Homeschooling the Montessori Way

Montessori. Some homeschool mamas read that word and turn tail and run because how could they possibly incorporate Montessori approaches into their homeschool when Montessori schools themselves are taught by specially-trained teachers and cost more money than typical families can afford?

“I can’t afford Montessori training,” they say. 

“I can’t afford Montessori materials,” they say. 

“I can’t even wrap my head around what Montessori is!”

Although having Montessori training and beautifully crafted Montessori materials can absolutely be helpful when trying this approach in your homeschool, it is NOT mandatory. Like all things homeschooling, this is NOT an all-or-nothing methodology. You, the homeschooling parent, can make it work for your homeschool family and you do not need gobs of money to do it. Be ready to customize to suit the needs for your family and whether you settle on creating a simple Montessori-inspired shelf for your homeschool or end up buying an entire Montessori curriculum, just know that all you truly need is an eager mind and open heart. But first, what is the Montessori Method? To answer this, we need to first learn how Dr. Montessori was. 

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Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?

Full Disclosure: The following may turn into an entire paragraph of me fan-girling over Dr. M because she is a rock star and I want to be just like her when I grow up (I’m currently 39 so I suppose that should be soon, oh well.)

Italy 1892, a young Maria Montessori, having already studied mathematics, went to the University of Rome to study medicine. During her medical training at an asylum for children, Dr. Montessori’s life would change. She observed these children, children society had discarded because they were “retarded” or “insane,” playing with crumbs. The nurses dismissed this behavior as “greed” because they thought the children wanted more food. The compassionate heart of Dr. Montessori, coupled with her brilliant scientific mind, observed something completely different. Dr. Montessori hypothesized these children just wanted something to play with. Their minds needed something to play with. Children need to play. The first Montessori schools were established in the slums of Rome where she was able to observe children and refine her method. Fast forward over hundred years later and Dr. Montessori’s methods and school still impact education all over the world and over the last few decades have trickled into the homeschool sphere. Dr. Montessori’s story is fascinating and I strongly recommend reading her own words and story through her books, particularly The Montessori Method and Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E. M. Standing. There is also an adorable children’s book about her from the Little People, Big Dream Series, Maria Montessori by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vergara. 

What is the Montessori Method?

The main goal of the Montessori Method is to promote the joy of learning through a hands-on and step-by-step approach that emphasizes repetition. The method is based on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.

In the early years, children are taught to develop their observation skills through a variety of hands-on activities that explore the senses, movement, and coordination. The child is provided with a safe but stimulating environment where they can explore and learn without fear of harm.

Grade school children are allowed to proceed at their own pace, exploring the subjects of math, science, reading, and writing in such a way as to develop their abstract thinking ability. There is a great emphasis on encouraging the child to absorb their environment and culture.

In Montessori education you will find that standard subjects like math, language arts, culture, science, etc., but you will also find that Dr. M also felt sensory learning and life skills are incredibly important to the development of the child. Therefore, you will find Montessori education treats Practical Life and Sensorial Learning as their own subjects. 

I would also like to focus on two other aspects of Montessori instruction: the  absorbent mind and sensitive periods.  Because Montessori emphasizes observation of the child and respect to their development, it is important to understand that children have what Dr. M calls an “absorbent mind” and in fact she wrote an entire book about The Absorbent Mind.

Children cannot help but learn from everything that’s going on around them. You have probably experienced it when your small child embarrassingly repeats something you said when you thought they weren’t listening…That would be their lovely absorbent mind. So, teaching things like grace and courtesy for example, a hallmark of Montessori instruction, would be easily taught because they learn what they see anyway. Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy is a helpful book to help you address just that.

Regarding sensitive periods, these are the stages of development where the child just jumps ahead at a new skill. For example, there is usually a moment in a toddler’s development where they go from speaking a few words and phrases to suddenly talking all-day-long. Right there, that’s the moment they are in a sensitive period for language.  That is your que to talk right back, ask questions, read lots of books, sing lots of songs, and do what you can to nurture their language development.  Living Montessori Now has a wonderful post on encouraging your child's sensitive periods.

How To Start Implementing the Montessori Method in Your Homeschool

Allow me to make this as easy as possible for newbies to Montessori to get started by recommending books, blogs, and ready-made Montessori programs for homeschooling. After years of searching and researching, these recommendations are, in my humble opinion, solid Montessori in approach, have the best reviews from experienced parents, and offer the best support for families.


Begin first by reading a couple of books about the Montessori Method.  Aside for Dr. M’s own books these are the authors I recommend reading because of their experience training, teaching, and advocating for Montessori education:

There are other nice looking new books on the market but these are the ones I recommend for purchase whereas, I recommend checking out any others at the library before purchasing. 


Next, begin to follow Montessori blogs and social media accounts.  There are thousands and you might get lost and highly discouraged by many of them because all those Instagram accounts are, shall we say, a wee bit too pretty.  Let me cut through the noise and recommend these fabulous ones:

Living Montessori Now - This is THE blog.  If all you did was read through this blog and get ideas for your homeschool, you’d be set. Deb Chitwood homeschooled her own children and she knows ALL you need to be successful as a Montessorian and as a homeschooler. 

Carrots Are Orange - I really like her “Beginners Guide to Montessori Theory” and feel like it’s a brief yet fantastic guide to Montessori education. 

Natural Beach Living - This blog is not completely devoted to Montessori, but she offers “200+ Amazing Montessori Activities and Printables” for free on her blog.  Nice!

The Helpful Garden - Speaking of free, this blog has soooooo many freebies.  The reading printables alone are worth visiting the site. Bookmark it on your browser. 

Montessori Curricula

Ready to dive right in but still want the support of reputable Montessori programs designed for homeschoolers?  These are very well reviewed, have been around for years, and have parental support, Facebook groups, customer service, online classes, etc.  Everything a homeschool mama would need to get started with a Montessori homeschool.

Right Start Math: Solely a Montessori-based math program but trust me when I say, it has so much.  If you are just starting out with littles, Right Start Math and a solid reading program would be enough.  Right Start Math is also a spiral math program for those learners that prefer that approach and offers all levels of math to cover elementary and middle school. 

Shiller Learning: Originally started as a math company, Shiller has expanded to offer Montessori-based Language Arts and activity packs for social studies and science.  Lessons are scripted so as soon as you familiarize yourself with the kits, it is open and go.  

Keys to the Universe:  Montessori albums and mentor support.  This is truly a small business, so if you prefer a personal touch, I recommend this vendor. 

Honorable Mentions:

The following programs are not Montessori, per say, but they are multisensory, systematic, incremental, and used by homeschoolers who want the feel of Montessori-learning but either cannot afford Montessori materials or do not feel like making their own. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. 

You may also prefer to buy Montessori albums, manuals, and materials through training organizations and vendors such as these:

Not enough? If you’re like me, you might want to throw your whole heart in Montessori training and these are the two programs I recommend looking into.
But if you’re also like me, you do not have the money for the official training programs. This certificate program is pretty comprehensive.  I took Karen Tyler’s Montessori Certificate Program years and years ago when there were no Facebook groups and all we had were Yahoo Groups.  It was still an unforgettable experience.

For FREE training demonstrations in the Montessori Method, try Montessori World.  It is intended for classroom teachers, and is NOT intended to replace a certificate program. However, it features video lectures with Margaret Homfray, who trained directly under Dr. Montessori herself! You can watch the videos and get links to written lessons as well. 

Montessori In My Home

After reading Dr. M’s book, The Montessori Method, I was entirely convinced to homeschool and went all in with my oldest 2 kids (at the time I only had 2).  We used Montessori math and Montessori reading techniques and found them to be outstanding.  In fact, I credit Montessori techniques with teaching my kids to read fairly easily despite their dyslexia.  We now use another program - you can read about Barton Reading here. But guess what? It still has major Montessori influences, as Orton-Gillingham based programs do.  

After a few years, it became very clear that military-life and frequent moves are not conducive to keeping a large amount of “official” Montessori materials which would end up broken or lost. I’ve had to say goodbye to some beautiful sensorial materials. Wah! It also became clear that I wouldn’t always be in a house that I could fit my carefully curated Language, Math, Sensorial, Culture, and Science shelves. So, in my situation I incorporate one beautiful Montessori-inspired shelf in our homeschool space. In each little cubby I try to keep sensorial materials, whole-hand and fine motor materials, language materials, culture materials, and math/science materials. Sometimes, I use a theme to decide what materials to place on the shelf, and this is where I have lots of fun! Here is a pic of my Winnie the Pooh Shelf (I have a very healthy obsession with Pooh Bear).  This is where I encourage an overwhelmed homeschool mama start.  Pick a theme, pick some picture books and age-appropriate activities, and place them on a shelf the child can reach.  Let the child enjoy it. Living Montessori Now will have lots of ideas. 

Montessori Practical Life is my jam and this is how I have incorporated Montessori approaches in my parenting. At the appropriate ages, my husband and I teach the kids to “do it themselves” meaning we teach the kids many practical life skills. Our kids fold their own clothes, clean their own rooms, fix their own snacks and lunches, load and unload the dishwasher, clean their bathrooms, vacuum, dust, clean windows, and care for their younger siblings. Our kids care for our pet dog, and offer to help the neighbors with pet-sitting and baby-sitting. While it may sound like I am bragging about my children (and I am a little bit), I am trying to demonstrate how much children are actually capable of doing. It is our ultimate goal as parents that our children do not need “adulting” courses because we have taught them to do things like laundry and cook meals early on. We have taught them to “do it themselves.” 

Hopefully, this post inspires you to take a deeper look at Montessori education and leads you down the happy path of homeschool curriculum shopping for this new school year! Don’t forget to check Mommy Maestra’s Montessori Planner for your planning needs. 

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Written by:

Stacie Servantes Farias is an Army wife and mom of 6 with a “very healthy” obsession for Snoopy, Disney movies, Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, books, and homeschooling. Originally from Mission, Texas, Stacie and her high-school sweetheart hubby live with their kids and dog in a different home every few years, because that is the military life. She has big plans to write a book exploring her theory that La Llorona drowned her children because they would take their socks off all over the house and then would complain that they never had clean socks! Stacie also thinks she is really funny, but she is mostly lame awesome.