Our day is not strictly Montessori. I love what the Montessori Method has given our family, and it is the educational method that we return to and use the most frequently, but there have been amazing contributions to modern education from other approaches that I feel compelled to incorporate whatever I think fits our learning styles and goals, no matter what label gets assigned to them.
Our Daily Routine incorporates the rhythm of Waldorf; the Montessori materials, lessons, work cycles, and self-determination; High Scope learning plans and reflections; and Reggio-style documentation and provocations naturally worked into our environment. I also really enjoy the Froebel methodology of project-based learning, but I tend to use a Montessori or Reggio approach to projects so my Froebel love is merely philosophical.
I’m sharing our toddler and preschool routine as an example of how we have worked these philosophies into our routine, and will be sharing tips on how to develop your own routine soon.
5 AM: A Quiet Start to My Day
I wake up, spend some time on myself and this blog. I might even get some reading done.
7 AM: Check and Adjust the Environment; Meal Prep
I check over our environment for any last minute changes, considering the children who will be joining us for Child’s Garden Montessori. I do any last minute meal prep for the day and ensure that the children’s snack cupboards and fridge shelf are full while starting breakfast.
7:30 AM: Breakfast
First children start arriving, Ella wakes up, gets herself dressed and joins us downstairs for breakfast. After we clean-up, the children get a bit of free play time. Often, this is when we do a craft or the children all get excited about the day’s provocation.
8:30 AM: All-ages circle time
All of the children have arrived, we start circle time with the little kids — books and songs, like a traditional preschool. The children establish their goals and intentions for the day, and I make suggestions where I see fit.
9 AM: Morning nap and Montessori lessons
The younger children go down for the morning nap, the big kids and I move into the work room and have a couple of Montessori lessons before starting our morning work cycle. I present work based on what the children are showing me that they need. Sometimes, that will be a Peace lesson and a new Math work; or a Sensorial extension and a new Language material. This is also a subtle way of encouraging their work plans, especially for children who are apt to go back to the same materials day after day.
10 AM: Continuing the work cycle
Younger children start awakening from naps. Older children can remain in the work room or move to the adjoining playroom; I ask that they stay in the work room for an hour now, because for many children it can take that long to really get into a rhythm or “work zone.”
With the younger children, this is usually when I pull out a sensory bin or something else that is fun.
11 AM: Lunch prep and Reflection on Work Cycles
If lunch needs any last minute prep, or I want to teach the children a kitchen skill, this happens now. In a traditional Montessori environment, children can initiate kitchen work at any time, but that would not be safe with the number of children that I have and with my house’s layout. As each child naturally puts his or her work away to complete their work cycle, I ask them about what they worked on.
11:30 AM: Lunch
It can take a two year old an average of 45 minutes to eat a meal, so I try to start lunch early enough that they have ample time before they start to feel sleepy (aka, grumpy). I encourage conversation at this time, I think meals need to be a positive and communal experience at this age, especially when we are shaping food values and trying new things. I sit with the children, sometimes with a notepad to just record notes from their morning work. I read a book towards the end of lunch to encourage the children who are finished to remain seated while their friends finish up, and also because there are three different rooms where the children nap so this is the only way to share a naptime story.
12:30 PM: Nap time.
The older children all clear their own lunch spaces and then start to set up their mats and cots while I put the babies down. Children who are no longer napping sit in the kitchen with me and can either select one material or toy to work with, or get play dough or kitchen work.
This doesn’t get stressed enough, but I truly believe every teacher, homeschooler, or stay-at-home parent needs quiet and reflection time in order to really restore and recharge throughout the day. I need to sit down, eat my lunch, and do something “for me” at naptime so that I am not completely depleted by the end of the day. Often, I end up writing reports or working on the blog at this time, so it’s not as restorative as it could be, but I’m working on those “workaholic” tendencies.
2:30 PM: Wake and Snack
Children wake naturally and come join me in the kitchen for a snack which the first older children to wake up have prepared. There is a bit of free play when children are done their snacks while we are waiting for the others to finish. (At lunchtime I request that they remain seated for a reasonable amount of time so that the children who are still eating aren’t distracted or tempted to not eat enough because they want to join their friends.)
3 PM: Outdoor time until the end of the day.
We have set up our backyard to truly be the children’s own: they tend to the garden; they have age-appropriate play equipment like the swingset and ride-on toys; open-ended materials like alphabet rocks, buckets, parachute and jump ropes, etc; they have a mud-pit and a sand box that they can dig and make a mess in to their heart’s content; and, a big wide-open area for running and creating their own play.
4:30 PM: Family time
Child’s Garden Montessori closes for the day and Ella gets a couple of private lessons from me, or we sit and just read books for awhile.
After some one-on-one time, we clean up from the day, make supper, reflect on our day and agree on a plan for the rest of the night. I try to fit all of our errands on one weeknight so that we have only one interrupted evening. If it’s a season where we have an extra-curricular class, I try to ensure that we can still have supper at home either before or after the class. A class that completely interrupts suppertime is just not an option for our family.
I used to really want to get my own things done at this time, but I find if I really focus on Ella for those hours between the daycare ending and bedtime, she is happier the next day and resists less at bedtime because her emotional bucket has been filled.
Ella gets into bed by 7pm (on good days), we cuddle, read books, talk, and I separate myself from her sleep process at 7:30pm. Sometimes she is asleep by then, sometimes she needs to still unwind a bit by herself. I try to stay close and available, while not playing into any nighttime games.
Every day looks a little bit different based on the collective needs of the children, and we adjust as needed to really make sure that the day’s routines follows the natural learning rhythms of the children. For example, I used to try to have a full 3-hour work cycle after circle time and before lunch, but that really didn’t work for us because that pushed lunch too late and then half of the children were overtired by the time we went into naptime. Being flexible and following the children is key to establishing a good routine.
(That doesn’t mean that the children can change the course of the day on a whim, though they do get input as to the content and direction of their day, but I hold a structure for them based on what they respond to the best, so that their days are smooth and predictable.)
What does your daily rhythm look like?
For more insights as to how we keep our home balanced, check out what part-time Montessori homeschooling looks like for us and our 30 Days to Montessori Challenge.