenting a five year old in preparation for a six year old. It takes a bit more awareness to remember, regularly, that this is a process of transitioning from dependent child to interdependent adult. That every single day we are progressing towards that reality whether we acknowledge it or not. Whether we are fostering the transition or stifling it, time keeps on chugging along. I think this awareness will also help me appreciate the present a bit more, knowing that it is fleeting.

2. Raise awareness of our own baggage. Despite growing up in a lovely stable home with two adoring parents, I still have issues handed down from my family. We are fairly classic WASPs, in that anything unpleasant needs a few glasses of wine and hours to tease out the truth. I am totally aware of this issue. I know that I could easily carry that torch with my own children or allow the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction. The awareness piece allows me seek out a middle ground; to find resources and advice about how to communicate effectively with my kids within boundaries. *This is an on-going process, but I will share any great stuff I find in case you fall into a similar boat*

3. Stick with our parenting philosophy. I truly believe in my heart that a Montessori parenting philosophy will help me raiserecite-18895-864535439-1dvajzb functional adults. I think you must have that belief in any parenting philosophy or guidelines that you choose to follow in order to get the outcome you want. I also fully acknowledge that Montessori isn’t the only way to produce functional adults. But it feels right to me, which is why it is my parenting philosophy to begin with. It also creates a default. A place to go when life throws you curve balls. It doesn’t mean being inflexible or unwilling to say something isn’t working. It does mean having a perpetual “sniff test”. A space to ask “WWMMD?” (What would Maria Montessori Do?) It allows for a “why” behind family decisions which bolsters my confidence and ability to stick to my guns on the important things.

This parenting stuff isn’t easy, but looking at it in the context of raising future adults actually makes it feel more exciting. I get to gift the world with two awesome people that make life a little bit more rad for being in it.

Side Note: My 2nd Blogiversary is coming up on October 27th. I have set a goal of 7,000 page views and 100 Facebook likes by that date. You can help make that happen by “liking” my Facebook page if you haven’t already ( and sharing your favorite posts with like-minded friends and family! Thank you!

Montessori in the Home Presentation Fall 2014

Welcome to those of you that have found your way here after attending or hearing about my parent education presentation from Friday.

Attached you will find the PowerPoint and below that are links to some of the referenced posts from yesterday!


Montessori Philosophy at Home 9.26



Preparing the Kitchen Environment:

Montessori Meal Time a NEW Adventure

Adventures in Independence: Packing School Lunch


Preparing the Environment Around the House:

Montessori Ideas: Preparing the New Home Environment

Kid in Charge: Bath Time Routine


Integrating Montessori Language and Actions at Home:

Magic Montessori Words and Ideas

Montessori Ideas: Adding Sign Language



Adventures in Independence: Packing School Lunch

My children have helped pack their own school (or daycare!) lunches for about two years. It has always been a small, daily way to build practical life skills.  Now that they are 4 and 6, they are expected to pack their lunches with little to no intervention from an adult. They are able to accomplish this goal for the following reasons: We have carefully prepared the environment of our kitchen to allow them total freedom within the set limits, we have invested in a few tools to increase their independence in food preparation, and we have streamlined the process over the last two year.

The Limits

I believe it is important to teach my children what to pack in their lunch and provide only food that is acceptable for our family as choices. I want them to have total freedom to decide what “snacks” to pack and therefore have to make sure I am only buying things I am okay with them consuming.

A properly packed lunch in our house must contain one thing from each category:

  • A “Main Dish”: this is a term we use to mean something with protein like a sandwich, pretzels and hummus, apples and peanut butter, etc.
  • A fruit
  • 2 “snacks”: cheese, yogurt, raisins, nuts, applesauce, etc.
  • A drink

These limits allow the kids to chose what they want to eat without ending up with a lunchbox full of cereal bars.

The Prepared Kitchen

We designate two shelves of the pantry and the lowest shelves of the refrigerator for lunch supplies and food. This means that the kids never have to ask for help in making their food selections. The set-up also helps facilitate snack time and if the kids need water throughout the day.

Examples of food in our "snack" basket. We try very hard to eat non-processed, whole foods.  1. cashews 2. raisins 3. trail mix 4. peanut butter

Examples of food in our “snack” basket. We try very hard to eat non-processed, whole foods.
1. cashews
2. raisins
3. trail mix
4. peanut butter

Special Tools

This is a picture of the lowest drawer in our pantry. It houses all of the kids’ lunch and snack supplies.



1. small collendar for washing fruit 2. small picture. find it here.  3. small water glasses 4. snack bowls 5. cutting boards and cookie cutters for sandwiches. 6. spreader. find a similar one here. 7. reusable water bottles and our Ziploc lunch containers.

1. small colander for washing fruit. find it here.
2. small pitcher. find it here.
3. small water glasses
4. snack bowls
5. cutting boards and cookie cutters for sandwiches.
6. spreader. find a similar one here.
7. reusable water bottles and our Ziploc lunch containers.

Lessons Learned 

One of the main lessons learned came after I observed a Children’s House lunch period in the cafeteria. I watched the poor lunch monitors zooming from kid to kid helping them open various parts of their lunch. It was then that I decided to make sure my kids could access every part of their lunch without the teacher’s help. This is why we switched to using the Ziploc containers and remove all excess packaging during the packing process. The next lesson is that my kids are totally capable of packing their lunches, but when I hover too much or nag too much they ask me to do much more for them. If I am hovering in the morning, all of the sudden I am being asked to open the peanut butter jar or slice apples which didn’t seem to be an issue for them the day before. I also push myself to say “no” when asked for help. I want to make sure that they have attempted the action before stepping in. Most of the time they surprise themselves by being able to complete the task.


My 4 year old opening the peanut butter to make his sandwich for the day.


Lunch preparation is an important part of our day. Yes, it takes time and a bit of effort, but the payoff is huge!

A note: If you are concerned with time in the mornings, I recommend having children pack their lunches the evening before.