My Yearly Planning Process for Montessori Littles
It is no secret that I am a HUGE planner. I love to plan. Dream. Envision. It’s my happy place. I actually have to be disciplined about not planning too much–ha! I know that this is not everyone’s strong suit and that it can be overwhelming so I wanted to take a minute and share about my process.
Personally, I like to start with the big picture and work backwards. In my business coaching, I have found that some people prefer to start small and work out towards the bigger picture. Pick how you best plan and go from there. You can focus on the year, a month, a quarter… whichever starting point is not overwhelming to you.
First, I do a brain dump. Everything and anything I want and need to accomplish for ONE child at a time. This year I am planning for my 3 year old and my now 6 month old. We have started Montessori from the beginning with our youngest which is about 9 months earlier than our first so a lot of new over here!
My tip on doing an effective brain dump is to grab a pen or pencil and sit down with a piece of paper. No phone, computer, TV or music. No distractions. (Maybe some tiny ones if you don’t have child care but those are the only ones allowed!) Then write every single thing you want to do. Start with your child’s existing interests. Then think about things you want to introduce or incorporate. One more thing. I normally do themes in one brain dump, then I do Montessori scope and sequence in another. Although there is some overlap, I think of them as separate categories. Themes are more fluid and can be used over and over in a different manner (as long as there is still interest in that theme) while the Montessori Scope and Sequence is more set in stone.
If you are having a hard time getting started, just start with the seasons. There are so many fun things to do around them! We are not doing activities yet, just themes. Disclaimer: My list gets incredibly long! Don’t worry about length. We will mark things off later and add to it later. Right now we are just trying to get everything on paper. If you find it hard to focus on this, try setting a timer for 15-20 minutes. (This can also help your kids respect the space you need to brain dump!)
Once I have gotten all my ideas down on paper, then I organize them a bit if needed (I am messy sometimes!). After I am a bit more organized, then I check-in with what I need to make sure and cover that may be a great theme by itself. I like to check the scope and sequence on Info Montessori for this step when planning for my oldest. If you are using an album, you can reference that for scope and sequence. This year when I checked in with this, it helped me remember that I am going to do some continent work this year and can do some fun themes around each continent. I also am leaning towards incorporating a music theme at some point. After looking back through the scope and sequence for theme ideas, I do one more little brain dump after this and then I shift to the next phase of planning.
Now it’s time for the editing phase. This is a different brain process so it’s important not to let yourself edit during the brain dump. You will be much more effective. During the editing phase, I begin to think through the school year from August-June. I think about when we would implement each theme. Some neatly fit into seasonal spots others are tucked into the schedule around these. It’s at this point where I begin crossing off or making a separate list for things to do later. Or even maybe an alternate list to grab if we blow through something or it is not of interest.
Once I have my list of themes, I go back to the the scope and sequence. This time I am making a list for our scope and sequence goals.
I have already reflected on this past school year. We will start by reviewing materials already out for 1-2 weeks and getting back into a rhythm with our day (shifting from more of a summer “unschooling” vibe to our normal day to day takes a few weeks) and ensuring we hold space for two three hour work cycles. Once we get back in our grove, I will begin introducing new materials/works again.
This part of my planning process is about making a list of what we need to do next in all four areas: Practical Life, Language, Sensorial, and Mathematics. This is more set and less brainstorming. I may check-in with one of my reference texts (or album if you use one!) or Info Montessori as I do this. Again, my list is normally long. I pair it down as I get into planning for each quarter. This year I am gong to create a Google Sheet for each subject and have a check list for the entire 3-6 classroom that I can work from. I will check off and put a date of mastery on each lesson and write my goals for each subject in general. This will help us as we homeschool our girls. At the end of 3-6 (6 is our compulsory school age) we are required to begin to show progress but we can start at the age of 5 in our state. We will be going a digital portfolio so this will help us stay organized.
Once I have my list of both themes and scope and sequence then I ask myself where we will start first and begin to create an outline for the year. This is more of our intention and flow–not a rigid schedule although we stick to it pretty well. We give space for life to happen and pause if needed (one of the beautiful things about homeschooling!). We also try to follow interests so this may shift to accommodate our child as needed. For this reason, I don’t do detailed planning further out than a quarter.
Once my outline is ready for the year, I then work on a detailed plan for the first quarter. After that is done I may do a couple of the other themes (if I already have a tone of ideas!) or even the quarter after so that I have a buffer BUT I am flexible and may not use that plan right at that time based upon interests. I weigh interest and things that I would like to introduce based upon observations.
So what does my detailed planning look like? I think through each of the four subject areas of the Primary Montessori Class: Practical Life, Language, Sensorial, and Mathematics.
For Practical Life, I look at my list of works I need to introduce, things that she already likes to do, and then I think about which ones will be a part of the theme, which ones will be added to the shelf, and what experiences we need to facilitate in our environment. Then I look at each week and write out the day it will be introduced. I also will write down my observations and consider what she might gravitate towards based on what she is already choosing to do that would fall in this category.
Then I look at Language. This encompasses much more than you might think in the Montessori 3-6 Classroom. Cultural work is a broad subcategory under language that includes: art, music, dance, geography, history, biology, zoology, physical science, and botany. Often grace & courtesy lessons are grouped here as well but are sometimes given their own category or even placed under Practical Life. So this piece of planning encompasses quite a bit. I will look at each subcategory and think through what she needs. I then will write down the first three things we will do in each one (unless it is a theme) and then plug it into the weekly schedule. Language work is always on the shelves but each cultural work may not be. It varies. In a traditional classroom, you would see more out at once than you do in a a homeschool setting.
Sensorial is probably the easiest for me at this time. I go to the scope and sequence and look for what she is ready for next. Make my list. Simple.
Next, I think though how I can incorporate counting and numeration into a theme. We have not yet introduced the first mathematical material which is the number rods. These are introduced once a child has mastered the red rods and are often closer to the age of 4 so I do not expect to have these on the shelves until later in the school year. For now we will just practice counting, read our board book, “Number Work”, and engage math organically within our environment. The sensorial materials lay much of the ground work for future math activities.
With my youngest, since I am so new to doing Montessori with a baby (not just a toddler), I actually am re-reading the chapters on 6 months-18 months “Montessori from the Start” and “The Montessori Toddler“. Some of this does overlap with when we went 100% Montessori with our first, but I definitely need a refresher. PLUS I need to focus on our youngest, not just what we did with our oldest.
After re-reading, then I am doing my brain dump for my 6 month old. I plan for my oldest first so I will think through similar themes. I may ask myself, how can I give my baby a relevant, age appropriate experience during this theme? What would she enjoy doing while my oldest is working on X? They do not have to be in the same space although I know that the more mobile my youngest gets, the more she will choose to be in sister’s materials or space and need to plan for this as well. I am also thinking through what will be needed for both during our day to ensure I can protect the three hour work period and promote exploration for my youngest at the same time. After I get through the brain dump, I will edit a little (although it is not as fluid as planning for my older daughter) and then I will create my list and outline.
Once my outlines and detailed planning for the next quarter are done for both girls, I will create my to-do list and my shopping list. Some things I will DIY or print at home and other things will need to be purchased. We spread out our purchases so that we can do them monthly or every other month in order to keep things affordable for our family. We started purchasing for the 3-6 classroom ahead of time and already have some items so we will not be starting from scratch. If you are just getting started and are looking for where to buy materials, training, or resource texts here is a post to get you started: Preparing to Teach Montessori 3-6 at Home.
Quick recap… here’s my planning process:
- Brain dump (Themes)
- Brain dump (Scope and Sequence- For Themes)
- Edit the Brain Dump
- Scope and Sequence list (From each subject!)
- Outline the Year
- Detailed plan for the next quarter
That’s my process! Hope you find it helpful. Best wishes for the 2020/2021 School Year.