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December 03, 2012

Beyond Tot School: A Montessori Home

When people ask what "tot school" is, I respond by saying "it's a Montessori inspired, early learning home-school program." What that meant in reality, took me several months to define. But, ultimately, for me, it meant giving Henry a "prepared environment" conducive for learning. But, beyond preparing the environment, I gave him the control, let him choose what to learn, how to learn it, and gave him the space to do things at his own pace. 

A prepared environment is one of the basic tenants of Montessori parenting. Giving a child space for them to thrive, learn, and grow. Obviously, this is the most basic definition. But, Montessori encourages clean, organized, beautiful spaces. This generally means, no bins, clutter, and making specific choices about what is in the environment. 

Henry excelled in this environment  His typical frustrated, grumpy, wild self sort of melted away. He's calmer, focuses for longer amounts of time, and I can see him learning. When we moved into our new house, I knew I wanted to create more spaces like this for him.

In our home, I started with Henry's play spaces. Let me say, before someone points it out, is I know these are in NO way Montessori materials. I would love to expand on out Montessori learning and get more traditional materials, but at this point, its not an option financially. So, I'm doing what I can, with what we have. 

I started a month ago when we moved, and it's been a huge success. I got rid of all the bins. Set toys out on shelves with all the pieces together. Everything is at his level. He has places to comfortably sit. My plan is to changed the toys around at the beginning of each month. Some toys get completely taken away, and others re-purposed. This avoids toy fatigue and keeps Henry interested. 

As you can see in the pictures, the toy bin is still in the room, but acts as storage.  If Henry wants to play with those toys, he can, but he hasn't. The high shelves also serve storage for my dvds, additional toys, and for tot school stuff. 

So far, Henry has actually been playing with his toys! He loved that they changed a couple days ago, and I've seen a renewed interest. The room is still a work in progress -- its far from beautiful -- but we'll get there! 

Next, I'm working on Montessori spaces for our kitchen and bathroom, and when Henry moves to a toddler room, it will be Montessori inspired as well. 

Do you have a Montessori inspired home? Have any tips for a newbie?

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Mom said…
I love your space!
Anonymous said…
good job! it looks wonderful!:)
Dori said…
Do you have your tot school and his play room all one area? I have seen it done differently and I was trying to set something up for my 19 month old to start tot school.
Kirstylee said…
I really like the idea of having the toys "on display." Our toys are all in one big toy bin, which is nice when it is time to clean up, but it also means that the toys on the bottom are rarely seen.
Nicole said…
I have them both in our basement family room, close together, but not in the space pictured above.

If you look at this post, you can see the rooms relations:

If you have any questions about setting up tot school, I would love to help, send me an email at!
Dori said…
Thanks! I have a lot of questions, you will definitely be hearing from me!
kristykay123 said…
You have some great organizing skills!
SAH Attorney
SAH Attorney said…
I'm just getting into learning about Montessori, but so far, what I know of it, I really like! I have also noticed that E focuses much better with less "toy clutter" and think she would do well with this style of learning. I don't have anything to add, but I love your posts on the subject and look forward to more! :-)
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood said…
You're doing a wonderful job of creating a Montessori-friendly home, Nicole! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and pinned it to my Montessori-Friendly Home Board at
Anonymous said…
I love this! I have several areas where I could do this more -- spread out the toys -- but have too many bins than I'd like to admit... too... thanks for sharing your thoughts and pics!!!