Creating a “More-Montessori” Environment

Cubbies, shelves, bins, labels…. this is what I’m used to. At least from my preschool teaching days. So this is what I tried to do in Ryce Man’s nursery as well. I was actually in-the-process of making labels with pictures and words so it would be easier for him to put things back where they belong and be exposed to printed language around him, when I stumbled upon some Montessori articles on Pinterest.

I decided to change the way we were doing things. We have lots of good quality toys and learning materials that were hardly ever getting touched because they were tucked away in bins or put up for only “planned times”. Yes, there will be some things that will only be available with supervision (the things that can be easily torn or dangerous in some way), but I have decided to rotate toys and activities, keeping them readily available in open baskets and on trays for my little one (and his buddy, Lil G) to explore and learn.

We have a table in Ryce Man’s room, where I will supply a tray with nature items we find outside, paper for drawing and creative expression, and a holder for colored pencils and crayons.

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We have a shelf with 9 square cubbies (originally from Target I believe, but we bought ours from Dirt Cheap). I will place open trays and baskets with a small number of items in each (less to clean up).
-One shelf will hold a few books (up to five at a time).
-One to two shelves will hold soft toys (either a soft toy set like our Noah’s Ark or a stuffed animal).
-The rest of the shelves will hold fine motor activities and other sets and manipulatives.
-There will be a large, open basket on the floor for a set of blocks to be available to building and construction at all times (I will rotate the sets we have.)

Here’s the first rotation of things I’ve provided…

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From top left to right…
1. Drum
2. Tray with nesting cups
3. Melissa & Doug Yellow House Puzzle
4. a few books
5. Tray with Noah’s Ark soft toy set
6. Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set
7. A soft toy from mom’s childhood
8. basket with blue waffle blocks
9. tray with colorful beads and another beaded toy

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So this is the new setup for his room, but I’d like to make a few updates as soon as we have room in the budget, and I feel he is ready for it.

Here is our wishlist (for later)…
-Low pegs or hooks for him to hang his own bag and coat when the cold weather comes (I might also use the hook to hang his clothes
for the day as he begins to dress himself.)
-A basket on the floor for him to put his most-used shoes in so he can put them away himself
-A small laundry basket or bucket for a day or two maximum of his laundry so he can easily carry it himself to the laundry room and dump
it each morning
-A dresser with smaller drawers that he can open himself
-Update his crib to the toddler bed with the side rails so he can get in and out of it himself (We probably won’t do the Montessori floor bed
with him since we do already have a crib.)
-A wooden table and set of chairs for snack and meal times
—We currently have a convertible high chair, and we are using the bottom table portion for meals and snacks with the boys. The chairs
we have are from Wal-Mart that Ryce Man got for his birthday, but the boys are more-reclined in them and can’t reach the table as
much as they really need to. They also have lots of crevices that catch and hold food particles, making them more difficult to clean. We’ll
move these chairs to his room or outside for lounging.
-A small cabinet (which I already have here actually) to hold child-size dishes and utensils. I’m going to create a Practical Life area for Ryce
Man and Lil G to prepare their own snacks and clean up after themselves, complete with a small refrigerator and everything they need
to carry out this process. (15 months is the recommended age from what I read, but they aren’t quite ready yet).

Some of these things I feel would be wasteful at this point, as the boys (Ryce Man and his buddy Lil G that comes over) haven’t learned the concept of “order” yet. The shoe baskets would get dumped, and shoes would be tasted and carried all around the room. I’m planning ahead for when I feel they are ready.

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I do want to consistently practice working on various practical life skills with the boys such as drinking from an open cup, pouring with our sensory bins, so they’ll be ready to do the “real thing” when the time comes. I’m also working with Ryce Man in particular with a few chores, which we’ll call “Service Opportunities”… taking his laundry to dump, wiping his tray or table where he eats, and using the Swiffer Sweeper, which he LOVES! Many of the things on this list are things that are also on my list of goals. 

Please comment with any additional ideas you have. I would love to hear them!

Our Organized Homeschool

Updated!

I’m constantly changing things to find what’s most functional for us as a family and a homeschool.
You can see the before pictures here and here.

Here are some of our homeschool organization updates…

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Labels!
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I do still hate that there is an entire corner of wasted space, but if I were to move the file crate up any higher, I wouldn’t be able to easily access it and have it be at eye-level. The newly added black crate allows me to have more space to store books vertically and it adds more “vertical storage” as I can use the space above it as well. Win Win!
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Our Organized Homeschool: How I Store our Weekly Activities

Each week brings a fresh new theme of ideas and things to focus on and learn about. It’s a reason I love Mondays because everything is new to me and the kids as well.

When the children come in at the beginning of the week, I have a display of any theme-related toys and manipulates on the two bottom shelves of the cabinet in the living room. The children have access to these items all week, but they’re especially excited about them on Monday mornings.

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I have a cart that holds the things the Tiny Tots will be doing. The tiny tots do not have access to it, but its location changes sometimes depending on where we’re doing our work. The cart has 10 drawers or work boxes that are all labelled, but we don’t use every box yet.

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The drawers are labelled like this… Writing, Language, Movement & Music, Small Objects, Senses, Spatial, Math, Reading, Order & Other, and Character. We don’t use all of them right now, but we will as they grow older.

Our Organized Homeschool: Storing our Activities and Toys

Today I’ll be discussing how we store our toys and activities when they aren’t in use. I like to keep them put away and hidden as much as possible and rotate toys throughout the day/week/or just whenever we need a change. The kids usually love seeing and exploring the “new” toys that are brought out each day, and it keeps things in check with how messy things can get. They do have time to play freely and explore, but everything has a home to go back to when it’s time to clean up.

I’ve collected things since teaching in the preschool classroom so we have plenty of activities to “grow into”. In my opinion, you can never have too many learning things as long as you know how to organize them and still know what you have. I’m currently trying to decide on my next storage piece to add to keep things less cluttered, but here’s what we have for now.

In the living room, I have a credenza that keeps the toys organized and accessible, yet nicely hidden away when not in use. .

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One side of the sliding doors houses Montessori Manipulatives (Beans, Measuring Cups and Spoons, Dust Pan and Brush for Clean-Up, Clothes to Fold, Tongs and Golf Balls for Transferring, Small Games, a Tub of Cars, A Box of Blocks, Puzzles Arranged Vertically, Puzzle Pieces kept in separate bags, Cookie Sheets for Magnet Play, etc.

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The other side holds Melissa & Doug Toys, flashcards, letter books, d.i.y. fine motor manipulatives, and
bins of waffle blocks and clippos.
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My son’s room is where the tiny tots play and learn.
This is also where I store all of the books and tiny tot toys.

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The cubby shelving unit is originally from Target, but I purchased it from Dirt Cheap.
The collapsible, canvas bins are from Target.
The shelves are made from rain gutters purchased at a local hardware store.
The bins hold Tiny Tot Manipulatives (d.i.y. toys, nesting cups, shapes sorter), Board Books, Miscellaneous Toys (Wooden Toys, Balls, etc.), and 2 different sets of wooden blocks. I also have another large garden bucket in the room that holds stuffed animals and soft toys.

Our Organized Homeschool: Storing Supplies & Resources

After two weeks of sickness in our home, I am back to share Our Organized Homeschool with you!

My organizational methods are always changing as I dream up new ideas or when I see something neat on Pinterest. For example, I used to store all of the arts and crafts supplies on shelves in my laundry room. It was great, but my laundry room was a bit of an eye sore with all the clutter of kids’ supplies along with the cleaning products and tools that are necessary to be kept in that room. We moved an entertainment armoire out of our bedroom as it was just too big and bulky for the space. I wanted to sell it, but no one seemed interested, even though it really is a beautiful piece. It sat and collected dust in our shed for a while, until one day I had the bright idea to move it into our dining room to serve as a storage piece. I have never loved it more!
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I have various supplies stored in Dollar Store Shoe Boxes which fill the drawers and shelves in the storage armoire. The red crate you see is used for files of my curriculum and other things homeschool-related. The Binders are used to file curriculum and files that are larger than can neatly be contained in a file folder or envelope. The bag you see (Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty One Gifts)  will probably have a greater purpose as the kids get older and do more independent work, but now it is used to hold supplies like crayons and markers that I stocked up on during Back to School Sales last year.

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I love using this armoire to store homeschool supplies. It’s tucked away in the corner of our dining room, so it’s not in the way, and it keeps everything nicely hidden inside. The inside of the doors would be perfect for cork board if I decide to do that later on to display art work, my weekly lesson plans, or even an inventory list so I know what all I have with just a glance.

Our Organized Homeschool: Intro. to Organization

Being organized is one of my passions. Classrooms, Nurseries, Play Rooms, and Homeschool Rooms are some my favorite spaces to organize, although two of those I’ve never had the opportunity to organize in “real life”, only in my day dreams and doodles.

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I worked as a preschool teacher so I was able to organize the classrooms where I taught. I also designed, decorated, and organized my son’s nursery this past year. It is constantly changing as he grows and becomes more mobile. We don’t currently have a space that I can devote to a be used as a Play Room or Homeschool Room in our home. This means that our “Living Space” has to have a dual purpose and be all the more functional.

I don’t think you would be able to tell that I operate a home daycare if you came to my house, unless of course the children and all their toys were out and about. That’s how I want it to be. Sure, you would see the two shelves on my book case that I’ve devoted to display the thematic toys for the week, but all of the toys and activities are tucked away and organized in cabinets and storage pieces. I bring them out and rotate them so the children don’t lose interest, and my home isn’t a hazard of toys to trip over (of course, sometimes this is unavoidable during play times).

In this series, you’ll see how I keep our homeschool organized. You’ll also see how I plan each week’s activities and how I store things not in use. Hopefully, you’ll see something that inspires you like I’ve seen so many times from other homeschool moms.

Day One – Intro. to Organization

Day Two – Storing Supplies & Resources

Day Three – Storing our Activities & Toys

Day Four – How I Store our Weekly Activities

Day Five – Planning, Displaying, and Notebooking Completed Work