Usually, when I tell people that we do Montessori homeschool preschool instead of sending the girls to outside preschools (and instead of me leaving the house to go to work), I get one of two responses:
- “That sounds like so much fun! It must be nice to have so much free time at home.”
- “Wow, that sounds really hard! Hats off to you, I definitely couldn’t do that.”
Both responses capture a tiny bit of the truth of homeschooling, as well as a tiny bit that’s not quite accurate. Fun? Yes, at times homeschooling is honestly the most fun I’ve ever had. Free time? What is that?! Really hard? Sometimes, it’s so hard that you’ll question whether you’re making the right choice. Most people can’t do it? Hard no. You can do whatever you put your mind to, especially when it involves the well-being of your children. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every single child should be homeschooled. But if that is what’s best for your individual child at the moment, you can do it.
A reader asked if I could talk a little bit about the challenges I’ve found in this homeschooling life as well as how I work to overcome them, so here we are. I’ve been doing Montessori homeschool preschool officially for about 4 years now, and unofficially for almost 6. Before that, I taught in a Montessori school for almost 7 years. Homeschooling comes with some unique challenges.
One of the challenges of homeschooling that affects both you as the “teacher” and your children is that it can be quite isolating. You’re at home, every single day, with your children and nobody else. You have no other adult interaction. Your children have only each other to play with. You are all alone.
For an introvert like me, that can seem pretty darn amazing for a bit — but even for me, I started to need some contact with the outside world. I missed interacting with other teachers and collaborating on new materials — so I had to find a way around the challenge of isolation in homeschooling. I built a community through this blog and on social media, finding other Montessori parents, teachers, and homeschoolers to think things through with. If you have one in your area, you can join a homeschooling co-op to meet together once a week for group lessons.
Homeschooling can also be pretty isolating for your children — they need to come in contact with other people (children AND adults) so they can learn how regular social interactions work. To fight that sense of isolation for my girls, I signed us up for children’s classes at local museums — several of them have programs specifically for homeschoolers. We also took swimming classes, art lessons, and visited library story times frequently.
When you have committed to homeschooling your children, there is a suddenly a lot of work that is involved — and you are the only person available to do it. You need to figure out what style of learning you’re going to use, gather (or make!) the materials, plan your lessons, set up a learning space — and then make it all happen each and every day! There are no sick days, no substitute teachers to call in when you’re not feeling well, and nobody else to pick up the slack if you need a break.
True, Montessori learning is really more child-led — but you, as the guide, still need to be prepared to follow the child wherever she takes you. That means you need to already know what lesson will come two steps ahead and be fully prepared to present it at a moment’s notice. You need to keep track of what has already been presented, be on constant observation duty, and then figure out what needs your child is exhibiting. It can be quite overwhelming.
Since I’ve been doing this for a while as both a Montessori teacher in a school AND a homeschooling parent, I’ve collected my best tips and tricks in my Montessori Homeschool Preschool E-Course. My biggest piece of advice for handling all of the preparatory work involved with homeschooling is to make a consistent schedule for when you’re going to do that work, and then stick to it. In our house, that used to be nap time — for a couple hours after lunch each day, the girls would nap and I would slip into my office and prep materials, create lesson plans, read through upcoming lesson presentations, etc. Then my girls stopped napping. But we continued to have “quiet time” for about 2 hours after lunch each day. Now, the girls stay in their rooms and read, draw, or play quietly while I do the never-ending work of the homeschooling parent.
At least when you’re teaching in a school (or sending your children out to school), that school usually already owns most of the materials they’ll need to educate the children. Not so at home. At home, you have a lot of furniture and toys — but if you’re beginning to homeschool, you’re starting from scratch. And if you’re staying home to homeschool your children, you’re probably not making an extra income for the household — which means your budget for homeschooling materials is probably pretty tight.
When I was first starting out, I decided to buy the essentials and DIY the rest. In the Montessori homeschooling world, that means buying things like the hands-on math, language, and sensorial materials, while making do with what I already owned for practical life and art and piecing together bits for science and geography.
There are so many DIY versions of Montessori materials that you can find from doing a quick Google search! Then you just have to decide — is it worth the time and energy it would take for me to make it myself, or is it worth paying for a high quality product that an expert made?
When you find a printable bundle that gives you tons of different materials at a low price — take advantage of that! Those are materials that you will be able to use for YEARS. Use that mindset when you think about purchasing new materials — how long will my family be able to use this? What is its resale value when we’re done homeschooling?
Is homeschooling easy? No, definitely not. But there are those magical moments when everything fits together and you see your child’s eyes light up with understanding — and then it’s all worth it.