Characteristics of a Montessori home vs a classroom

Maria Montessori made her classroom look and feel like a home.

When you apply Montessori at home, you don't have to recreate a classroom so what are the characteristics of a Montessori home versus a Montessori classroom?

Maria Montessori named her first school the Casa dei Bambini, the Children's house, because she wanted the children to feel like at home! ⁠

Parents, you can be more flexible at home! You are not limited to your physical house, you can explore the world!⁠

You can extend knowledge, you can benefit from the role-modelling of siblings! ⁠
You may have to be less attached to the materials, to the 3 hours cycle, to the curriculum.⁠
Understanding the Montessori philosophy, the why of each material/activity will help you to make do with what you have at home, to adapt to one child or to siblings on different planes. ⁠

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Teacher vs parent:

In the classroom, there is one trained teacher and generally at least one assistant. They know all about the Montessori philosophy, they know how to present the materials, they are experts at observing children. They can practice every day with many children. It also means that, as teachers, they have break away from the children every day! They can take time out of the classroom to plan and to make materials. They are also on the same page and support each others. Of course, in reality, it might not be that ideal as many Montessori schools have untrained teachers, limited funding and it's not an ideal Montessori world!

Parents discover and learn about Montessori as they go. They are generally not trained in Montessori (outside reading blogs and learning from books and online courses). Being a parent is a 24h/7 days job. We don't take break as parent. Finding time to plan and prepare activities is on top of everything else that needs to be done. 

Children in the classroom vs at home

The ideal number of children in the classroom is around 20 to 30. This allows role modelling and children older helping the youngest ones. Children see others completing a work cycle many times a day. They learn the rules of the classroom by observing the others respecting them. In a well functioning classroom, the new children settle easily. Even if children under 6 tend to work by themselves, they still observe their friends in the classroom. The group really help each child to learn. Children also observe the teacher presenting an activity multiple times as she introduces work to several children all day long. 

All the children in the classroom are in the same planes of development therefore, they have similar needs and you don't have to be worried about small objects for example. 

At home, if you have only one child, you will not benefit from role-modelling by others. You may have to rethink how to present the activities. I find that having my own activities next to my child was helping her to be engaged in her own activities. I also used to organise "play dates" with like minded parents. We also pretend play with the materials a bit more in order for her to be engaged in repetition. 

If you have more than one child, the age group might span over different planes with different needs. So again, you will have to be flexible. Think about how to make the space safe for babies and toddlers while keeping it interesting for a 4 years old. We used to maximise the baby's nap times with Montessori activities and crafts for our 4 years old. Boxes with complicated lids are life saver. If your eldest children like to work in their bedroom, you can have "fragile" or works with small items in their bedroom.

Relax about the purpose of material and let your baby "playing" with two small rods while the oldest is using the pink tower for its intended purpose. 

Prepared environment at home vs in the school

The classroom has the full range of materials and is prepared for the children, and more specifically for a specific age group. There is no distraction and it's designed for children. The decoration is aimed at children and often decided by the children with art work at their level. 

The home was first a space for the adults. Then, parents adapt the home for their children. Parents need to take into account their children's needs but also their own adult's needs. It's a family's space. The home is not only a "learning space" but also a space where we cook, bake, do the laundry, where we sleep and play. The home is generally decorated to the parent's taste although the children's space could be influenced by the children.

The home is also a space where we invite people and that adults want to enjoy in their own way. 

Materials in the classroom vs at home

The classroom is equipped with the whole set of Montessori materials. Montessori classrooms dont' have toys and additional materials because they are school, and children are for a specific time in that prepared environment.

At home, parents might not be able to provide all the materials due to cost and space. Also, as we cater for a few children at home, we may not need to have all the materials on display. We could rotate and add materials as our children show that they are ready for each of them. 

At home, parents have toys and other materials. The home environment is more eclectic than a classroom.

Practical life at home vs in the classroom

Practical life in the classroom is a specific area or shelf. The activities are presented on tray to allow repetition. Practical life has 2 purposes in the classroom:

- allowing the child to become as independent as possible in the classroom, freeing his mind for other work. 

- making the child comfortable as he does work that he was probably doing at home as well. 

Practical life activities will be specific to the classroom: such as sweeping the floor at the end of the day, being able to pour his own drink, preparing fruits for a shared snacks... 

practical life tray

At home, practical life activities are part of every day life. The adults carry on their tasks and children will want to imitate them. As parents, we have to make room for our children to help us and to learn from us. All our every day activities can be a learning one for our children. Children at home can have many opportunities to cook and bake. 

montessori cooking

Culture at home vs in the classroom

There is a specific area in the classroom (and in the Montessori curriculum) called Understanding of the world or Cultural area. Montessori teachers introduce children to the culture they live in and to the wider world. The cultural area is generally a reflection of the various cultures of the children attending that particular school. Sometimes, Governing bodies will encourage or not some celebrations. 

At home, parents have the opportunity to introduce their children to their own culture. Parents can develop traditions and a rhythm based on what is important for them. As parents, we have to make a conscious effort to introduce our children to other cultures and traditions in a way that is respectful and non judgmental.

Socialisation at home vs in the classroom

In the Montessori classroom, children socialise among a group of children of different ages. Often, children from one age-group have connection to the other age groups in the classroom. Outdoor time might be limited, depending on the length of the program, on the availability of an outdoor space, ... Outings might be limited. It has to be planned and might be regulated. 

For parents, the world is your oyster! You can decide when and where to go. You can follow your children's interests more closely as you are not limited by a Governing body.

Of course, outings for a family, might be limited as well, depending on budget, time and accessibility. 

So what do you think? If you apply Montessori at home, do you see the pros of not being limited to a classroom?

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.