Start with Practical LifeThe practical life area of the classroom is the foundation in Montessori. This is also the easiest area to start your home classroom with. You may not even be planning to home school your child/children through their school years, yet the Montessori practical life exercises will benefit your children regardless. It can begin with a little table and shelf on the side of the kitchen where your child practices slicing a banana, or spooning cheerios in to a bowl. Just look around the kitchen cupboards or craft cupboards. You may find that you already have a lot of the items needed to get started with practical life. Do a search for Montessori blogs to get free ideas on activities you can set up using easy to find items.
Shop AroundYou can find inexpensive book shelves at stores like Target, yard/garage sales, craigslist, public school auctions or surplus sales, and thrift stores. The same goes for child size tables and chairs. A couple of years ago I found a very nice small wooden table with two chairs at a Savers thrift store for $25! I thought it was a great deal, but you may even find something similar for less at one of the places mentioned above. Thrift stores also usually have sections for wooden items and baskets. I've found some lovely wooden bowls, natural baskets, and wooden trays at thrift stores and you can find a lot of practical life items here, as well as at craft and dollar stores. You can also check with used bookstores for books on Montessori theory and practice if your local library does not carry them.
Ask AroundI wanted my children to have a Montessori education so, so, so bad. Bad enough, that I literally called around to several local Montessori schools and asked if I could buy their "left overs". I know that some Montessori schools will get rid of items that are missing 1 piece of something, or if the wood is starting to look worn out. I figured that if it was something like a knobless cylinder that was missing, I could just make and paint the missing one's, etc. Another thing I did was post a wanted ad on craigslist. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking if there was anyone out there who had Montessori materials or manuals they would like to sell me. You can also place a WTB (Want To Buy) post on the Montessori Swap Yahoo group, which always has used Montessori items for sale. Ebay can be another good place to find used items, however be prepared to have to bid for the items for the most part.
The Printer is your FriendThe digital age we live in today can help you acquire Montessori materials easier than before. Places like Montessori Print Shop offer a ton of Montessori and educational printables at a fraction of the cost! Choose instant download items a la cart, or order entire cd packages. Moveable alphabet for $1.99 and Moveable alphabet cards for just $2.69? Yes please! Check out Montessori for Everyone for a wonderful selection as well. If you'd like to do some Catholic Montessori lessons at home, you can also download Elizabeth Papandrea's pdf manual for $30.
Have an iPad? There are some absolutely wonderful Montessori apps for the iPad (Sorry, I'm not familiar with android). Check out app previews before purchasing an app claiming to be "Montessori"! Some of them can be nothing more than the equivalent to loud, visually obnoxious electronic toys. Here are a few of the Montessori style app companies that we've purchased from and have been pleased with: Preschool University, Mobile Montessori, and Montessorium. We certainly use other apps in our homeschool as well (I can go over those another time), but these are most similar to the traditional Montessori materials. Think an Ipad is too expensive? We were able to purchase an iPad 1 and an iPad 2 on Craigslist for about $100-$150 each. Is it worth it? Yes! As an educational tool, the iPad has been wonderful, but I would suggest that you definitely choose wisely and subject the apps to a Montessori "test" regardless if they claim to be Montessori or not.
Ask yourself, the following questions:
1. Is it visually cluttered or are they nice and simple, focusing on the main purpose of the activity?
2. Does it make a lot of noises, or perhaps distract children with "rewards"? If you find a good app that is noisy, you could always use the mute button and turn off rewards if possible.
Don't fall into the trap of letting your iPad "babysit" your children. Be sure to set time limits and goals for Montessori iPad activities.
Happy Birthday, We got you a Binomial Cube!Birthday's and Holiday's are the perfect time to ask for Montessori items for your children. If you have the type of relatives and friends that ask you what your child needs, ask them for gift certificates from places like Montessori Print Shop, Montessori Services, Montessori for Everyone and Montessori Outlet. If they prefer to purchase the item themselves, start a wish list for these places and let them know the items you would like for your child.
Have you tried any of the ideas above? How did it go for you?