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Montessori Maker Mama

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment”

-Maria Montessori

Our children have thrived in a Montessori classroom for most of their childhood. We adore their school and the education they receive there. That being said, 2020 changed things, a lot. Prior to the global pandemic and the shutdowns I had the pleasure of teaching art to my children’s classmates and built furniture for their classrooms. These investments balanced the cost of tuition, making it possible for two artists living within a modest budget to send their kids to an amazing school. This school year however I am unable to do those things due to safety guidelines and the burden corona placed on so many small businesses. I am also unable to be the super star homeschool mom with two elementary aged children, (one of whom shares my stubbornness, need for constant challenge, and routine) while also running a business from home. So Jack, my 3rd grader, is safely attending his Montessori school in person and Eloise, my kindergartner, is homeschooling Montessori style with me.

I am so thankful for the years I have watched them thrive in their classrooms, the many curriculum nights I've attended and the time I was able to be in the classroom teaching art and soaking up the environment they love so much. When designing our school space, planning our lessons and creating our routine, I was able to reference these experiences and create a familiar environment and routine for Eloise at home.

Working from home while homeschooling a kindergartner is my new normal. I am by no means an expert. I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing and constantly pray that I don’t mess this up. But we are surviving, she is thriving and I am excited to share how we are doing it. Below is a quick look into our classroom, our

materials and what we are learning.

Classroom in a Cabinet

This metal cabinet is our homeschooling hub. Current works (Montessori-speak for projects and learning materials) are easily identified and accessible, the components of her ‘daily write-up’ hang on the inside of the door and storage boxes house the completed work papers and unused manipulatives and supplies. Work is organized on lunch trays and displayed on a custom rack to maximize space and accessibility. Small pieces are kept together in these inexpensive wooden boxes. White paper and writing paper are kept on clipboards which are stacked below or kept with corresponding work. Markers and pencils are kept on the door in magnetic pouches, everything she needs to complete her work and make a masterpiece. Work rugs are rolled up and stored in an umbrella caddy beside the cabinet. All materials are not only easy for her to get out but also easy for her to put away.

Storage and Organization

An uncluttered environment is hard to achieve in such a small space. The cabinet only stores materials that will be used in a week, the rest is stored out of sight but still reachable for both of us. The lower portion of the computer nook is used for art supply storage and reference books. These materials are sorted and labeled and are able to be pulled out for art projects or to further explore a question or subject. Books, manipulatives and supplies for future units are stored in a downstairs closet.

Routine (or occasionally lack thereof) and the tools we use.

Daily Write-up: Mom pounds caffeine- Eloise starts the day by describing it. “Today is ‘day of week’, Month Date, Year. The weather is (weather). I’m feeling (feeling)” She finds the corresponding mama made magnets inside the cabinet and completes her daily write up. Some days this goes smoothly, other days she completely loses her ability to hold a pencil and turns the drama up. Either way I am able to mainline caffeine, check email, and prep for the school day.

Math/Language/Reading/Culture- This part of our day is always different and guided by Eloise.

  • Math- This 100s Board has been one of her favorite works since the beginning of the school year. She has mastered it at this point but we keep it in our rotation because who doesn’t need a confidence boost every now and then when other work is challenging. These tens boards and bead bars (and these) are her current favorite and can be adapted for future work as she advances. Stashed away are the addition and subtraction bars, multiplication and division boards that I bought for my son over the summer, I am glad we have them for Eloise when she is ready. This mama-made abacus is a classic math manipulative that I designed to not only function but to look good in our living space.

  • Language- The moveable alphabet is our most used manipulative, it overlaps into a lot of work! I ordered this lined mat to use with the moveable alphabet and to really work on letter placement when writing. We also love these word spinny cubes and these cards with blocks. Handwriting work also rolls into our other work areas, she practices numbers while working on math and writes key words from our culture lessons.

  • Reading- Reading is and has always been a big part of our daily life so we don’t exactly follow a Montessori specific way of going about it. We work on site words and build them with the moveable alphabet. The Bob Books are her favorite to read aloud, she has such pride when she can read a WHOLE book on her own. For reading together some of our favorites are Eloise at the Plaza, the Secret Garden, and these awesome books about strong women. We also discovered the book series “A kids book about” this summer and are obsessed.


  • This has been my favorite part of homeschooling because we incorporate art into everyday through culture! Nature- lots of long walks collecting samples to study and draw.

Solar system-

  • We reference our favorite Solar System book for facts and images of each planet. She then makes a 3D model and draws the planet on paper.

  • Mama-made wooden planets slide together for properly ordered storage and can be placed separately with corresponding names.

  • These Watercolor planet cards were fun to paint and we use them for planet Identification.

  • Phases of the Moon model is a mama-made fav, along with the watercolor identification cards we have waxing and waning down.

Human Body

Eloise has always been fascinated with anatomy, and this premed-turned art major mama is happy to pull those anatomy and physiology facts out of my hippocampus.

  • This torso, fondly known as Linda, answers our “what goes where?” questions.

  • We also use Skelly, the model skeleton and these real x-rays on a light table. Mimicking the motion of the skeleton and talking about the joint(s) and bones in our bodies that make the movement possible.

  • I painted these watercolor cards to correspond with these model organs.

Wonderful Women

This unit makes my mama heart happy. I am raising a strong, smart, independent, and kind little girl. Showing her the women who came before her that broke down barriers, ignored naysayers, and opened so many doors for her future is my job and pleasure as her mom. We read about women who are scientists, artists, activists, and authors. We listen to their music, talk about their paintings, and celebrate their achievements. Together we are making an alphabet of wonderful women. I burned these tiles with the names of some of our favorite women using illustrations of key facts and accomplishments. Eloise does a corresponding black and white drawing. Here are some of our favorite books about strong women.

Practical Life- Y’all this is the best part of homeschooling a Montessori child. Dishes, vacuuming, raking leaves, gathering walnuts, sorting and folding laundry… These aren't chores, they are school work. We make these tasks fun, we race through the leaves, count the walnuts, and dance our way through the laundry.

Some of our other manipulatives and materials

Our “classroom” lives in the corner of our dining room and the landing by the front door. Our work days are never the same. Our materials are a mix of purchased and mama-made. Our methods may not be perfect. Our routine is routinely non-routine. Our life is often chaotic. But our homeschool journey is beautifully rewarding.

You can read more about the classroom build and design here.

So what did I make?

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All photos and written content are the property of Ellen Smith: Little Bare Furniture.

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