Family life, Montessori philosophy

Montessori at Home: A Simple Guide for Working Moms

The Working Mom's Guide to Montessori in the Home

There are all sorts of reasons for bringing Montessori home. And there are all sorts of ways of doing it. There doesn’t have to be a divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms (who are, of course, also working). There really are just moms, and we’re all just doing our best.

Let’s have a bit of grace with each other (and ourselves), shall we?

With that said, there are some practical differences. Those of us who go out of the home to work have to focus our efforts into some shorter timeslots and more specific times of day. There may not be as much time for themed-trays and seasonal art work, but there can be simplicity, respect, and a prepared environment.

Here are a few ways we try to bring Montessori into our home:

nest

1. Focus on the environment. Maybe you can’t give your child all of the time you’d like to, but you can prepare a space in the home that is his own. It doesn’t have to be a lot of space. By focusing on creating a welcoming environment for the under three-feet set, you are giving your child the gift of independence — and giving yourself a mini-break in the midst of a working mom’s jam-filled day of attention and tasks. When it’s time to brush teeth, I know Jasper can open the cupboard and get out his own toothbrush and toothpaste.

2. Keep it simple. I once read online advice recommending doing Montessori-shelf/work preparation for 40 minutes per child every evening. That would be wonderful, I’m sure, except that I have two other loves in my life: my husband, and good fiction. Both of those loves would suffer without a bit of attention every evening. And realistically, a 40 minute per evening commitment is not something that would be sustainable for me — if it is for you, by all means, do it.  Instead, we incorporate the Montessori way into the little things. It’s waiting while he puts on his own boots or shoes. When bath time is done, he pulls the plug in the bath tub. Like I said, little things.

spoons

3. Get your child involved in your daily routine around the home. Life is full of little tasks and frequent joys. As a working mom, in addition to loving and bringing your best self to your partner and child after hours, you likely also play a big part in the domestic duties around the house, and you need to get supper made and the rec room vacuumed on evenings and weekends. Practical life is most practical when it actually contributes to life at home, and no one feels this more keenly than your child. Get her involved washing potatoes for dinner. Give him his own broom to sweep when you do. What better polishing work than wooden spoons needing to be oiled? Provide your child with the right tools (I know I’ve mentioned it before, but a Learning Tower is a dinnertime god-send), arm yourself with patience, and ignore the clock.

4. Find a caregiver whose values reflect your own. It doesn’t have to be a formal Montessori program — sometimes that’s unavailable, or out of reach. What is important is that your child is respected and given opportunities for exploration and independence. If you can’t be with your child full time, there’s no better feeling than knowing that they are in the care of the best substitute possible.

5. Intentionally set aside time for observation. With everything on my plate, I find it easy to get stuck in a do-do-do mindset. When I’m at work, I’m making a mental chorelist for when I’m at home, when I’m at home, I’m making a mental grocery list for when we go out and when I’m with Jasper I catch myself wondering about the next work I could add to the shelves or worrying that he hasn’t had enough time outside that day. I’ve written before about the importance of observation, but now that I’m back at work, I find I need to make a priority of it and even schedule time for it.

tribe

6. Stay connected. One thing stay-at-home moms have is each other; you can often find them at the park on a fine Monday morning or commenting with words of support on a Facebook comment. Find your own tribe of folks, either in real life or online, who understand what your days are like and what your hopes are and want to know more and share their own. (Psst — check out the bottom of this post for a new social network focused on Montessori parenting.) I’m still building my own tribe, but every confessed worry and every “I get it, I feel ___ too,” goes a long way to encouraging me to continue on this journey.

Maria Montessori shared a lot of wonderful wisdom about the child as teacher, and the child as the shaper of his own education.  One of my favourite MM quotes says: “This is the first duty of the educator: to stir up life but leave it free to develop.” I feel like one of the most important things I can do as a mama-guide to my child is to take a deep breath and remember it’s not about me.

The best we can do — whether working outside the home or in — is to prepare the environment to offer our child opportunities for independence and responsibility. How do you stir up life? How do you fit the Montessori way into your family’s everyday life?

Do you like to connect with other Montessori parents? I’m digging into niche networking with MontessoriHome, a fun, focused social network for parents and teachers interested in bringing Montessori ideas into the family home. It’s free, fun and is available as a unique app on your phone. Check it out!

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15 thoughts on “Montessori at Home: A Simple Guide for Working Moms

  1. Geri Green says:

    Wonderful post! When all you read is Montessori Homeschool blogs, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough as a work-outside-the-home mom. I also try to focus on our environment and giving my children independent play. It can be so hard to find time to observe, especially given I don’t always get a lot of time with my children when they are in their best work cycles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for reading, Geri. What you mentioned about not getting to spend time with your children during their best work cycles really rings true for me. Something to keep in mind when choosing how to spend those precious weekend mornings.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Geri, and your challenges using Montessori methods at home are very familiar to me. You obviously a caring and engaging parent, so relax into the knowledge that you’re doing the very best for your kids.

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  2. Wow, 40 minutes a day… I’m now a home Montessori provider and I definitely do not do that for the six children (my daughter being one) whose minds I’m nurturing, lol. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about balance — if you were to come home from work and spend every remaining moment preparing the environment and providing lessons, your marital life and your inner life would suffer, which would eventually drain you dry. Kudos to keeping it real!

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    • Thanks Jennifer! I believe anything that runs on my essential energy is going to burn me out, and model unhealthy living for my kid. It’s a long game! I appreciate you appreciating me keeping it real. That’s one of my goals for this blog, so thanks.

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  3. Thank you for this post Meghan! I have only been back to work for 5 weeks now and I have come to conclusion that the most important thing is enjoy your family. We live Montessori rather than teach so it is easy to incorporate practical life activities and follow our children in their exploring journeys. I do take the time to think trays/materials/toys rotations but mostly I try to be fully there when we are together. We have been having wonderful weather so we are spending most of our time outdoors. Bring on the nature walks!

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    • Thanks Deb! I sure didn’t mean to exclude things like trays & rotating toys and being mindful about materials. I think you’re right — being present where you are is likely the best thing we can do as parents.

      So glad to hear things have been going well as you transition back to work!

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  4. Sapling House says:

    This is a lovely post! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘activities’ of Montessori rather than its essence. Thank you from this working mum 🙂

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  5. Thank you for this. I am working outside the house Mom (I am a Montessori Preschool Teacher) yet at times I feel like I am neglecting my own little ones (2 under 2) but this reminds me how much I am already doing with my little ones now… thanks.

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  6. Lovely post Meghan, as a Montessori Parenting Coach and Home Consultant I am often giving permission to working parents to just be and enjoy the presence of their children, involving them in the daily chores and getting meals ready that is the true essence of Montessori whether a working mom or not. I would only add that self-care is the most important if we want to provide the best version of ourselves to our families.

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    • Thank you Jeanne-Marie — and you’re right. Self-care is crucial, and underrepresented when we talk about what’s important for parents. Something to think about and perhaps worthy of its own post!

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