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I have waited three years to give our learning time room a makeover. Originally, the room was my music studio. It was painted a deep red to invoke emotion and passion while playing the piano, singing, and teaching. I accented with black, beige, and just a hint of brown. It was the perfect music studio. Then...
We made the decision to homeschool. You can read all about that HERE. We tried having our classroom in one area of the living room. It worked well, until we decided to go the Montessori route. Then, it didn't work at all. I moved our classroom to the dining room. This worked okay, but I quickly started running out of room. All of my materials were being stored upstairs. This was such a pain when I was putting units together, or trying to put things away. I ended up making more messes than anything else.
Eventually, I decided to surrender my music studio for our learning time room. The piano now sits in our dining room. All of my music books are packed in our attic. My black music book shelf became one of our Montessori shelves, and now stores photo albums and Jason's and my book collection. We moved all of our learning time materials, shelves, table and chairs into the deep red room. There, we've remained with the best of intentions to paint, fix things up, etc.
When I was invited to participate in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series back in December, I was thrilled about August's theme. It was great incentive to finally create a learning time space that actually encouraged the learning process. The best part was that my husband was completely supportive and on board with the project. I think he had heard me complain about the learning time room one too many times. Lol. In May we began the process.
I knew that in order to create a successful learning environment I would need to involve the three older kiddos in every aspect of the planning, preparation, and action. This would ensure a positive transition experience and an environment that would be pleasing to everyone's senses.
I presented the kiddos with three color scheme choices, using Pottery Barn magazines. (I LOVE Pottery Barn!)
Choice 1: Gray or cream walls with red, orange and black accents.
Choice 2: Cream or light yellow walls with navy blue, white & yellow accents.
Choice 3: Light teal walls with accents of white, navy blue and a darker teal.
The next step was moving EVERYTHING out of the learning time room to prepare for painting. I was thrilled to find a teal paint that would look great against the blue walls in our living room, which is the room adjacent. Then, we went to work!
I wanted to make sure that all of the kiddos could help paint. Our local paint store had Dynamic Enviro Rollers HM005822 Mini Roller with Handle, 4-Inch, which were the perfect size for little hands. This was the ultimate practical life activity! The kiddos were given a lesson in painting, and then given a wall to paint. They started in the closet, which had never been painted in the 8 years we've lived in this home. Jason and I supervised. In the end, the kiddos painted the entire closet and one wall of the actual room. I know they'll be helping us paint many more rooms in the future.
Next came the sorting process. There was so much STUFF in our learning time room closet. Some of it we use all the time. Other materials I'd only used once. It took two weeks to sort through and organize everything, but it was so worth it in the end. My goal was NOT to buy any new storage items, but to make use of the space we already have. Where there wasn't enough room, I needed to downsize. Materials that go along with holiday units I put in our decoration bins in the attic. Other materials that are specific to our body, sports, ocean, astronomy units, etc. I organized in shoe boxes, and placed in a bin in the attic. I'll be able to access the materials when I need them, but when I don't, they won't be taking up space.
Then came organizing the materials we use on a weekly basis. Starting with the picture in the top left corner, moving clockwise in the collage above, here's what I did. There are two sets of shelves in our dining room. These shelves are home to puzzles, games, play dough with accessories, etc. All of these activities usually take place in the dining room at the table. The upper shelves were used for storage of photo albums and books that belonged to Jason and I. Books and photo albums were moved upstairs and the top shelves have become home to everyday learning materials. Large bins store our non animal Safari Toob collections, musical instruments, colored sand, and misc. materials. Other containers are home to glass beads divided by color, clothespins, feathers, cotton balls, colored pencils, and cotton balls.
The white book shelf is the only storage left in our learning time room. It is home to all of our Montessori materials, Bob Books, pony beads sorted by color, etc. This book shelf of materials is located in the closet.
In our living room we have the small storage system from Pottery Barn Kids. Some of Princess' learning activities are stored in the cubbies. Above the cubbies, behind closed doors, is my laminator, paper supply and all glassware used for activities. In the drawer beneath the cubbies, I store all of our learning time trays, baskets. etc. (I neglected to take a picture of this.)
Also in our living room is an old baby dresser. As long as I remove the knobs, Sunshine can't get into it. It provides great storage for everything else! In the large compartment I store everything from tacks, paper clips and sequins to rubber bands, scissors, and glitter. Basically, anything I don't want kiddos getting into. Lol. Next to the large compartment, three drawers are used for markers, stamps with ink, and paint supplies.
I was so excited to find a place for everything without having to buy new storage units! It was a HUGE accomplishment. Everything is downstairs for easy access except very specific items stored in the attic, which I can plan ahead to retrieve. The only thing I have left to do is transfer all of my printables from two storage bins to a filing cabinet I have yet to purchase.
Once all of the materials were organized, I could FINALLY start working on our classroom! I can't decide who was more excited about it, the kiddos or myself.
bookshelves, due to space limitations. Each shelf is used for a different subject: language, math, culture & geography, science, art, music, practical life, sensorial, & other. Our "other" shelf is being transformed into a grace and courtesy shelf later this month! I'm SO excited about that! Activities on the shelves are changed out weekly. This occurs because of space limitations, but also as a result of the kiddos' rigid ritualistic and stimming behaviors. For more information about specific accommodations we make for our special needs kiddos, you'll want to be sure to read Meeting Special Needs in a Montessori Classroom.
On the top of our bookshelves I make available the sandpaper letter cards for the letters we're working on during the week, a globe for exploration when studying geography and culture, a plant, and our morning work materials.
Morning worksheets are not a part of the Montessori curriculum. However, for my kiddos, it's extremely important. If I did not require this work on a daily basis, Dinomite and Bulldozer would never write. Writing is very difficult for them, and something they strongly dislike. I keep this work separate from our activities so as not to interrupt their learning process of other important material. When I eliminate writing in our activities on the shelves, they excel beyond belief!
Morning work consists of completing 2 workbook pages of choice, one relating to language skills, and the other a math page. The kiddos LOVE choosing their own workbook pages. It takes a lot of pressure off them and encourages independence, while promoting a child led experience. I consider workbook pages practical life activities. In the course of their lives, the kiddos will be required to fill out endless stacks of paperwork. It is important for them to learn how to follow written directions on a page, write answers in the correct spaces, and complete paperwork in it's entirety. These are life skills that the kids struggle with, especially Bulldozer. Morning work also includes the kiddos writing in their journals. I write a new question for them to answer daily. Each child writes 1 or 2 sentences, depending on their abilities, and assistance they may require. The kiddos also have individual dry erase lapboards. Their writing task for the day is based on the weekly theme or anything else we're working on. Last year they practiced writing cursive letters. This year they'll be writing sight words in cursive and print. Finally, the kiddos finish by reading a BOB book. The kiddos start at the beginning of the series and progress through all 5 sets. They read the same book each day, until they can read it with no mistakes, while holding the book, and turning pages themselves.
Once the kiddos finish their morning work, they can take a break before they start Montessori learning time activities. Most often, whoever is finished first, heads to our reading corner!
bookshelf and bean bag, but it works perfectly in our small space. Since we don't have room for our own personal library, I borrow 12-18 books from our local library each week that relate to our theme. The kiddos look forward to the new books weekly. I love the variety our local library provides.
If the kiddos aren't reading during their break, I can usually find one in our peace corner. This was a priority in our new classroom.
bin to house their anxiety kit and fidget toys, to use when needed. I can not tell you how much this peace corner has helped the kiddos. Every classroom should have one!
The Chaos and the Clutter, the first place I read about it.
I LOVE our prayer wall. Not only is it helping our kiddos when saying prayers, but it's a very unique display of what matters most to them. They love their family, both immediate and extended. Prayers are said daily on behalf of family members. We have friends who are experiencing medical challenges right now. The kiddos really do care and pray for them every day. Dinomite took it upon himself to make sure that we were praying for our local church leader and his family, as well as our beloved prophet. He also was insistent that we pray for President Obama, as he is required to make extremely difficult decisions on a daily basis. At the beginning of July we started watching the evening news together as a family every night. Since that time the flags of Libya and Syria have been added to our wall, to represent the people suffering in those countries. All of the kiddos requested that we start praying for the fire fighters in the west, who are battling crazy wild fires right now. They also wanted us to pray that the fires will be put out quickly. The kiddos have been learning so much about terrorist groups lately, and wanted to be sure we put a picture of a soldier fighting on our board so they could remember to pray for those fighting terrorist groups. More than anything, I love that the kiddos are learning that they can always pray,when they can do nothing else to help, and it will make a difference.
Our final touch was our Montessori mats and curtains! Each kiddo picked out their own mat and cast a vote for curtains. They've used them constantly. One might not think they're important, but I assure you, they are.
If you're interested in other ways we've created Montessori spaces in our home, be sure to check out these posts!