Homeschool Tour: Mid-Century Modern Meets Montessori
I’m so excited to share our Montessori-inspired, mid-century modern home with you! Although we are not following any formal homeschool curriculum yet, our home is a place where our kids are constantly learning while playing!
After relocating several times and working irregular hours, my husband and I became minimalists who crave organization.
Since neutral designs are calm and relaxing, we also fell in love with mid-century modern furnishings. The layout of our home is also inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy.
Explore this: How We Transformed Our Play Area / Homeschool Room – Before and After Guide
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Life before Montessori homeschooling
When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I promised that we’d never let toys take over our home. Yet, not long after our daughter was born, our home was filled with unused baby gifts and impulsive purchases. (We did live across the street from Target for a couple years!)
Two years ago, when we moved into our current home, I wanted to be more deliberate about creating a playful yet educational environment.
However, excessive options and colors can be distracting and overwhelming for young children. I noticed that my kids couldn’t find the things they needed, and they weren’t even playing with most of the things we owned.
Furthermore, since we are teaching two minority languages, our home really needed to be decluttered for our Chinese and Korean learning materials to be noticeable.
Related: Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent is Possible
After donating several boxes, rearranging (and rearranging!), and being more selective about our purchases, our space is less cluttered!
However, I feel like we still have too many unnecessary things. Since it’s impractical to replace everything, not everything is Montessori per se. But I do feel like our homeschool “classroom” is gradually improving to meet my kids’ developmental needs.
For reference, my daughter “老大” (lǎodà / oldest child) is 4-years-old, doing basic math, and reading Chinese at a 1st grade level. She also can read Korean and will start learning to read English soon. My son “老二” (lǎo èr / second child) is 17-months-old and doesn’t do any of that yet :).
What do Montessori and mid-century modern mean?
Before I delve into the specifics of what’s in our rooms, I think it’s important to first define Montessori and how it marries well with mid-century modern design. Montessori’s fundamental principles are to:
- Create a prepared learning environment
- Encourage curiosity with developmentally appropriate materials
- Allow a child to learn without interruptions
- Learn in a natural environment (eg, people of different ages, practical life skills)
- Develop a sense of order
- Help a child become independent
Mid-century modern living aesthetic is characterized by:
- Clean simplicity
- Low furniture (eg, accessible for children!)
- Ample windows and open floor plans
Our home has an open concept plan so that the kitchen, dining room, and living room are one shared space. I’m grateful for this, because:
- We have plenty of natural light.
- The kids can easily get from one place to another; they aren’t restricted by walls.
- I can see my children from almost any vantage point.
Montessori inspired homeschool tour: overview
Well, that was a long introduction! Let’s dive into the details of the following:
- Play area
- Reading spaces
- Art storage
- Practical life skills
I have included links to where you can find items and notes about recommendations.
1. Homeschool preschool play area
The kid’s play space is a nook behind our living room.
From left to right, in this space we have:
- Baby Care Play Mat, Large, Sea Petals – Grey – Very soft and comfortable
- Haba wagon – This is great throughout toddlerhood; wheels are adjustable to roller faster or slower.
- B. toys sensory blocks – These are not necessary.
- Melissa & Doug Easel (adjustable height!) – Love love love. This is a must-have.
- Growing Up Green Bamboo Step stool – If you have toddlers, I recommend getting step stools of different heights. We have had this stool for 4 years, and I am going to buy a second one!
- Cubeicals Organizer, 6 cube, white – We have several of these throughout the house!
- Grimms Large 12-piece Rainbow Stacker – This is an open-ended Waldorf toy rather than Montessori, but it’s used daily for creative play! It also comes in small 6-piece size. Admittedly, my husband and I do feel like our house is getting a bit colorful! The kids do love this rainbow, but sometimes I wish I got the natural rainbow stacker instead.
- Grimms Rainbow Friends – Another open-ended Waldorf toy; initially these were ignored, but they are now very much loved
- La Joie Muse Cotton Rope Baskets – Can’t live without these!
- Melissa & Doug Firetruck and Firefighters – Both of my kids frequently play with all of the vehicle toys!
- Melissa & Doug Schoolbus
- Melissa & Doug Wood Vehicles & Signs
- Grimms Rainbow Nesting Bowls – I wish I got the natural version instead per Montessori, but both kids enjoy it.
- Jensen CD player – Highly recommend! My daughter can switch the music as she wishes, and both kids dance to this everyday!
Explore this: The Best Open-Ended Toys for Children
From left to right, this area has the following items:
- Room & Board Perch table and chairs – I love the design, but it is too high for children under 18 months. However, it’s perfect for kids 2 and up! I can even sit on it without feeling like I’m going to break them. For references, I weigh 110 pounds, but I’m not sure if there is a weight limit on the chairs.
- White wall shelves – I love these book racks because my daughter’s Chinese and Korean books are front-facing and easily accessible.
- My First Calendar – All About Today Wooden Board
- From Jennifer Reversible Tracing Map – We love everything from this Etsy shop!
- From Jennifer Reversible Printed Alphabet Board
- From Jennifer Reversible Cursive Alphabet Board
- Clear mini Command hooks
- Mini clothespins
- Pretend clothing flashcards from my website
Explore this: The Best Montessori Inspired Learning Toys and School Resources on Etsy
Here’s what it looks like with the kids!
2. Homeschool tour: reading spaces
This is the main bookcase in our living room. Since Chinese & Korean are our minority languages, these shelves only have books in these languages to encourage my daughter to speak and read it.
When she starts to read English, we will add English books to the mix.
The board books in the bottom two baskets are generally for my son, and the rest of the books are generally for my daughter.
However, they are welcome to look at any book they want!
Item details for the above photo:
- Room & Board Woodwind Bookcase, walnut
- From Jennifer Wooden Geometry Cards + Box
- From Jennifer Reversible 1-10 Number Board
- Grimms Rainbow Stacker – I don’t think this stacker is necessary. Although it’s beautiful, it doesn’t get much use and has since been donated.
- Rope baskets
- Montessori sound cylinders
- DIY Felt Hands Math Activity from my website
Since it’s often hard to find books when only the spine is showing, we have select books on display throughout the house. On the main bookshelf, I have a few baskets so that the front cover is visible. I also have a front-facing bookshelf in a bathroom as shown below.
You may recognize our bathroom bookcase from my post about reading tips! Since kids often spend a lot of time on the potty, we spend a lot of time reading there! We used to have books all over the floor until we got this front-facing bookcase from Pottery Barn. (Looks like we need to get more toilet paper though!)
In addition, we also have a ledge where we rotate different books for display. Sometimes we keep the ledge clear, so the books are extra intriguing when they’re out. For us, this has been a great way to re-introduce forgotten books!
Extra books are stored in my daughter’s closet in two Cubeicals shelves. Below is a peek at one of them. Every few weeks, I switch out books from the main shelves with books in the “storage” shelves.
3. Homeschool tour: playroom art storage
I try to discourage paper hoarding and paper waste, so my daughter is only allowed to keep artwork that fits in this basket. Once it’s full, she decides which pieces are her new “favorites” and recycles the rest. I also have a limited amount of paper in the tray, and both kids are encouraged to use old scrap paper first.
Certain art supplies are freely accessible to the kids:
- Dot paint makers
- Colored pencils
- Rock crayons (my kids actually do not like rock crayons, but many other kids do. So I have this linked for those who might be interested)
The supplies are stored in baskets and divided by paper cups. Although I have removed duplicate colors, there are still too many options for my son’s age. Rather than mastering one skill, he’s busy switching back and forth between the different markers and crayons. However, my daughter has the focus and maturity to explore the various mediums in a meaningful way. My son always wants to copy his big sister, so I have decided to leave these options out for now.
The rest of our art supplies are stored in our dining cabinet! We are minimalist with our dinnerware, so the cabinet contains craft supplies, old paper roll activities, and other learning activities!
Related: See updated Kids Art Cart, Storage System, and Organization Tips
4. Homeschool tour: Montessori practical life skills
Normal, daily chores are some of the most important skills that children can learn from a young age. My son thinks the Swiffer is a fun toy! We shortened the handle for safety, and he sweeps everyday with a smile! This is also great exercise; my son even makes a game out of it and uses the Swiffer to play “hockey” with his other toys.
In addition, my daughter helps fold her own laundry and hangs up her own clothing. Both kids are encouraged to wipe their own spills and pick up things they drop.
I also expect my daughter to help with dish-washing, and my son likes to think he’s participating. For adults, these are tedious tasks, but for children, this is essentially water play!
For access to the counters and sink, step stools are important for helping kids become self-sufficient. Kids can push them around to get to what they need.
I hear great things about the Learning Tower from other families, but we love our Serena & Lily step stools (similar option here). For us, the tower is too bulky and pricey for short-term use.
All of the kids’ dishware is kept in one unlocked cabinet. My son is excited to get bowls and cups for himself and his sister! We also store kitchen toys and pretend play food in this cabinet. However, we do not have a pretend kitchen because we don’t have the space for it. Also, I am happy that we don’t have one, because it encourages the kids to use their imagination!
5. Exercise/outdoor play
Children need constant movement! We have one TV in our living room that is normally off when the children are awake. We limit screen-time, because it causes children to be idle and distracts them from hands-on learning among other negative effects.
One of my favorite splurges from this past Christmas is the Pikler Climbing triangle, rock wall, ladder, and slide. Both kids get so much use out of it, and it’s perfect for getting energy out when we aren’t able to play outside! This set is fold-able, and it’s easy to put away.
Currently, this Skip Hop playmat cushions the floor, but I don’t recommend it. Cleaning is a pain, because dust falls through the crevices. After having it for a couple of years, we will be getting rid of it. Instead, I would recommend this one-piece playmat as shown earlier in this post.
I also get a lot of questions about the bookcase here from Crate & Barrel Kids. I love the mid-century modern style!
However, if you are considering it, I recommend only putting books at the top and not the bottom. The high lip is an obstacle and thus our kids get frustrated because they cannot take out books independently.
Since posting this article, my children now use the shelf for their stuffed animals and extra blankets.
We also keep a basket of balls in our living room! It’s a great way to encourage movement when we’re at home, and we have fun playing soccer and catch with the kids! My daughter knows that we aren’t allow to throw overhand indoors. My son can’t throw very far yet, so no concerns there.
Although this post focuses on our homeschool learning environment, we usually spend half of the day outdoors! And we are lucky to live near parks where the kids play most days of the week.
Related: Sidewalk Chalk Activities: 12 Fun Ways to Play and Learn Chinese!
Thank you for visiting our Montessori inspired homeschool tour!
Simplifying our home and gradually setting up each area has make a big difference for our family! I’m sure this space will continue to change as the kids grow, and I hope that sharing the thought process can help your family, too.
Oh i love this so much! I was looking for inspiration for our house as i plan our nursery but while not throwing away everything and keeping for a future office, playroom, craft area and reading area for our kids. Read every part of it. I am Asian, living in the US with literally the same home vibes as you, minimalist and when our baby is big enough, Montessori centered. This is very helpful and i love that your space is so real and not like a fake youtuber/ig influencer but a real Mom who just wants to be as neat as possible while raising her family. Thank you for this. I will sure be saving all the info to use when our baby is bigger!
This is so inspiring! Makes me feel like I can do it too! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for another beautiful post. It’s great to hear what worked and didn’t as well. My apartment is currently overwhelmed with ALL THE STUFF for my 14 month old. Good to know others go through the process of accumulating then culling too.
It’s also very generous to share your general parenting style as well as the language learning, which was what originally led me to your site. Thank you again.
I’m trying to find a better way to store all the children’s books in one space for my son. Now that he is older, at five, I feel your book organization in your daughter’s bedroom closet may work. I’ve been looking all over your instagram and website for how the transformation of the closet came about, but couldn’t find it. My biggest question is where do you put all the clothes and stuff that was in the closet?
Hi Jennie! Thank you for your email! Sorry I did not get a chance to write a post about our closet changes yet! I have showed some closet changes in my Instagram stories, but I will email a photo in the meantime!
First, your site and work is so inspiring. I love how you have successfully integrated languages, Montessori methods, and faith in a way that nurtures all members of your family. Your dedication is so evident in what you have created. Thank you for sharing your insights. My two girls are the same age as your children and I am just starting the process of trying to arrange our home to be more Montessori oriented and decluttered. Do you have any suggestions for where to start first? If you happen to have a checklist that you used to prioritize investments on toys and materials that would be great too. I’m also curious to know where you found the two step stools your children are using to reach the sink.
Hi Jeanne! Thank you so much for your kind words and great questions! I really appreciate it! I would suggest first starting with discarding toys. I have added posts from other websites that I though were most helpful. Great idea for a checklist though – I can try to write up a post on that! For general toys, the Grimms rainbow tunnel and Schleich animals are prized by both of my kids over anything else. We don’t have many Legos, but my sister-and-law says that those have been the best in their family for almost a decade! Lastly, the kitchen step stools are from Serena & Lily – I’ll add the link to the post! : ) Please let me know if you think of anything else!
This is a beautiful space! I am in awe. Thank you for sharing your inspiration. I am also interested to hear what you don’t think is necessary or required because I was thinking of getting the Grimms stacker and friends. Thanks for steering me in the right direction. I used to think spaces like yours were unachievable for the everyday mom, but the more I “rearrange” the more I approach my goal to have a beautiful and inviting space. Love reading and following your ideas.
Thank you so much, Kyleen! I loved seeing your homeschooling space and reading about your thought process behind it. I’ve added a few more notes about the Grimms stacker and friends. I think the answer depends on whether your preference is for natural/Montessori or if you don’t mind the rainbow colors which are very pretty. From a Montessori perspective, I do wish that we got the natural versions of all of the Grimms toys. The rainbow tunnel stacker and conical stacker both get used throughout the day, everyday, and there’s so much to do with them, so I don’t regret if per se. My daughter also plays with the rainbow friends on and off, but in hindsight, I wish I spent the money on real Montessori materials instead. I may consider donating it to make room for more things.
Thank you for your detailed notes. Yes, it’s such a dilemma to be eclectic. Montessori is so plain for focusing on concepts and Waldorf is so imaginative. As I’ve incorporated more Montessori, I’m also wanting more natural colors of the other toys so they are Montessori-friendly. I already had the natural stacking bowls so when you recommended the natural rainbow to me on IG it was a perfect fit for me. And yes, it’s worlds different than the Etsy one we had. Not sure what to do with the old Etsy one now. My son also misses the colors so maybe I’ll have both color and natural (me going overboard again). I wish you donate all your old toys to me!
I was thinking about the rainbow some more and I think it’s like one of those “spark joy” items that Maria Kondo writes about. So… maybe have both rainbows as an exception to minimalism? Hehe 🙂