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The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling

Today I'm excited to share the best tips for Montessori homeschooling with developmental, emotional, and trauma based challenges.

There is no doubt that Montessori is fantastic for children with developmental, emotional and trauma based disabilities.  I could go on and on about the:

  • Benefits of hands on materials
  • Focus on fine motor skill development
  • Emphasis on sensory based activities
  • Significance of following the child
  • Insistence of child independence

All of these things are so beneficial to children who are neurodiverse, struggle with mental health issues and/or have attachment disorders.

The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling Children with Developmental, Emotional, and Trauma Based Learning Challenges

Many families rely on Montessori schools to provide a proper education for their children.  But there are times when that's not possible due to finances, the child's specific needs, personal beliefs, and now the coronavirus.

My husband and I have been homeschooling our children for about a decade now.  All of them have multiple struggles when it comes to learning.  

Some are neurodiverse.  

Others have mental health issues.  

Two struggle significantly due to past trauma.  

Then there are learning disabilities.

A few years ago we started a co-op and added more children to our home learning environment.  Many of those children also had developmental and emotional disabilities.

One could say that we've had a lot of experience with figuring out how to make Montessori work for even the most challenging students, once they're able to handle learning in general.  

Note: There are some children who at one point in time or another will be unable to learn due to feeling unsafe or dysregulated.  In these situations safety comes first and the main goal is to help the child self-regulate and stay calm.

The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling with Developmental, Emotional, and Trauma Based Disabilities

1. Before learning begins be sure your child feels safe and is able to self-regulate.  

My kiddos need to get outside and move before we attempt learning each day.  

If we can't make it outside then we find a way to move inside using children's exercise videos, etc.  When they don't move around, children can't self-regulate and things tend to fall apart.

Some of our co-op friends needed a meal right before learning, so they wouldn't be distracted by hunger and their brains were more alert.

Another co-op friend needed time socializing with friends to feel safe in the environment before learning.

Observe your child to understand what the needs are before successful learning can occur.

2. Make sure sensory needs are met during learning.

Dinomite needs music to focus better and block out other sounds.

Bulldozer is sensitive to temperature. If he's too hot or too cold, he doesn't learn well.

Princess needs to keep her hands and her brain busy to prevent disruptions.

Sunshine often needs to wrap herself up in layers of clothes and blankets.  

One of our co-op friends always needed something to chew on.  He was also sensitive to smells.

Sensory needs do not disappear while learning, they usually increase in intensity.  Be prepared for that and know that it's okay to meet your child's needs in this way while learning occurs.

If you need some ideas to help your child, be sure to check out some of our favorite resources:

Must Have Fidget Toys

3. Start with the hard stuff first.

In all my years of using the Montessori Method, I have never found a student with developmental and/or emotional disabilities that saves the hardest work for last and enjoys doing it.

Neurodiverse children may push through the period of false fatigue without issue, but most often choose the easiest and most fun tasks after that point.

Plan out your three period block accordingly, with this in mind.

When my kiddos were preschool age, we had our "work" shelves and our "fun" shelves.  In order to choose activities from the "fun" shelves, each of them needed to complete a certain number of "work" shelf activities.  The number of activities corresponded to their age.  At age five, Dinomite had to choose five work activities before going to the "fun" shelves.  

Activities on the "work" shelves were always very basic and required a short amount of time to complete to ensure success.  We rotated them weekly to ensure that the kiddos wouldn't do the same ones over and over again for weeks on end.

Now that my kiddos are using the Montessori elementary curriculum, the focus of the first part of our three hour block  is to complete required tasks.  Each kiddo knows they must complete the following:

  • Journal Question
  • Math Challenge
  • Language Challenge
  • Reading Assignment

They choose the order in which they complete the work.  Once those tasks are completed they move on to preferred work or projects.

Observe your child and create a system that works best.  It may be similar to how we do things, or you may come up with something completely different.

4. Minimize struggles with academics.

Bulldozer struggled with a hand preference until he was seven years old.  Not until he was eight was he able to write a sentence on his own.  Writing was HARD.  It brought so much frustration and prevented him from progressing in multiple subject areas.  

That is until we minimized the writing.  

Yes, you read that right.

Bulldozer was responsible for one writing assignment a day.  This is how our daily journal work started.  Be sure to check out our FREE Rainbow Writing Prompts.

Rainbow Writing Prompts (Free Printable)

Once that writing work was complete, all other learning assignments required absolutely no writing.  We did this for years with him.

Believe it or not, Bulldozer loves writing now.  His penmanship is beautiful.  I truly believe we owe that all to the principle of following the child and not pushing him into something he isn't ready for.

One of our co-op students was petrified of math. He would avoid it at all costs.  He reminded me a lot of Dinomite when he was younger.  Each day, he knew that he only had to complete our daily math challenge, and then he knew he could relax and not worry about more math, unless he chose to do more.

Over the course of the year this child slowly felt more comfortable with numbers and progressed through content he had struggled with for years.  

Follow your child's lead.  Battles and frustration are not the Montessori way.  Work together, following the three period lesson.  Use the FREE Montessori Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts if necessary.

Montessori Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts (Free Printable)

5. Set a learning schedule that matches your child's sensory and self-regulation needs.

It can be so easy to try to create a schedule based on the needs of the parents, instead of considering the needs of the child and following their lead.

My kiddos almost always become hungry about 90 minutes into their work.  To remedy this we have a healthy snack after required tasks.  The snack also helps the kiddos self-regulate after what is often the most difficult work of the day.

Right after snack, I present a lesson on most days.  After they're refreshed with a snack, the kiddos are at their best and ready to focus on something new. 

Giving a lesson at that time provides extra support, when they would otherwise meltdown or fall apart due to false fatigue.

Once the lesson has been presented, the kiddos have the rest of the three hour block to choose work from the shelves or work on a project.

They're usually so excited at this point to do whatever they want that we don't usually have any further issues.

There are times when a kiddo can't seem to work on their own at this point.  If this happens I usually try to create a project based learning environment so they stay more engaged, or I become their one-to-one for the rest of learning.

6. Have learning time occur during the child's best time of day.

My kiddos prefer to have learning time in the late morning to early afternoon (10 AM to 1 PM).  They function better.  They're not nearly as tired.  Their focus is at its best.

This time slot allows them to sleep in each morning, slowly get ready for their day and get outside.  If we try to have learning time earlier or later, it's usually unsuccessful.  

In Sunshine's case, her medications are working at their best during these hours.  In the afternoon she begins to deteriorate.  At night she struggles the most.

Observe your child and decide when they learn best.  Do you have an early bird? Perhaps you have a night owl?  Make adjustments to your schedule accordingly.

7. Observe how many choices your child can handle.

A long time ago I learned that the more choices of work Sunshine had, the more overwhelmed she became.  I also observed that if the work on the shelves was too spread out around our homeschool classroom, she became overwhelmed.

To solve this problem we put out enough work to only fit one set of shelves.  All of her work, no matter the subject was on the same set of shelves.  This was a huge success.  We rotated it out weekly or every other week depending on her interest level.

We also created the daily task checklistThis has been beneficial for all of our kiddos in multiple ways.

Montessori-inspired Daily Tasks Checklist (Free Printable)

Follow your child's needs and create a learning environment and process that helps your child feel calm and self-regulated.

8. Work your way up to the recommended three hour work period.

It took us YEARS to work up to a complete three hour work period as Maria Montessori recommends.

Do not feel defeated if you can't get your child to work for the entire time.  It will come when your child's body and mind are ready.

Start with a time period that ensures success for you and your child and build from there.

Remember that Montessori learning occurs throughout the entire day, not just during the designated learning time.  You are not failing if you can not succeed at the three hour work period.

Homeschooling children with developmental, emotional, and trauma based challenges using the Montessori Method takes time to adjust to.

If you're off to a rocky start, know that's okay.  As you observe and follow your child, things will get better.  

We hope these tips and resources will help you and your child excel at Montessori homeschooling!

For those who would like more Montessori homeschooling tips and resources, especially those related to children with developmental, emotional, physical, and trauma-based disabilities, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter by clicking the link below.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

The Best Montessori Tips for Special Needs Families Montessori Homeschooling Support and Resources Montessori is More than Shelves and Materials Montessori Addition and Subtraction Bundle Continents and Oceans Printable Pack Bundle Free Printables 

The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling Children with Developmental, Emotional, and Trauma Based Learning Challenges

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