Tuesday, May 15, 2012

5 Days of Montessori: The Prepared Environment

Welcome to day 2 of my 5 days of Montessori posts!  I am joining up with over 65 fellow members of the Homeschool Review crew to bring you 5 days of posts on over 65 different subjects.  There are a lot of great posts with helpful info.  Be sure to check them out (follow the button at the bottom).

  Yesterday I discussed what the Montessori Method is and how it can be helpful in your home.  Day two of my Montessori series brings us to the Prepared Environment.  

Before you begin bringing in materials or begin preparing presentations, you need to prepare your environment. In order to get a true direction, lets discuss what the first 'prepared environment' looked like.

  The first Children's Home (or Casa Dei Bambini) was created in what was, essentially, the 'projects' of the day.  It was an apartment complex of poor families that mostly worked at night.  During the day, the children ran freely around the complex.  Dr. Montessori wanted to try her recent findings from the work she had done with her institution patients on 'normal' children.  So, she asked if she might start a small day care/school for the children in this complex.  What they gave to her was one of the apartments in the complex.  

The first Children's Home was exactly that, a Children's HOME.  It was an apartment with all that included in 1907.  The children were allowed to use the entire apartment for their learning.  Montessori schools continue with this layout.  They usually include a kitchen and dinette area, complete with running water and sometimes a toaster or microwave.  They also include bathroom facilities that do not require 'permission' to be used.  Some are even fortunate enough to include a garden and play area that the children can go in and out of at their leisure.

So how does this translate into a home environment?  Well, this does get a little tricky.  Ideally, a child would have access to basically everything that they need to.  Access to drink, food, clothing, materials for cleaning themselves and their environment.  Maybe, even the freedom to come in and out as they please.   In today's world this really isn't always possible.  And, even if it is possible, it may take some extreme changes to make it happen.

In the home environment, I feel it is best to start with the learning spaces first.  Unless you have decided to make your entire home Montessori friendly, your learning area should be a separate space.  This allows your children the freedom to use everything in the space without being in trouble.  A designated school room would be ideal, but if you aren't using a school room, be sure that the things in the room are all things that your child can use.

As an example, I will take you on a tour of our learning space.

As you can see, we use a basement space.  We used to use an extra bedroom, but we grew out of that space.  It is still bright and airy and offers many different spaces to do work.

It is important to offer comfortable places to do work.  Children should be offered tables and chairs that fit them.  Because I have children of various sizes, we have 2 small tables, one mid sized table, and one large table that used to be our kitchen table.  There is also a lot of floor space.

At the other end, we have a carpeted area.  We use this area for our story and circle time.  There are also more 'play' type items here, a doll house and blocks.  You can see a large bookcase in the back of the picture.  In general, it is best not to store school supplies that the children can't use in the classroom.  However, if you must, choose to put them on higher shelves that are out of their line of vision.  The items on the bottom 2 shelves are for my children, the other 3 shelves are mine.  

The materials should be placed at child's eye level.  I was lucky to find these book shelves at Walmart for just 15.00.  I have one more in a box I need to put together, and one in the toy room that I intend to steal.  Walmart has discontinued this shelf and I like the uniform look.  

I attempt to put materials from the same subject together.  The left has math, the middle has sensorial, and the last has practical life (a little bare since I took the water materials out).  As you can see, however, it is hard to fit them on the shelves.  I am often trying to come up with new places to place things while continuing to strive for order and beauty.

My space is a continual work in progress, and I hope to do a major overhaul here in July to allow for a toddler area for Explorer.  

Other bloggers have shown their spaces.  Some of my favorites include:

What Did We Do All Day (extremely well thought out)
Discovery Days and Montessori Moments (great layout if you don't have a school room)
Barefoot in Suburbia (mix of Montessori and Waldorf)\
Montessori Moments (LOVE.THIS.SPACE)
Living Montessori Now's Pinterest board of Prepared Environment

Really, the space is going to reflect your family a lot.  Just, keep in mind the major points:

*easy to maintain
*completely kid friendly
*and Fun!

Tomorrow I will be discussing the beautiful Montessori Materials.  What they are, how they are used, and where to buy them!

In the meantime, be sure to check out the rest of the crew's amazing blog posts.

Happy Reading and God Bless!!



Deb Chitwood said...

You've done a great job with your homeschool classroom! Thanks for sharing the link to my Pinterest board. I just pinned this post! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

Anonymous said...

Geez, buy a can or two of paint and paint that drab cement! It will brighten it up so much.

Our Country Road said...

I am so with you, I would LOVE to paint the walls. But, we rent so it's not completely up to me. It is in my hopeful plans, though!

Rachel @ The Philosophers Wife said...

Wow, I love what you've done! That really looks like an inviting space!

If you'd like, I'd love if you'd share at my Teaching Time for Toddlers link up!