Last week I started talking about varying aspects of having a true Montessori Environment in the home. The first one we talked about was "Freedom with Responsibility." This week I wanted to touch base on what a "Prepared Environment" looks like. Next week I'll touch on the "Prepared Adult" but you can check out my post on "The Guide" I did a little while ago.
Over the past few years I've found that if I just designate an area to work the kids will end up there. It's been the living room, the kitchen, the spare room, the media room. It's been just about everywhere.
This is a snapshot into our current work room. It's been covered wall to wall with shelves in the past but I've found that if I simply leave the space it works so much better! They need enough room to roll out rugs, to walk around them and to spread out. This space has been worth more than any number of professional materials you could put in there.
There is a section for music, geography and for technology (our shared computer). But it's mostly floor space.
Next we have somewhere to create. The floor is concrete so I have no concerns about any experiments or art projects that may end up here. This also ends up being the toddler friendly area- the chairs are a bit shorter and the tables are end tables from IKEA.
We have a few areas with materials out for use. This is one section that has math, sensorial, language, geology and botany. Since this is a home we can put out what I've observed the kids enjoy working on and just that. Keep it Simple. I have maybe 10-25% of the materials we actually own available and in reach.
The more advanced math is up higher along with the materials I get the most frustrated with cleaning up. You can tell the toddler is very much enjoying her letters and preparation for writing. The shelves are mismatched and hodgepodge but they are shelves and they work for us!
Put Away Toys. No seriously. We have a "toy library" with toys that are simply toys. This keeps them out of sight, minimizes clutter and encourages use of the materials first.
Here's the real life moment of it all- we live here. So at any given time there may be a mess of lego's on the floor or random clutter on the desks. There is probably sand from the sandpaper tray all over the art table mixed in with some dried playdough. That's ok. What matters is how quickly everyone can put things up. Do they know where it goes without you telling them? Is it being respected? Is it age appropriate? Have they been shown how to use it yet?
I have always been a horrible housekeeper. I do not naturally keep a clean home. I think I've been slowly learning how this affects the kids. How can they wash a table if it's got so much random crap on it you can't see the table? If you haven't had a chance to check her out yet, Clean Mama is a wonderful resource for me. I stick to her schedule fairly regularly and it's helped a ton. Her system isn't the only one- just find one that works for you. It's worth it.