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A Day in the Life of a Montessori Family with Special Needs

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Just what does a day in the life of a Montessori family with four special needs look like?  I first shared what our daily schedule and routines look like in Our Family:  Routine & Schedule (2014-2015).  Included are explanations about why we do things the way we do.  At the beginning of this year's school year, I shared an updated look in my post, Schedules & Routines for the 2015-2016 School Year.  Overall, we do follow the schedule, however, due to the needs of our special needs kiddos we have to make some modifications now and then.

Some of our kiddos do NOT like sleep.  When there are sensory issues, developmental growing periods, holidays, or changes in schedules and routines coming, sleeping issues become worse.  We've tried pretty much every method possible to help our kiddos sleep better.  I was sure that if we woke them up earlier, that they'd go to bed earlier.  I was wrong.  Instead Bulldozer ended up with night terrors because he was so overtired and just wouldn't sleep.  There comes a point when you just surrender, and do what you need to do to make sure everyone's getting enough sleep.  So, the start of our day, is usually determined by when we finally get everyone to sleep the night before.  Right now the girls are falling asleep about 10 PM.  The boys are falling asleep between 11 PM and midnight.  Jason and I are up until about 2 AM working.  We all get up between 10-10:30 AM.  Everyone is getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, though our day starts and ends much later.  We're just embracing the kiddos' natural sleep cycles.  Since we homeschool, we're able to do this.  Though crazy at times, it makes life so much easier, especially after battling sleep issues for 7 years (since the day Bulldozer was born).

When we do wake up, no matter the time, we usually do keep the same schedule and routines.  Every morning starts with cuddle time and family prayer in Mommy and Daddy's room.  We discuss the plans of the day and any questions and concerns the kiddos have.  Usually this always includes someone reporting that someone else wasn't closing their eyes during prayer.  There's the constant battle between who gets to cuddle with Mommy.  And we can't forget the complaints about who's touching who.  Once everyone has had their early morning issues resolved we move forward with morning routines.  The kiddos get dressed, make their beds, put their dirty laundry away, pick up their rooms and comb their hair.  You can read more about the routines, our Montessori bedroom set up, and accommodations due to sensory needs, in the post below.  I can't wait to add a little update when our bedroom Montessori shelves arrive next month!

Morning routines can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the moods and ambitions of the kiddos.  You can have the perfect Montessori environment set up, and think you have your day all timed out, but then your kiddos have minds of their own.  And well, playing first thing in the morning, once they are awake, seems to be quite important to the boys.  Verbal prompts can be given countless times, but sometimes kiddos just need help.  The boys usually need help.  However, there are days when I go to wake them up in the morning and they surprise me by having already finished their morning routines.  I pray for more days like that!  Princess and Sunshine love their morning routines, and are very quick to finish and then play in their rooms, while they wait for their brothers.

Once everyone is finished upstairs, we head to the breakfast table.  The kitchen is set up so the kiddos can prepare their own breakfast, and sometimes the boys do. Unfortunately, that means guaranteed cinnamon and sugar with toast crumbs mixed in with the silverware in the silverware holder.  If you'd like to check out our Montessori kitchen set up, be sure to read the post below.

As far as seat assignments go, everyone sits at the "big" table, except Sunshine, who thoroughly enjoys her own table and chair right next to us.  The weaning table is a Montessori concept.  You can read more about it at Living Montessori Now.  Sunshine loves her own table.  It helps her stay safe, eat with fewer distraction, and minimizes the opportunities for conflicts with siblings.  Usually these tables are used for infants and toddlers around 6 months to 2 years old.  Though Sunshine is 4 years old, she is developmentally about 2 years old.  With such a high top table, she will continue using her own table and chairs until her safety awareness improves.
After breakfast, the kiddos finish up morning routines by brushing their teeth.  The three older kiddos are able to do this independently thanks to our Montessori set up in the bathroom.  (They can also usually brush or comb their own hair.)  Sunshine needs minimal assistance, just to make sure she doesn't squeeze toothpaste everywhere.  For more details about this, be sure to check the post below.

Our Montessori Inspired Bathroom

We've also added floss and mouthwash to the older kiddos' shelves after our Dental Unit.

After morning routines are complete, chores begin.  They vary depending on the day.  Usually chores remain the same on weekdays, but on the weekends, the kiddos rotate bigger chores.  All activities were introduced and mastered in the classroom before being assigned in our home.  For more details about the specific chores etc., check out Our Fallback Plan.
Chores always seem to be one of the most entertaining parts of the day.  Some kiddos LOVE preparing and sorting recycling materials. There's just something about jumping on boxes and plastic containers that is so much fun.  Others just can't get enough of sorting laundry.  If doing dishes is part of the plan Dinomite always has to go first, because he just can't handle dirty water, with even just a few crumbs in it.  Bulldozer has to be last, because he stims on the bubbles and water for at least 30 minutes. Oh and Sunshine always has to be sure to spill some of her food on the floor, just to make sure she's able to use her Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Dust, Sweep and Mop to clean it up.

After chores the kiddos usually start their morning work and Montessori learning time activities.  For a tour of our Montessori classroom, click the link below.

Once again I never can predict how much time the kiddos will need to complete their morning work.  I also never know just how long they'll spend doing the Montessori activities on the shelves.  Every day is different.  I let them set their own pace, and not interrupt them.  Each kiddo knows they must select and complete as many activities as they are old each day minimum.  Dinomite is 9 so he must complete nine activities on the shelf.  Sunshine is 4 so she must complete four activities.  All kiddos are more than welcome to complete more activities than required, if they'd like.

This week, Bulldozer seems to be off.  More of his time than not has been spent in the peace corner trying to regulate himself using his sensory oriented anxiety kit.  He does eventually finish all that's required of him, but it can take a while.  Other days, Dinomite may take his time in the peace corner due to anxieties and meltdowns.  Princess may just plain refuse to do any work, and she's given busy work until she's ready to complete what needs to be done for the day.  Sunshine completes her morning work and activities at her table in the dining area with a parent, so as not to distract the other kiddos.  She has a very low frustration tolerance, so there's usually a rage or two, and possibly some flying objects.  We take it day by day, helping her succeed in the best ways we know how.

On days when things are extra chaotic, we have our fallback plan.  It works well.  To read more about it click the link below.
Our Fallback Plan

Usually lunch fits into our day after morning work and/or learning time activities.  While the kiddos are eating, we read aloud to them.  This is one of their favorite parts of the day!  Extra curricular activities also take place in the afternoon. Depending on the day, at least one kiddo leaves for tennis lessons, gymnastics, swimming, etc.

Once all of the kiddos have completed their responsibilities each day, they're able to have media time, which includes tv, movies, game systems etc.  Media time ends when dinner is ready. Sometimes the kiddos work quickly throughout the day and they may have a couple of hours.  Other days, they may have only 30 minutes.  They know they must first practice the piano and exercise.

To help the older kiddos work through their day, I created a check list for them.  Jason and I are trying to teach them responsibility and that work comes before play.  Some days they remember.  Some days they don't, ending up in tears and meltdowns because they forget and don't have as much media time as they would have liked.  However, the checklists have made them become more independent. All tasks are ones they can do with minimal assistance from an adult.  They can choose the order they complete activities.  They enjoy checking things off and having a flexible guide for their day.  I love that they're finally able to be independent and flexible!  I have created a blank template for those who would like one.  For your free copy, click HERE.
Breakfast is included on the checklist as it can take as long as 90 minutes for the kiddos to each first thing in the morning depending on what they're eating, how hungry they are, and if they decide they want to each breakfast.  (Princess likes to refuse meals.)
The day isn't complete until dinner is on the table.  Each kiddo helps prepare dinner one night a week.  This was not my idea.  Instead Bulldozer asked if we could do this.  He wants to be a chef so it makes since.  I'll be sharing more about this process in a future post.
All of the kiddos enjoy their night to cook, set the table, etc.  They each have aprons.  We use kid sized cooking utensils.  All are learning how to be safe while using the stove and sharp objects.  Everyone is supervised by an adult 100% of the time.

Depending on how the day goes determines if dinner is before or after the evening news.  We all watch it as a family and then begin to help the kiddos unwind with bedtime routines.  There are definite days when we have multiple appointments or decide to do something else instead of morning work and learning time, but ultimately we stick to the same daily schedule, just forgetting about the time, and order.  By removing time, anxieties have lessened.  There is less stress.  No one feels rushed.  When there are appointments we prepare the kiddos for them, but they're so used to them, they adapt pretty well.  Plus they love packing their lunches and going on "adventures."

We try to plan one "going out" experience each week that's related to our unit study.  To learn about ways we've prepared the kiddos for some of these experiences, you can read Preparing Children for Their First Fine Arts Experience.

Montessori has significantly improved the functioning of all of my children at home.  They are developing so many skills necessary in adulthood.  There are more days than I ever expected where the kiddos decide media time isn't all that important to them, and instead they take their time completing their tasks, playing, and soaking up the environment around them.  Every aspect of Montessori has improved their adaptive and cognitive functioning, whether it be an activity on our Montessori shelves, a room with a Montessori set up, or a practical life activity they participate in throughout the day.  It could be a chore or part of preparing a meal.  Our days as a Montessori family are so rich with positive experiences!

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series.  You don't want to miss other posts in this month's collection!
Our Daily Homeschool Schedule | Natural Beach Living

What to do today… Our Typical Homeschool Day Schedule | The Natural Homeschool

| Study at Home Mama
A Day in the Life of Montessori Busy Hands | Christian Montessori Network
Our Daily Routine | Grace and Green Pastures


  1. I love how perfectly prepared and thought out your routine and home is! Its inspirational!

  2. I need to wipe my computer screen now since I burst out laughing when you talked about the morning battles -- oh how I empathize with the pointing of fingers reporting someone else didn't close their eyes during mealtime grace. And who touched who. LOL!!! I love love love how you've covered everything here, it is such a fun glimpse into your daily life.

  3. Amazing post Renae! I'm glad my child is not the only one who goes to sleep at 10 pm. :) I love how you have adapted this routine to fit your families needs. Having four kids to monitor and meet needs is a tremendous responsibility! You do it all so well!

  4. What a through post! I appreciate all of the detail. You leave no doubts or questions in my mind! Well done. :)

  5. I'm not as organized as you are but I find your schedule inspiring. I'm hoping to move toward more independence soon. I appreciate the breakdown because it gives me something to aim for.

  6. This is amazing. Everything about your day embodies the spirit of Montessori. I admire you to no end on how you carefully observed the needs of your children and rearranged your sleep pattern to make it work. I love reading all the details. It is encouraging on every level and reminds me that I have the freedom to do whatever I want in my home to make it work for us.
    We've gone through spells of sleep issues too and it's so hard. I am humbled by the care and concern you pour into your day. It's inspiring.

  7. This looks like such a wonderful routine. You really seem to have everything thought out so nicely. I love the planner sheet too. Thanks

  8. What a great peek at your Montessori homeschool. I think even families who've made different educational choices can draw inspiration from it. Thanks so much for sharing in the Everything Kids pin & link party.