In Montessori, a prepared environment refers to a space set up to meet the developmental needs of children based on their specific stage of growth. In a homeschool setting, you can have several prepared environments, including a work area, the kitchen, the backyard or patio, and your child’s bedroom.
Montessori teachers work hard to give their classrooms a home-like feel, so please don’t turn your home into a classroom! If you make small changes that support your child’s development, learning will happen spontaneously all day, every day.
The Work Area
The first space to consider is the one where you’ll keep the materials. Your child should be able to access the materials on their own, but you don’t need lots of shelf space. You can label boxes and stack them (neatly and within reason), and you can use file organizers to store booklets, charts, notebooks, and paper. Consider creating or buying materials made from cloth, which can be rolled or folded (check out the Materials & Books section for suggestions). Art carts are great for holding supplies, including pencils, erasers, paint, paintbrushes, etc. Make sure everything has a home, so clean-up can happen quickly.
Designating a work area is helpful; you can have individual desks or even use your kitchen table, as long as you have a system for clearing it off before meals. And don’t forget that you can do lots of work on the floor. Lay out a small area rug to create a boundary for materials, and use a lap table or clipboard for writing.
Books are a homeschooler’s best friend, but having too many can be overwhelming. Consider featuring a few picture books with the cover facing out in a child-friendly display bookshelf. Other books can be distributed around the house. Invest in a few essential research books (and perhaps a good encyclopedia set) and use your public library for the rest. Visit the Materials & Books section to see my suggestions.
Your family can explore science, history, math, language, art, and world cultures through cooking and eating. Create a space for the cooking tools your child can use (they can have their own set of real tools or you can share equipment; just make sure they know how to use each tool safely). Invest in a child-friendly cookbook and keep non-toxic cleaning supplies in a basket.
The Outdoor Environment
Your backyard or patio can offer many opportunities for exploration. Container gardening is a great activity with lots of learning potential, just remember to keep the gardening tools where your child can reach them. A bird feeder can inspire all sorts of biology explorations; prepare the environment so your child can refill the feeder independently, and keep binoculars handy so they can observe the birds from a respectful distance. Look around your outdoor environment; what other learning opportunities can you create?
With the right guidelines and boundaries in place, screens can play a positive role in your home. However, excessive and inappropriate screen use can sabotage your efforts to create a dynamic learning environment. Visit the Screens section to learn how you and your family can become screen-aware.
Your Child’s Bedroom
Play is an essential part of a child’s healthy development, and homeschoolers should be given lots of time to play. However, most children have too many toys in their room, and clutter decreases a child’s ability to imagine and create. If your child’s room is chaotic and they seem bored and unfocused, try the four-box decluttering approach outlined in the video below.
I hope these suggestions help you create a home where learning happens naturally. If you need guidance to prepare an environment that supports your homeschool goals, let’s set up a time to talk!