Back to school the Montessori way – Part 1: An overview

Autumn has crept up on us. Many children have already returned to school and with our own first day less than two weeks away I thought I’d share our Montessori essentials for back to school. 

The benefit of being both a mother and a trained Montessori Guide is that I live in both the home and school environment. So I’ve compiled a list of Montessori back to school essentials both from a veteran parent and teacher perspective that I’ll come back to and do separate posts on in the upcoming days. 
Let’s start from the beginning:

Routine

This is the absolute most important part of a smooth transition to school. Children especially those from 0-6 years thrive on predictable family rhythms. If your day (especially the morning) is lacking the routine required for a successful start to the school day here’s our suggestions on how to get everyone on track:

  • Pick a time in the morning that everyone should be up by in order to get out the door on time. Then add 15 minutes and set the alarm for the adjusted time. 
  • Make sure your child is going to sleep at a time that will allow for them to wake up rested. 10pm Summer bedtimes DO NOT WORK for the school year. 
  • Don’t wait until the first day of school to start this. Start it ASAP, even if you aren’t going out the door today. It will take awhile for your child to adjust. 
  • Make setting out clothes the night before part of your child’s bedtime routine. Make sure they are clothes your child can use the bathroom independently in! Speaking as a teacher, overalls, skinny jeans and long dresses just don’t work for a young school child. 

I’ll get into more detail about routine in an upcoming post but those are the basics. 

Lunch essentials 


Just like at home, independence in the Montessori classroom is essential for your child’s success. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Shop to ensure you have variety for the week. Variety will help your child’s lunchbox come home empty
  • Too tight thermoses filled with tomato soup are a disaster waiting to happen. If your child has trouble eating a particular food at home don’t send it to school
  • Your child will need to open their own containers. Choose ones your child can open independently and help them practice in advance. 
  • Make sure you know your school’s food/nutrition policy. Many schools have zero junk/zero waste policies or allergy policies. If you are unsure about what to send contact you school or pack a variety of nutrition rich foods in reusable containers. 

I’ll get into what we pack and how we pack it later this week. 

Above all respect the child


This is an emotion filled time for any child. Some children are looking forward to it, some are more anxious. Some will have changing feelings in the upcoming weeks as they transition into their classrooms. Just like we spoke about here, give your child lots of space, love and encouragement. 

If being grilled by a loved one on all the activities you did at work today is annoying, don’t do it to your child. Instead ask them relatable questions such as “What does your playground have?”, or “What did you do that was fun today?”. Be prepared for your child not to be able to answer “Who did you play with?” “What did you do?” kinds of questions. Also be prepared for them to be exhausted. Show them how much you love and respect them by gently offering help if needed, and allow them time to just “be” when they get home. After school IS NOT THE TIME  for getting out more Montessori trays off your home shelves. It’s time for reconnecting with a loved one, reestablishing trust and closeness and just relaxing. 

Instead of more work simply “Follow the Child” 

Sunday Book Club: Best Montessori back to School Books

Hello September. For those of us in the Northren hemisphere we gathering school supplies and retrieving lost lunch boxes. 

Montessori back to school has similarities with mainstream education. The first few days are spent getting to know the ground rules and making new friends. However, there are some important differences. 

Grace and Courtesy lessons are introduced the first day of school. What’s expected of the child is modelled with role play lessons not written down on a chalkboard. Real life examples are used and the children take part actively instead of sitting in their desks listening to the rules. 

If this is your child’s first time going to school it can be a little intimidating and so I’ve compiled our favourite books to help prepare little ones as the head off. 



A little Peace is one of our favorite Peace Education books. It is perfect for the first weeks of school and anytime after that. It’s photographs show children all around the world sharing a smile, lending a hand, and spreading peace. It focuses on an important Grace and Couresty lesson. That peace can happy easily, by offering those around you the simplest of jestures. 
The Invisible Boy puts the reader in the shoes of Brian. A small shy boy who is kind and has a gift for drawing but is picked last for teams, whispered about at the lunch table and wishes the floor would swallow him up. The illustrations are beautiful and I love that there are discussion prompts in the end pages. This is a great book to open up conversations with a child about friendship and respect for others. 

Jack goes to Montessori School is my absolute favorite back to school Montessori book. There are many books about a kindergarten day or a preschool day but sadly very few about what a Montessori 3-6 child experiences in their school day. How goodbyes are said, how to roll out a mat, what the classroom looks like and what materials are used are all featured. This book should be read by every Montessori family and should be in every Montessori schools lending library. 

Giving children ample time to process the transition to school is important. Giving them a head start on the Grace and Courtesy lessons will go a long way to helping them feel connected and at home in the classroom. 

Essential Montessori back to school gear: Thank you to our favourites

   
 With the new school year just underway for us I wanted to take a moment to share our essentials for this year. 
One of the core Montessori values is independence in the child. Beauty and quality of materials are also important. So when I’m shopping for school items for Quentin, I keep those things in mind. 

Here are our essentials:

  
A compact reusable lunch container. We are Studio Ghibli fans  and so this Totoro Lunch Box was perfect. A good thing for parents to make sure they know is, where and how their child’s lunch will be stored. Our school as great little fridges right in the classroom. However they need to accommodate 20 lunches. Bento box style lunches can pack lots of healthy food into a small space. 

  
Little feet are still forming. Children should go barefoot whenever possible to help their feet grow strong and in their natural shape. A full school day is a long time for a small child’s foot to be in traditional shoes. Soft soled shoes for indoors provide protection but allow the foot to move properly. 

These are from Great Scotts Baby Moccs a locally owned shop of handmade leather soft soled shoes. Quentin and I saw them and immediately knew they would be perfect. 

  I fell in love with this messenger bag the moment I saw it. 
Messenger bags are great for preschoolers. They are much easier to put on than a backpack. 

Sierra from Fox and Rebel made and shipped this bag in record time. It is as gorgeous in real life. The arrow patterned fabric lining the inside is a perfect contrast to the simple outside. It comes with the three pins. 

One of my favourite things about Montessori school is that the materials are usually supplied. Quentin doesn’t have a list of “must buy” school supplies. Just these three things are all he needs to get out the door in the mornings. 

And then something very special arrived in the mail. 

  
Marie-Claire the genius behind So Awesome Wallet Cards sent her latest deck. These are perfect for the car trip to school. They are practically indestructible, safe for use from birth and have amazing details and features. They help keep everyone feeling their best as they set off each morning. 

Thank you to all the wonderful artists and makers who make our school mornings so much more bearable. We really couldn’t do it without you.