Our Community Homeschool Classroom

What a busy semester it has been! I had tons of fun setting up our community classroom in January, and thanks to a bit of water damage, I got to set it up all over again at our house a couple of weeks ago. There’s something extra special about being at home that I never really anticipated. I tend to be an introvert and very big on having my own space, and the husband and Annabelle are the same, so I never even dreamed of having class here, but it’s actually working wonderfully. We still have our afternoons for recovery through quiet and alone time, so the balance is not too hard to maintain.

Anyway, I wanted to show you all what the classroom in our home looks like. The area that houses most of the shelves, and that we use for work at rugs, group time, and the like, is what was our dining room. Fortunately springtime is our favorite time for picnic table dining, so we were happy to move our dining table into the garage temporarily. I’ll share about the kitchen area of the classroom, where most of the practical life and art work is kept, in another post.

Montessori Classroom from Vibrant Wanderings

Here’s the room from one doorway. There are no actual doors on the dining room, but one doorway on either side. On the side where I’m standing here, I’ve placed a tension rod along the top of the doorway and attached a floor-length curtain to separate the room from the rest of our home. This way it truly does feel like a space just for the children. It also minimizes distractions, since parents are often lounging in the living room, on the other side of the doorway.

Montessori Classroom at Vibrant Wanderings

This photo was taken from the second doorway, which goes right into the kitchen. The children are free to move from work in this area to work in the kitchen, and just to the left of where I’m standing for this shot is our reading corner and our restroom, which are both used as part of the classroom space.

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Here are more photos from the doorway, to give a better view of each side of the room. To the left is our Sensorial work, in the center is culture and geography, and the top photo shows math and language, with the dressing frames just to the side of the doorway into the kitchen where the rest of the Practical Life work is found.

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Here is our first Sensorial shelf, with details of what it contains in the photos below.DSC_1338 (600x402)

Here on the top shelf are the Touch Boards, also known as the Rough and Smooth Boards, and the Touch Tablets (or Rough and Smooth Tablets) are in the box at right. In the fall, we will add the Fabric Boxes and the Thermic and Baric Tablets as well.

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Here you see Color Box 1, Color Box 2, and an extension made by me, where small objects are matched to rectangles of craft foam in all of the same colors you find in Color Box 2. Color Box 3 will come out in the fall.

DSC_1340 (600x402)Here you see the Geometric Solids, with the basket for carrying them to the rug, and the cards that go with them tucked away behind the basket. I was disappointed to find that Gonzagarredi does not make wooden bases for their solids, and the Nienhuis bases do not fit the Gonzagarredi solids. If anyone needs a set of wooden Nienhuis bases with box, just let me know ;) I’m hoping Gonzagarredi will make them in the future. I asked!

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Here is the next shelf in our Sensorial area. Between the previous shelf and this one is our rug basket. The basket itself is from Target. I opted to get that instead of a special rug shelf simply to save money, but I recommend the shelves specifically designed for rugs, or something that allows you to lay the rolled rugs flat. They tend, even when nicely rolled, to slump down into this basket unless the children place them at the perfect angle.

To the left of the shelf, you see the Pink Tower on its stand. On the top of this shelf is a Peace Lily and our puppets, which I occasionally bring to group time to use as we talk over and process different things that happen. The next shelf is home to the Brown Stair, and below it are the first two Knobbed Cylinder blocks with the corresponding Knobless Cylinders. We recently added in the pattern cards for the yellow cylinders (Box 1), and I printed them from Montessori Print Shop. I have some I got from another teacher way back when I was making my albums, but these are so much nicer, since back then little was digitized. Now I have digital copies I can use to print from any time, and everything comes out perfectly centered.

DSC_1342 (402x600)Next we have the Geometric Cabinet, with the Geometric Presentation Tray on Top. I’ve used an old wooden stool as a stand for this since our shelves are inexpensive ones from Target, and I worried they would not hold this heavy piece. Eventually, I’d love to get us some higher quality shelves, but for now these work well. Around the corner is the last Sensorial shelf, with the Red Rods on top, the third and fourth cylinder blocks and boxes on the next two shelves, and the Sound Cylinders and Constructive Triangle Box 1 on the bottom. We have a number of other Sensorial works that will come out in the fall, but these materials are perfect for our young group right now.

DSC_1343 (402x600)This shelf has a lot of transitional materials that sort of flow into the Cultural Area. They could all be classified in a number of different areas, but I have them here for a few different reasons. On top is a hardwood triangle stacker from Camden Rose, a basket containing the Plan Toys Nuts and Bolts, and the Guidecraft Geo Forms Sorting Puzzle. The next shelf has the Deep Into the Forest Game, and a basket with Schleich baby farm animals and Three Part Cards for Sorting. The bottom shelf has yoga cards that I made using a discarded copy of Little YogaOn the front of each card is a photo of a child demonstrating a pose, and the name of each pose is written on the back. Next up is a tray with a little music box and a coconut kalimba that we purchased at the Micronesian Cultural Fair on Guam. I have a fancier music box that I play to let the children know when it’s time to start putting away their work and come to group time, so there’s a great deal of interest in them, which is why I’ve placed one here. Eventually I’d love to invest in the Montessori Bells, but for now I simply put one or two instruments out at a time for the children to explore.

Montessori Map Cabinet at Vibrant WanderingsHere is the map cabinet. To the left, you can see one more transitional material, a set of simple wooden blocks. On top of the cabinet, we have the Sandpaper Globe and the Continent Globe, and in between the two is our Land, Water, and Air Jars. The only map in the cabinet right now is the World Map, but as we get deeper into geography work next year, we will add more. On the bottom are some relevant books, such as our Children’s Atlas, and the Land, Water, and Air Cards. We also have a basket with a large and small duster for taking care of the map and other materials. Also as we get deeper into geography, I’ll add some continent folders and boxes here, along with landforms, and much more.

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At the end of this wall are the math and language shelves. These areas are small now, as Practical Life and Sensorial are the main focus for our mostly three year olds, but many more materials will be added in the Fall and next Spring.

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Not pictured clearly, at the top of this shelf, are the Number Rods, Here you can see our Pattern Blocks and Balance Scale. The next shelf has the Sandpaper Numerals, Number cards, and the spindles for the Spindle Boxes, which you see just below. To the left of the Spindle Boxes is the book Montessori Number Work.

DSC_1350 (522x600)Apologies for the shadows on this one. Right now we have primarily pre-language for our young set, but at the top you can see a tray with a basket of various clothing items and dolls for dressing. This is really not a specifically Montessori work, but I find it’s valuable for building vocabulary and facilitating conversations with children, so I consider it to be a valuable addition to our pre-language materials. On the next shelf is our I Spy basket, which you can see more detailed photos of in this post about language objects, and a felt board with pieces the children can use to do a fingerplay we’ve enjoyed at group time. On the bottom, you can see Montessori Letter Work, and our Sandpaper Letters.

Metal Inset Shelf

Around the corner is our Metal Inset Shelf, with tray, pencils, and paper on top, and insets below. Beside it we keep one plant on the floor, not only because it looks nice here, but because the children can access it easily and borrow a bit of its soil for the Land, Water, and Air Jars.

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Here you can see the Dressing Frames shelf, with just the first 5 frames for now, and the doorway into the kitchen. More on that area soon!

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24 thoughts on “Our Community Homeschool Classroom

    1. melissa Post author

      Thank you, Janine! I’m not organized by nature, so Montessori works well for me since there’s a general framework I can work within and just enough creative license.

      Reply
  1. courtney

    Oh no about the water damage! So glad you could find a space that works – and how generous of you to share your home (table in the garage? Can’t wait to hear more about that!). The new setup is beautifully functional.

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      I know! It was a bummer at this stage in the school year especially, more so for the homeowners, I’m sure. I’m glad it was springtime, though, because the dining table was being neglected in favor of the picnic table anyhow :)

      Reply
  2. Rach

    Looks amazing. So much detail and perfectly pitched to the age group. Can I ask what you do with Elliott please, or any younger kids that people bring along? I’m trying to figure out if my planned group will just descend into chaos if younger kids come too.

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      Thanks, Rach! I have our living room set up as a “lounge” for parents to use, and there’s a shelf there with toys and even a few proper Montessori materials for Elliot’s age group. It’s easy to hear and peek at what’s going on in that room, so the younger brothers of the two boys whose moms regularly help in the classroom have been pretty happy there, as have the siblings who lounge with their moms during class. Elliot, however, is in a period of stranger anxiety and is not keen on being in that room with adults who are not me. I have a friend who has been taking him for walks or entertaining him elsewhere some mornings, but when she’s not around, I have him in a carrier until his morning naptime, when he goes upstairs to sleep and is blissfully unaware of the busyness downstairs for the rest of the morning. As long as they’re a defined separate space with things for younger kids to do, I think having mixed age groups can work.

      The old space worked well when the babies were smaller and content to hang out in a back carry for long periods of time, but toward the end of our time there it was getting to be a challenge for newly mobile babies who wanted to touch the big kids’ work. I definitely think a separate area with plenty of floor space is important for babies and young toddlers.

      Reply
      1. Rach

        Sounds perfect! Thanks so much, I really thought it would be chaos having them in the same space, and I see I was right! This makes it easier to know what is possible and what isn’t.

        Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      You’re so sweet, Tree. It does start out like this at the beginning of each class – order is very important in Montessori. Of course at the end of a work period, it takes a bit of effort to tidy things up, but that’s just the nature of the classroom! :)

      Reply
  3. Amy G

    Amazing! One of the things I love about Montessori methods is the simplicity, but at the same time, there is so, so much going on in such a clean space! I especially love the idea of yoga cards. And, I’m excited to eventually try to do some sort of cultural set up! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, as always!

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      Thanks, Kylie! Dining rooms ate great spaces for learning :) The big rug is a loaner from one of the families that learns with us, and I do love having it in there.

      Reply
  4. Jenn

    I love this. Can I ask how did this project start? This is my first time reading your blog? I was wondering how you acquired all of this? Did you purchase yourself? Do you charge? I bet there is a bag story if I look around. :-) Very inspiring! Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Deb @ Living Montessori Now

    I’ve really enjoyed watching the development of your classroom, Melissa … it’s beautiful and such a gift for your community! Thanks so much for all the information you’ve shared about the planning and maintaining work you’ve done. I shared your community homeschool classroom posts and a photo in my post about starting a Montessori playgroup or Montessori homeschool co-op at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2013/07/29/montessori-monday-starting-a-montessori-playgroup-or-montessori-homeschool-coop/

    Reply
  6. shannan

    Beautiful!! Can I ask, where did you get the white shelves?? I’m looking to buy some for my homeschool. I’m having a hard time finding ones that are deep enough to hold most materials! TIA

    Reply
    1. M Post author

      Thank you! Our white shelves just came from Target … About $15/each. They are deep enough for most things … Just not for the movable alphabet, and not wide enough for the Seguin boards :)

      Reply

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