I signed up for a week long training of Montessori 101 at the Montessori Institute in Portland, OR. It’s a 30 hour course and AMI (American Montessori International) certified. There were about 15 assistant teachers in the class and me. It’s open to the public and sometimes they get parents but usually it’s teachers looking for credits and Montessori training.

I recently learned what Montessori was and quickly became intrigued by the unique learning style. After my week of Montessori 101 I learned that Montessori is a style of learning that is “child led” instead of the common teacher led learning that most of us grew up with. It’s also a way of life. As a parent, the Montessori philosophy can easily be used at home. It’s about respecting children as people and giving appropriate choices whenever available. It doesn’t use bribes or rewards as a way to motivate children. Instead, Montessori teaching encourages children to be independent and self motivated by offering support and guidance from a parent or teacher but allows children to choose and participate in daily life as often and as safely as possible. Some of the videos I watched of young Montessori children were amazing! One 20 month old boy was able to help cook, clean, set the table, pour his own water, serve his own food, feed the cat and get in and out of his clothes almost unassisted. Of course, some days are better than others and as the dad of the 20 month old boy elequently said “some days Noah needs more assistance and support than others” but the choice is available. Part of the adults’ responsiblity is the provide a suitable environment for the children. Whether it’s stools in the bathroom so they can wash their hands by themselves, small glasses that they can easily carry, or art and craft supplies that are readily available to use.

Montessori classrooms are mixed age classrooms with lots of peer to peer interactions. Classrooms are arranged so children can independently choose their activities, take themselves to the bathroom (located in most classrooms) and help themselves to water and snack when they’re hungry as opposed to everyone sitting down at 10am because it’s “snack time.” The beautiful part of Montessori is that you can use the principles at home as well.

I learned that there are 3 basic rules to Montessori classrooms.

1. You must have a lesson before using materials. After you’ve received a lesson, you’re welcome to choose your own “work” or “play.” (often used interchangably)

2. You are welcome to use any materials that you’ve had a lesson with for as long as you like without being interrupted. That means when you’re 2 years old and painting, you don’t have to share-they’re yours to use until you decide you’re finished. Also, teachers

3. When you’re finishing with something you must put it back on the shelf where it belongs before starting your next project.

Walking into school on my first day

Where the magic happened

The infamous pink tower located in Montessori classrooms (ages 3-6years)

The “math” beads made of glass I might add. Montessori learning relishes using beautiful, real materials for all children. I found that fascinating, from real drinking glasses to glass beads to learn math.

All the shelves were open and organized this way. All of the wooden boxes contained learning materials of some sort.

This was a reading, writing area. Again, all the materials were beautiful and displayed in an enticing fashion.

What’s a classroom without a dollhouse

A colorful stack of cards with all sorts of suggested actions

Peter, our fearless Montessori 101 leader!

All of the above photos are from a primary Montessori classroom (ages 3-6years).

It was a great week of learning for this mama! We put away all of our plastic dishes and silverware and only serve Kai food and drinks from glassware and real silverware. We’re making more of an effort to include Kai in the kitchen as much as possible. Personally, I like putting ingredients in measuring cups so Kai can pour and stir which keeps him happy which keeps him happy in the kitchen. I put away most of his books and toys and left only a few items on his bookshelf. This keeps the choices limited but really organized (important part of setting up a Montessori environment at home.) Before this week, I had all of his books (50-60) piled on top of each other in a clear bin. Whoops. I put all of his paints, markers, papers, and scissors in a cupboard that he can access all by himself. I added a bar of soap to the bathroom so he can wash his hands easily without being tempted to use ALL of the liquid hand soap in one go. :)