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Our Fallback Plan

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You may have noticed I haven't shared many Montessori-inspired units for a while now.  Life happens and it can be really hard sometimes.  I usually have no control over how, when, where, what and why it all happens the way it does.  It's always my plan to be on top of things.  But my plans haven't really worked out so well since... a lot of things.

My intention has always been to have a new set of unit activities on the shelves weekly.  Our syllabus  for the year is planned this way.  However, my time isn't always my own.  Even with the best of intentions, I come up short A LOT.

This challenge of coming up short is one I've struggled with.  Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, stress, and defeat are too familiar to me.  I worry about my children and their education.  What if I don't do enough?  What if we never catch up to where we need to be this year?  What if they don't learn the material they're supposed to be learning?

Other than the feelings I have about my faith, I have never believed in anything more than I believe in Montessori.  Words can not begin to express how much it has helped my children.  The influence it has had on me is life changing.  But there are some days, weeks, and sometimes even months when life happens, and I just can't pull off creating new units for our shelves, as much as I'd like or as often as my children need.

Though this has been devastating to me, I'm realizing there are many lessons to be learned in times when I don't seem to have it all together.  Not only are there lessons of life, but Montessori ones to learn as well.  In life, it's always important to have a fallback plan.  The world of Montessori is no different.  No Montessori teacher or parent is perfect 100% of the time.  I am no different.

Even though we may not have brand new elaborate Montessori-inspired unit studies on our shelves, my children are continuing their education.  They are learning EVERY.  DAY.  Eye appealing trays with new printables and hands on manipulatives aren't everything.  One can still have a Montessori-inspired home and learning environment, even when these aspects of the method are not operating at their best.  Things may not be perfect, but they will do for now.

Every day we try.  That's what matters.

In the morning when the kiddos wake up, they do their morning routines, which consist of making their beds, picking up their rooms, getting dressed, and combing their hair.

After breakfast they do their morning chores.  Each kiddo has three chores to complete.  Chores are rotated weekly.  Set 1 includes:  1) Sorting laundry.  2)  Putting away DVDs.  3)  Picking up the living room.  Set 2 includes:  1)  Putting shoes away, sorting them into the correct bins.  2)  Sorting and matching clean socks.  3)  Clearing the breakfast table.  Set 3 includes:  1)  Bringing down dirty laundry from upstairs.  2)  Sorting dirty laundry to be washed.  3)  Folding clean fabric napkins and putting them away.  Set 4 includes:  1) Sorting recyclables outside.  2)  Yard care, whether picking up litter, watering flowers, or shoveling snow.  3)  Wiping down the toilets and sink in the bathrooms.

On Saturdays, they rotate one weekly chore.  These include:  dusting, washing windows, wiping down kitchen cupboards, and vacuuming underneath couch cushions in the living room.

All of the tasks mentioned above include practical life and sensorial components.  They are written on my Mom's Plan-It Calendar for all to see.  

The kiddos do their morning work Monday thru Friday.  They practice their letters in print and in cursive, while at the same time learning to spell sight words on their Board Dudes Double Sided Dry Erase Lapboard with purposely broken Crayola Large Dry Erase Crayons to encourage proper writing grasp and enhanced fine motor skills.  All three older kiddos are working through the memorization of their math facts.
Each day there is always a new question in their Primary Journal to answer.  They're practicing spelling, grammar, sentence structure and more.  When finished writing, they always draw and color a picture to go along with their entry.
The kiddos select a page out of their Big Math 1-2 and BIG Spelling 1-3 workbooks to complete each day.  There are days when they choose easy pages.  Then there are days when they ask to learn something new.  Usually, one can see the use of Montessori materials on the table while completing workbook tasks.
Every day my children read.  Whether it be a book from the Complete Set of Bob Books, a picture book, or a chapter book, they always have their nose in something.

During lunch my husband or myself read aloud to all four kiddos.  We ask questions.  There is discussion.  At times there is even heated debate.

Most afternoons we exercise as a family.  There have been exceptions when there is sickness, appointments, etc., but for the most part, this has become a very routine part of our day.

In the evenings after dinner, we watch the news as a family.  Most nights the news includes geography, culture, and science lessons to be learned.  The nightly news always leads to questions and extended conversations.

The boys participate in weekly tennis lessons.  Dinomite takes swimming lessons.  Bulldozer participates in a gymnastics mentor program.  Once a month they participate in chess club at our local library.  All three older kiddos participate in the library science program.  During the summer months this occurs on a weekly basis.  While school is in session, it takes place monthly.

We listen to various genres of music while singing and dancing every day.  There is often discussion about composers, music groups, etc.

In their spare time, the kiddos are reading, researching and studying on their own, whether it be through a book they checked out at the library or the through the use of a science kit they own.
Because many parts of our home, including the kiddos' bedrooms. are set up in a Montessori fashion with mostly Montessori approved materials, toys, etc., almost anything the children decide to do during the course of the day can be considered part of their learning time and Montessori approved.
Then there's everything else we do as a family!  (I'm in desperate need of documenting all of that as well.)

The bottom line is that despite NOT having it all together sometimes, we have a fallback plan and it works.  It's one that encourages learning and growth.  In all the ways I can incorporate Montessori principles I do.  We are able to cover all subject areas.  While I don't intend to use our fall back plan daily, I know it's there whenever I need it.  This helps me relax and enjoy our academic journey so much more.

Do you have a fallback plan?  What does it look like?


  1. This is such a smart idea. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I love your rotating chore schedule! You really inspire me, Renae! This is more than a fall-back plan... this is brilliant! Really, you are an amazing mother.

  3. Yes, you have it covered so well! Forget the guilt about Montessori shelves changed out each week! The learning goes on 24/7 at your home. Your kiddos have such a rich life!

  4. I love this. I have never thought of it as a fall-back plan, but rather a very well-oiled Montessori home! Even in a Montessori school, the child doesn't work off the trays on shelves the whole time, they are allowed to observe, have a conversation, prepare their own snacks, etc. I totally agree with you (and have been there myself) about the guilt we feel when we don't have shelves changed out on time! But over time I have come to appreciate (yikes, yes, appreciate!) that I can leave my shelves totally empty and my son still has a rich Montessori education at home -- just cooking, cleaning, reading, having a conversation, dancing, piggy-back rides, and so many more we cannot possibly capture. :) This is not fall-back Renae, this is you bringing all the awesomeness of Montessori to your family! This is perfection!