A New Chapter: Montessori Homeschooling

Montessori Homeschooling 2.jpg

Montessori homeschooling.

After 5 years in the classroom—doing what I love and loving what I do—we are taking a giant leap of faith and making a huge change for our family. It’s not a change that I saw coming, at least not yet...

Oliver has been in school or daycare consistently since he was 2.5 months old. We were so fortunate that the Montessori school I worked at when he was born had an infant program—“ il nido” meaning “the nest.” He was the smallest baby in the class when he joined, and I remember all to well the emotional struggle that I felt as I dropped him off in the mornings, only to walk just across the hallway to teach in the elementary classroom. Those postpartum days are no joke!

Oliver under the munari mobile. This is one of the earliest photos I have of Oliver in the Montessori nido. He was almost 3.5 months old in this photo.

Oliver under the munari mobile. This is one of the earliest photos I have of Oliver in the Montessori nido. He was almost 3.5 months old in this photo.

And here is Oliver in the nido about 8 months later. He was walking and climbing all over the place by this point!

And here is Oliver in the nido about 8 months later. He was walking and climbing all over the place by this point!

Fast-forward to today, Oliver is 3.5 years old, and he just finished his first year in a Montessori children’s house. It was an amazing experience for him, and—for me—it was an absolute DREAM to be able to watch him in action every single day as he made friends, played outside, and worked with joy in his classroom. I will forever cherish his time in the children’s house. I have abundant gratitude for the patient and thoughtful teachers and guides who cared for him each day.

Oliver’s face when I picked him up from his first half-day in the Montessori children’s house.

Oliver’s face when I picked him up from his first half-day in the Montessori children’s house.

Oliver’s very first visit in the Montessori Children’s house. He looked at and touched everything in the classroom, but was most interested in Lily the Gecko.

Oliver’s very first visit in the Montessori Children’s house. He looked at and touched everything in the classroom, but was most interested in Lily the Gecko.

And still, I’ve been aching to spend more quality time with Oliver. While we revel in our weekend family adventures and I try my best to give Oliver my full attention from the time we get home from school in the evenings to the time he goes to bed 3 hours later, it just doesn’t feel like enough.

When my husband and I talk about the dreams and vision we have for our family, the main themes always seem to be flexibility and time. So when we were faced with making a choice about our next steps in life, we found ourselves considering homeschooling Oliver.

This was a huge decision and one that I wrestled with for most of this past year. Being a Montessori teacher is such fulfilling work. Each day I have the great privilege of guiding these amazing children along the path to becoming lifelong learners. I get to help them find the JOY in learning! When I see that they have an interest, I do my best to keep them curious and engaged. I get to help them bring to life the ideas that have formed in their minds! Montessori education is truly meaningful work. It is my great passion in life…

This crew loved learning about Shakespeare! Not only did they make timelines of his life, but they also performed a short version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

This crew loved learning about Shakespeare! Not only did they make timelines of his life, but they also performed a short version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The entire class worked together to create this huge diorama showing the layers of the rainforest—complete with a living canopy and a translucent river flowing through the forest floor.

The entire class worked together to create this huge diorama showing the layers of the rainforest—complete with a living canopy and a translucent river flowing through the forest floor.

A book club formed to read Little House in the Big Woods. They made apple pomanders, baked pioneer bread, and even cooked their own beef stew!

A book club formed to read Little House in the Big Woods. They made apple pomanders, baked pioneer bread, and even cooked their own beef stew!

These friends got to spend an afternoon painting outside while experimenting with shadow art and the geometric solids.

These friends got to spend an afternoon painting outside while experimenting with shadow art and the geometric solids.

For follow-up to a circle lesson about measuring the radius and the diameter, this group made a pretty fantastic mobile by creating circles of different sizes.

For follow-up to a circle lesson about measuring the radius and the diameter, this group made a pretty fantastic mobile by creating circles of different sizes.

And these guys baked apple pies on Pi Day after learning how to calculate the circumference of a circle!

And these guys baked apple pies on Pi Day after learning how to calculate the circumference of a circle!

Another book club formed to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was a hit. When they finished reading the book, the group celebrated by making a classic French dessert: crème brûlée!

Another book club formed to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was a hit. When they finished reading the book, the group celebrated by making a classic French dessert: crème brûlée!

I’m absolutely going to miss my time with these incredible humans, and I’m going to miss the big work that happens in the elementary classroom. At least, for now.

Taking the trail less traveled is scary and exciting all at the same time. On one hand, I’m eager to prepare our “classroom” environment (i.e. our living room), and I’m already knee-deep in planning the shelf-works and activities that I think will benefit Oliver most. He will have the space and time that he needs for self-construction—the time to create, to explore, and to experiment. We’ll also have the opportunity to spend a huge portion of our days exploring the great outdoors. Childhood really just doesn’t get any better than that!

big climbing tree
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I’m also ready to embark on a slower lifestyle. I’m tired of rushing. Part of parenting the Montessori way means giving your little one time to do things independently. It’s hard to provide that for my own child when we are rushing out the door every morning so that I can be in the classroom by 7:30 am.  

Homeschooling will free us from life’s hustle and bustle. It will offer a more flexible schedule so that we can sleep when we need to, take time to recover when we are sick, and have the ability to travel more often.

And to guide Oliver along that path of finding joy in his learning—that’s really my “why.” That’s what it’s all about.

watercolor painting with primary colors
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Montessori sensorial

On the other hand, there are also real moments of self-doubt and uncertainty—doubt in my ability to guide Oliver toward concentration and focus; concern that he just isn’t going to get enough opportunities to socialize with other children his age; the list goes on.

As I write this, we’re a week into our homeschooling adventure. And I’ll be honest—so far, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. In fact, much of it has been sheer frustration—activities that were met with no interest, nap time refusals, and have I mentioned that Oliver has a seemingly unlimited supply of energy?!

dragon boy

And just when the frustrations, the self-doubt, and the uncertainty were looming heavy over my head, this happened:

We were nearing the end of our morning work time. Oliver was hungry for a snack, so I immediately got out a bowl full of fresh strawberries, a small cutting board, and a crinkle cutter. I showed him how to chop the leafy tops off of the strawberries. After I saw that he could do this successfully on his own, I walked away to let him concentrate on his new work.

Practical life - cutting strawberries

I lit my new eucalyptus & mint candle (thanks, Aarti!) and turned on the new album by Rising Appalachia. Oliver’s hands were busy; his hunger was satisfied; and he was absolutely mesmerized by this music–the harmonies, the rhythms. He loved it as much as I did.

strawberries in the morning

I plopped down onto the sofa, breathed out an exhausted sigh of relief, and basked in this moment—knowing that we are going to be just fine…

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A Hope and a Promise.

Original photo credit to Celeste Noche.

Original photo credit to Celeste Noche.

And this is why I am a Montessori teacher.