What does Montessori look like day to day? Well, it’s different for everyone! Today, our 12 Months of Montessori topic is “A Day in the Life” and each of the 12 Montessori bloggers is sharing a sneak peek into what Montessori looks like for them.
Taking a Break from Montessori Homeschool
To be honest, I wasn’t going to participate in this month’s 12 Months of Montessori Learning because we’re not really Montessori Homeschooling this year.
There were several reasons that contributed to that, but the primary ones were that my daughter was going to be the oldest child in our daycare by over 2 years age difference, and the number of children in our daycare prohibited me from being able to take my daughter to homeschool events or play dates. I was able to get my daughter into a really awesome program 3 days/week and thought that we’d continue with our Montessori journey on those off days, but for now school takes so much out of her (as a sensory-sensitive kid) that she spends the days at home decompressing.
I personally don’t think socialization is a reason to have to send your child to school, but for me it was a factor that my daughter would essentially be without peers unless we were able to coordinate frequent weekend playdates – and as an introvert I know that constant playdates at the end of a 76-hour work week would not be a long-term solution and would result in me being completely burnt out with homeschooling.
We’re still “living Montessori” and Ella has tangible learning activities every day (from science experiments to more traditional Montessori works) so I guess you can say that we’re still Montessori homeschooling – it just looks different. These past 5 and a half months have been a transition and it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re still transitioning to a part-time homeschool family.
Living Montessori Without Homeschooling
Because I’ve been implementing Montessori with Ella since she was 18 months old, so much of the philosophy is just ingrained into our lifestyle. Positive independence and a trust in my daughter’s abilities is ever present.
Starting the Day
I usually wake up 2-3 hours before Ella to write or get my own tasks done. This is essential to my mental health. Waiting until the end of the day left me on edge because I never knew what possible interruptions would occur and prevent me from meeting a deadline or doing something fulfilling for myself. By taking care of those things in the morning, I start the day positively & feeling accomplished and can focus wholeheartedly on the kids for the rest of the day.
Ella wakes up around 7am and gets herself dressed, brushes her teeth, and washes her face. Having a Montessori set-up in the bathroom helps facilitate that independence. We usually sneak a cuddle in there somewhere as well.
The daycare kids start arriving between 7:30 and 8:45.
Independence with Breakfast
I always ask Ella what she wants for breakfast and leave the choice to her if she wants to make it herself. There are certain things that I expect her to do independently, but there are certain things that I allow her to choose if she wants to be independent with, especially tasks that have a nurturing aspect to them.
Ella’s been cooking eggs on the stove since she was 18 months old and I think she’s quite an accomplished little chef (check out our Kids’ Kitchen posts if you’re looking for ideas) so at this point (4.5 years old) I trust her to cook in the kitchen while I’m busy in the kitchen doing other tasks. I don’t feel the need to be right by her side unless it’s a new food or technique – we’re at the point where Montessori independence is actually paying off!
She can independently make eggs, breakfast quinoa, smoothies, bagels, toast, and of course, cereal; and often, she makes enough for the other daycare children or myself to have some. I think it’s incredibly powerful that she consistently starts her day with something that validates her abilities.
Deciding the Focus of Her Day
While we have set rhythms throughout our day, since we are not actively homeschooling I let Ella choose her projects and activities. Often, we’ll spend some time on the weekend deciding on some projects for the upcoming week to ensure we have the materials prepped and on hand, but we don’t have a set schedule for those (unless some materials are time-sensitive).
At 4 years old, I would be totally fine if she wanted to spend a day playing but I find that even play often transforms into big projects at our house. It’s never just a game of princesses – it’s princesses who need their own castle – which we need to build, or princesses having a tea party – which we need to bake for, etc.
If it’s a school day, Ella still has time for a quick science experiment or craft before she heads off (my parents drive her as I can’t leave the house after the daycare kids start arriving).
If it’s not a school day, I open up the Montessori Work room and Ella can choose to use her Montessori Materials, do crafts, bake in the kitchen, etc. She often spends a good amount playing with the daycare children, which is great for empathy building (if anyone feels the need to put a value on that time). I always ask if she’d like a demonstration and most of the time she’s interested – a year ago, that wasn’t the case.
(The daycare children have a more structured day just out of the necessity of managing 4-5 2 year olds.)
Social Responsibility at Lunch Time
Lunch is a time when we practice social responsibility. Ella chooses in which way she wants to help – getting the daycare kids cleaned up, setting the table, helping make food. The kids all sit at a kid-sized table and are given up to 45 minutes to eat their food.
And yes, 45 minutes. I personally believe that part of teaching meal time manners is allowing the children to have conversation and take their time eating, as long as they are remaining at the table and acting appropriately. Sometimes children need second portions, some children need to eat slowly while they are learning to listen to their body’s cues, etc. Even if one child is talking “too much,” I think that will work itself out – and who’s to say they’re talking too much? I’m glad no one is making those judgments on me when I’m having lunch with friends.
All of the children scrape their finished meals into the garbage and place their cups, plates, and utensils in the sink. I help them wash their hands and faces before nap time.
Nap Time or Quiet Time
I still insist on naps, and will until Ella is closer to 6 years old. Developmentally, I think it’s essential if children are spending the morning learning. Culturally, I know a lot of North Americans cut out nap time during the preschool years. Every child is different, but I personally notice a huge difference in my daughter’s ability to focus and process on days she’s had a nap.
Eventually, just resting & decompressing by engaging in soothing, low-key tasks will be our substitute. If we are actively using our brain for several hours, we need to let it rest and process.
Outside & Extra-Curriculars
We spend as much of our afternoons outside as possible, after a post-nap snack. I like to keep Ella outside right until it’s time to start preparing supper. This routine is the same on school days or home days.
We’ll do anything outside – learning, playing, sensory activities, science experiments. Getting fresh air, exercising, observing and interacting with nature, and not to mention the positive effects of the sun are so important – not just for the kids, but for me, too.
Ella usually helps with making supper, we eat supper together, and then 3 nights out of the week we head off to an extra-curricular activity. It’s definitely easier for me because I just have one child, but eating together and teaching my daughter that eating healthy is a priority even when we’re busy is important to me.
At this age, we try two extra-curricular activities at a time and Ella is allowed to try new things as often as she’d like. Swimming is a third extra-curricular that doesn’t change because it’s an important life skill where we live (and given that I love the beach and the grandparents have a pool). I don’t book extra-curriculars on the weekend because I like to have more freedom on our weekends. (I’ve actually structured my work schedule so that I don’t ever have to run weekend errands – part of designing a life I love!)
Ella is independent with bath time and getting ready for bed, but I often grab myself a cup of tea or coffee and spend that time connecting with her, even if she doesn’t need me to be close.
We read a chapter of whichever book we are reading at the time (currently Charlotte’s Web), cuddle for a bit, and then Ella puts herself to bed. I don’t tuck her in for a few reasons, one of them is that Ella had sleep issues for a long time so I had to set strict boundaries, and another is that I want to build family routines & traditions that don’t change. Reading together, cuddling on the couch or my bed, and then sending her off to put herself to bed is something that can stay the same as she gets older.
Honestly, there’s a part of me that is sad that we’re not actively homeschooling the way I thought we would, but I also think that where we are right now is perfect. Going to school has actually benefited our relationship and has been better for Ella than staying in the daycare full-time. My work situation will likely change in the future, and we can explore her staying home full-time then, but I also think that when she’s a bit older, those two days that she’s home from school will be enough for us to homeschool part-time or allow her to pursue her own interests.
It’s actually kind of nice to know that school is covering the bases and we can focus on delving more into Ella’s personal interests and I hope that the school continues to respect the choice to keep her home part-time so that I don’t have to make the choice between all or nothing.
(Using our Montessori Checklists also helps keep track of what we’ve covered and what we haven’t.)
I do feel incredibly blessed and lucky that I’ve been able to keep Ella home as long as I have, and that she’s still home the majority of the time.
How does Montessori fit into your lifestyle?
Check out a Day in the Life of my fellow Montessori bloggers:
Our Daily Homeschool Schedule | Natural Beach Living
What to do today… Our Typical Homeschool Day Schedule | The Natural Homeschool
Montessori Caregiver Rhythms and Routines (Finding What Works for You) | Living Montessori Now
Our Montessori Homeschool Schedule | Planting Peas
The Daily Rhythm in Our Montessori Home | The Kavanaugh Report
Montessori Inspired Routine at Three | Mama’s Happy Hive
A Day in the Life of Montessori Busy Hands | Christian Montessori Network
A Day in the Life of A Montessori Family with Special Needs | Every Star is Different
Our Daily Routine | Grace and Green Pastures