A first look into how I worked with a family to create a Montessori toddler program in a spare bedroom for under $1,500
After completing my masters in Montessori education, I knew that it was time to switch from nannying to teaching in a classroom. I had spent time in high school and college working as a teacher's aid in various classrooms, but I knew that in order to grow my life's work into what I hope it will become, I needed to spend more time teaching: learning to be a head guide, learning to create a respectful classroom culture from the ground up, and learning how to communicate well with multiple families at once.
There were three things I was looking for in a classroom:
1) A focus on secure attachments
While in college working to get my undergraduate degree, I spent a majority of my time learning about attachment theory and birth and postpartum work, because of this work, creating secure attachments and tight loving bonds is at the forefront of anything I do. This became one of the main deciding factors when I chose nannying over teaching while in graduate school. I like to be able to meet needs predictably and give big hugs when needed.
2) A half day and/or 9 to 3 schedule only
During this time I also worked part-time as a floater in a large day care facility. The class sizes were as large as legally possible, and many children stayed at daycare most of the hours that they were open (6:30am to 7pm). I’ve seen the toll overcrowding paired with very long days can have on young children. Some classrooms can handle more children than others, but overall, a child cannot thrive in an environment like that. We do not aid children when we place them on such long schedules, especially with so many other children. It is too much time, too much expectation for self-control, and way too much stimulation.
3) A close connection with parents and emphasis on community
For children under the age of three, I think it is very important to have lots of communication with parents and have them as involved as they would like to be.
Before moving to Los Angeles, I had planned to open an in-home program, but here in Hermosa beach, my one bedroom walk-up simply does not have the space, so I posted on some facebook Montessori groups and found a family with two-year-old triplets interested in starting a half day program. Armed with a 15 x 15 foot spare bedroom, woodworking skills, and a > $1,500 budget, we made a classroom.
As you scroll down and look through the photos, you will see that many our shelves are a bit scraped up, that is because all of our shelves are craigslist finds or free stuff found on the side of the road and repurposed, excluding the beautiful handmade shelf in the middle of the space that was made by the mother I am working with.
While some of these shelves are not as lovely looking a brand new shelf might be, it gave us the wiggle room in our budget to spend more on classroom materials.
For materials, I mostly shied away from Montessori sites, choosing instead to go for cheaper options. I did the bulk of my shopping at restaurant equipment stores, Daiso Japan, Ikea, dollar tree, and amazon, as well as using items we had in our homes.
I did use some Montessori sites from hard to find items like wood trays, tiny knives, and a small squeegee.
I love that I am able to teach in a way that feels like the best of both worlds. Learning focused while still familiar and nurturing. I am interested to see if this type of small community program leads to a smoother transition into formal school in a few years. I think it's wonderful that these children are able to come into the classroom, spend the morning working hard, and use the rest of their day for play.