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Montessori Our Way Part 1: Our School Routine


One of the biggest challenges I have faced with the Montessori Method is how I ensure I present all the material in the albums in the correct order.  This challenge has pitted my type-a, need to plan side against the child-led aspect of the Montessori model.  While a seasoned directress may have the ability to track a child’s progress inherently, I’m lacking that skill.

In my usual fashion, I have come up with a system to help manage our weekly school routine.  For the true Montessorian, I realize that this type of system of learning might seem to work against the whole premise of the method.  I do keep it as flexible as possible.  However, without some roadmap I’m the type that is likely to find myself in a ditch.  I also had to ensure I could plan effectively ahead of time because it’s nearly impossible to make new material or rearrange shelves mid-week without disrupting the family excessively. 

I certainly won’t say this is THE way to structure a Montessori home school.  It’s simply what works for us today, which means it could change at any moment!


We have a dedicated Montessori environment at home.  We officially have school four days a week with a fifth day dedicated to an activity outside of the house.  My goal is one solid 3 hour work period but sometimes we end early if I sense they are losing focus.

We focus on the traditional Montessori subjects:  Sensorial, Practical Life, Language, Mathematics and Culture (including science).  Material from each area is available throughout the classroom at all times and I do my best to let them choose their own works for the majority of the work period.  However, I do guide them by scheduling which presentations I will give ahead of time.  Keep in mind that I am only outlining the actual schedule here.  I will post about how I plan and execute the schedule in next week’s post. 

Core Subjects

I schedule presentations for Language, Sensorial and Mathematics on a weekly basis.  This means that I have a set number of presentations planned for each area but it doesn’t matter what day they occur.  At the moment I aim for:
  •  Language – 4 Presentations Per Week
  • Sensorial – 3 Presentations Per Week
  •  Mathematics – 3 Presentations Per Week
I usually prepare for an extra 1-2 in each area just in case we have a high interest week.  In a pinch I jump to a variation of a material I had already prepared to present.

I rotate the practical life shelves frequently, usually switching out 1-2 items per week.  Many of these are self explanatory.  I do offer two presentations per week as part of our circle time.

I know I haven’t mentioned Infant/Toddler works yet but I do plan 2-3 presentations specifically geared for William (age 2).  For the most part he is thrilled to follow along with Elora’s presentations.

Four of our culture subjects follow a daily rotation.  I prepare two presentations for each one.  I have found it is easier to assign a specific day for these because many of the presentations are more involved.  Here are the current assignments:
  • Monday – Botany
  • Tuesday – Geography
  • Wednesday – Physical Science
  • Friday - Zoology
I also pick one rotating subject that we work on for a few months at a time.  Right now we are working on Geology and we will eventually move to Astronomy.  I plan one presentation each day for our special subject.

As much as possible, I keep the items that have been presented out in the classroom so they can explore them again later.  You can see our classroom here.

Circle Times

Circle times have been key in picking up all the smaller pieces I want to ensure are part of our week.  There are several topics we rotate for circle time.  We have a famous artist, famous composer and continent each month.  We rotate through letters and countries on a weekly basis. 

We have both an opening and closing circle time.  Here is the schedule for the opening circles:

Calendar and Weather
Weekly Review (Country, Continent, Composer, Artist, Letter) 
 Practical Life Group Presentation

·         Calendar and Weather
·         Weekly Review (Country, Continent, Composer, Artist, Letter)
·         Grace & Courtesy Lesson
·         Letter of the Week (Generally reading a book and looking at objects)

·         Calendar and Weather
·         Weekly Review (Country, Continent, Composer, Artist, Letter)
·         Practical Life Group Presentation
·         Theme or Seasonal Activity (such as making valentines)

·         Calendar and Weather
·         Weekly Review (Country, Continent, Composer, Artist, Letter)
·         Grace and Courtesy Lesson
·         Sensory Activity (generally exploring an object with all senses)

Here is the schedule for the closing circles:

School Day Review
Rhythm Song (Something with egg shakers or rhythm sticks)
Read a Story
Silence Game

School Day Review
Composer Review (Listen to excerpt)
Walk the Line

School Day Review
Rhythm Song (Something with egg shakers or rhythm sticks)
Artist (Discuss life and review art prints)
Silence Game

School Day Review
Sing a Song
Read a Poem
Walk the Line

Special Activities

There were a few areas I wanted to address in addition to our core school subjects such as cooking, art and music.  Originally I had art supplies and music materials in the classroom.  I decided to remove them partly because they became a distraction for us and partly because I needed the shelf space.  I have since moved these items to other areas of the house.  While they have free access to these areas on a regular basis, I do try to plan a specific activity in an assigned area each day.  It also helps our afternoons from getting out of control.

Monday – Cooking Activity
Tuesday – Music Lesson
Wednesday – Art Lesson (Using specific Montessori art curriculum)
Friday – Science Experiment (Usually something more involved than in the classroom)

In addition, Elora has dance class on Friday.  She is also attending a German immersion program once a week.  In the future I plan to incorporate more multilingual activities.

The Overall Routine

So here is the whole plan in action:

Weekly Presentations (could happen at any point during the week):
Language – 4 Presentations Per Week
Sensorial – 3 Presentations Per Week
Mathematics – 3 Presentations Per Week
Toddler (for William) – 2 Presentations Per Week

Opening Circle (Calendar/Weather, Review, Practical Life)
Geology (Special Subject) – 1 Presentation
Botany – 2 Presentations
Closing Circle (Review, Rhythm Song, Story, Silence Game)
Afternoon Activity:  Cooking

Opening Circle (Calendar/Weather, Review, Grace and Courtesy, Letter)
Geology (Special Subject) – 1 Presentation
Geography – 2 Presentations
Closing Circle (Review, Composer, Walk the Line)
Afternoon Activity:  Music

Opening Circle (Calendar/Weather, Review, Practical Life, Seasonal)
Geology (Special Subject) – 1 Presentation
Physical Science – 2 Presentations
Closing Circle (Review, Rhythm Song, Artist, Silence)
Afternoon Activity:  Art

Field Trip

Opening Circle (Calendar/Weather, Review, Grace and Courtesy, Sensorial)
Geology (Special Subject) – 1 Presentation
Zoology – 2 Presentations
Closing Circle (Review, Sing, Poem, Walk the Line)
Afternoon Activity:  Science

Closing Thoughts

If you’re just starting out then I want to encourage you to find your own path slowly, building upon what works for your children.  One important principle of Montessori is to ensure you are always putting the child in a position where they can be successful.  We must take that approach with ourselves as well.  There’s nothing worse for our self confidence than putting ourselves in impossible situations.  It took me well over a year to arrive at this latest version of the plan.

If your children are younger then you may want to focus solely on practical life at first.  It’s easy to expand practical life activities into other subject areas.  For example, transferring marbles to an ice cube tray is also an exercise in one to one correspondence (math).  Sorting small buttons by color exercises the pincher grasp and is sensorial in nature.  There are numerous places online where you can get ideas or even full albums if you choose to go that far.  Always keep in mind that you will accomplish more when you focus in to do a few things right than tackling so much that it all receives insufficient effort and energy.   

As you begin to understand what you want to incorporate, prioritize your list and resist the urge to “have it all” from day 1.  If there is too much there to tackle then decide what can wait and what can be rotated throughout the week, month or year.  Often times knowing that you will add something at a later date helps control the excitement of wanting to start immediately.  It also gives you the opportunity to stumble across useful additions to the topic/subject.

Keep in mind that child-led learning is NOT linear.  Although I can now comfortably use the words “schedule” and “plan” I had to initially think of my approach as “routine” and “guide”.  There have been days where the schedule is maintained.  There are certainly times it is not.  If Elora wants to spend the entire time on language activities, that’s what we do.  There have also been scenarios where I have presented a material and the work lasts the entire 3 hour period.  My preference is to never break a child’s concentration whenever possible.  As someone with a strong planning preference, it has been a struggle to let go of MY plan.  If learning is all about the child then I cannot center it around my wants.  If you’re wondering how I get back on track when those days occur… well, you’ll just have to read my follow up topic next week.

Next week I will highlight my planning binder and talk about how I implement the routine.  I hope you will join me!
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