Friday, 1 August 2014

Setting Up A Montessori Room/Environment

A parent recently asked Budsy these two questions. 

"How do we place the materials for use when the home is small?

"How often do we change the materials on the shelf?"

Similar to majority of families in Singapore who live in high-rise HDB flats, I too live in one and thus do not have the luxury to create one special room just to put up materials for the children to work with. With four children, our living space gets even tighter. 

Remember when Budsy shared that Montessori is not rigid and that there were no hard and fast rules other than to meet the objectives of the Montessori presentations via multi-sensory explorations? Well, with space constraints in many Singapore homes, we do what we can with whatever space we have available.

For Budsy, having all low shelves all around one room was not feasible as apart from materials, toys and manipulatives, we have to house our children and also my treasure trove of books, plus the children's school stuff and other resources as well.

Budsy could only afford the cheapest shelving option available then, being a stay-home mom and pregnant with my #3, so only could invest in Billy bookcases from IKEA that was priced around S$59 then, to shelve the materials I was going to use to work with younger two boys.

Depending on the number or the variety of materials placed on the shelves, I try to pace out lessons for a term (3 months) or a semester (6 months), encompassing all 5 areas in Montessori as much as possible - Practical Life, Language, Math, Sensorial, Cultural & Geography. 

With my 2 year old little dragon_boi being an active learner, I decided to work on concrete learning experiences with him as much as possible. He took well to them as knowing children this young, they prefer tactile ways to learn and play. With this observation, I tapped on his sensitivity for cultural explorations and it has been a wonderful journey for us. He loves working with them, knows the names and tries to remember as many characteristics of each model creature / flower he can, indirectly improving his memory skills and definitely his vocabulary.

As the Billy bookcase was about four shelves high, he could reach only the first two comfortably. He can reach the third shelf with a slight tip-toe, (he insisted on taking them himself at times) and the totally unreachable top most shelf materials, not much choice there, so we are around for when he wanted to work on them.

These are the cultural model collections on one entire shelf. To maximize the space, I arranged relevant materials that I had with comfortable spacing between each. I swapped the baskets on the two top-most shelves to now be placed and the last two bottom shelves. It was only yesterday these materials exchanged positions (the boxed ones going on the top) so that both boys now have better access for them. They have been working with the boxed collection for about 1-2 months.

One of the relevant materials to work with the model collection were puzzles. Below is a box of puzzles purchased from Popular bookstore, containing 4 different puzzles ranging from 
12 pieces (for one of the dinosaur puzzles) onwards. These puzzles are the more challenging ones catered more for my #3 chubs. When Budsy is not looking, little dragon_boi would reach out for this dinosaur puzzle box, wanting to work with them and totally messing them all up. Read : all pieces big and small get mixed up.

Budsy sought to solve this laborious 
clean-up by doing these steps :

(1) Bought coloured stickers to identify which pieces belong together.

 (2) Made control cards for all four sets of dinosaur puzzles.

(3) Placed puzzle pieces for each dinosaur into a zipped bag, before putting all four of them back into the box.

The puzzles are better kept now and did not hamper lil' dragon_boi's determination to keep himself challenged and he is free to work on them whether Budsy was around to work the puzzles with him or not. 

As he is younger and less spatial than his brother, the control cards (just fix all the pieces together and scan on an A4 piece of paper and laminate them) offered silent confidence for lil' dragon_boi to keep working on them until such time he has no use for control cards to aid him. This way, both chubs and his little brother can both use this material without loss of esteem to either boys.  

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