Hello! I am Rachel and I am a homeschooling mother of two boys. Our eldest son is 7 and our youngest is 5. We are at the very start of our homeschool journey having only begun late summer 2018. It was not a traditional start as we commenced schooling whilst moving overseas from the U.S.A. to Europe with lessons out of a suitcase as we crossed the Atlantic.
The boys both attended and thrived in Montessori pre-schools but a great neighborhood public school and our eldest son’s enthusiasm to join his friends lead to a year in Kindergarten. This experience, with our youngest still in a Montessori environment, taught us all how much we valued the Montessori ethos and approach. Our move to the U.K. lead us to the conclusion that we could only access the educational environment we wanted for our sons by creating it ourselves. I had spent many happy hours in the boys Montessori pre-school classrooms and the staff provided me with amazing support, insights and materials as I began to flesh out plans for our homeschool ahead of moving. I was so fortunate to have this support network to guide me.
We are lucky enough to have a spare room as a dedicated classroom. For us, this works well as it enables the boys to focus, away from other distractions. That said, we do find that work happens all over the house and we’ll move to the kitchen, to the dining room table or the garden as necessary, particularly for science or practical life. I have also found that outside of ‘school time’ one of the children will bring a lesson down from the classroom to work on during family time. I did not anticipate the boundaries between home and school being so fluid.
We typically spend approximately 3.5 hours in our classroom on school days, including snack time. If we plan to do more schooling that day, we stop and return after lunch and outside play. School days for us can be any day of the week. As homeschoolers we don’t run Monday to Friday, I take the lead from the children and what they need or most want to work on coupled with what works best for our family commitments. We most typically ‘go to school’ in the morning after some time in the fresh air. Both children are early risers so another advantage has been starting and finishing earlier than a regular school environment would allow.
After the upheaval of our move, I noticed how calming the boys found our classroom space, with its familiar materials. Their Montessori work has provided an unexpected oasis of familiarity and they readily settle into a relaxed and focused state in the classroom.
Currently, our most popular shelf is the math area. Our eldest has needed to review, revise and consolidate his operations and his favorite material is his math ‘lucky dip’ box. He happily sits randomly choosing his next equation and working his way through it. I plan later to use this box for word problems too.
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Other favorites are the bead cabinet (of course!) and the one hundred board. Our home-made hierarchical material has been very popular too. Our eldest derives much pleasure from setting out this work and explaining the hierarchies to anyone who visits the house. This material has really captured his attention.
The reading corner is where the boys always head when we first come into the classroom. They both enjoy reading and we have a variety of reference, fiction and non-fiction. A small number of reference books are classroom books so must be returned back after use elsewhere, the rest circulate through the shelves throughout the house. We have a set of timeline books which the boys stretch out and happily pore over making sense of the world or pull out to resolve a disagreement over which creature belongs in which time period.
Being at home has meant that practical life work is fully integrated into our daily lives. At Christmas, for example, we learnt about setting the table for a formal dinner. Food preparation, folding clothes, learning how to wash clothes, how to host guests and be a good guest have all provided meaningful learning opportunities.
My favorite thing about our classroom is watching our children absorbed in their work. Our rule is that anyone can attend presentations, so our youngest is a keen observer of the elementary work he’ll soon be transitioning too. It has been interesting to see how his attention wanes and he returns to his own work selection whilst our eldest is still absorbed in the lesson.
Currently, my biggest challenges are planning and preparation. I am grateful to all those who share their experiences, insights and resources online. Being able to access electronic printable resources has been a lifesaver. I hope that as time progresses, I’ll not be running quite so hard to keep up and maybe even get to pay it forward!
I am missing the variety of suppliers of Montessori material in North America. Suppliers here in the U.K. do not have such a wide range of budget materials and are comparatively more expensive. As much as I would love a home school classroom of Nienhuis materials, our budget does not allow for this! I miss also the active second-hand market too.
Our classroom still feels like it is evolving. I think the space and how we use it will continue to change as our homeschooling journey progresses. It’s a journey I feel privileged and excited to be on.