Laura’s famous!

Today, Laura was featured as a guest blogger on the NAMC blog.  You can see her post about fractions here:


Our decision, by the numbers

As you can imagine, quite a bit of discussion and debate went into the decision to embark on our Montessori home school journey. While the majority of our conversation centered around the educational philosophy and ensuring the quality of our daughter’s experience, we also had to compare the logistical and financial aspects of Montessori in our home versus enrolling our daughter at the nearest elementary Montessori program. This post provides some of the data that went into our analysis.

The school where our daughter attended her Montessori primary program does not have a full elementary classroom yet. Students can get dropped off at that campus to be bused to a nearby campus that does, however. This campus is a bit over 21 miles from our house, and we rarely encounter traffic on the way, allowing us to make the round trip in about 1 hour. This totals to 2 hours and 85 miles of driving per day, or about 350 hours and 14,875 miles per year. Taking the IRS standard mileage deduction of $0.50/mile for simple math, the commute to and from school costs about $7,450 per year. And that doesn’t even attempt to put a value on the time.

Alternatively, there is a strong elementary program at another campus in the area approximately the same distance as the crow flies – however, this campus requires battling substantial rush hour traffic, adding even more time and logistical difficulty.

Then there’s tuition. At $15,000 for the year, it’s a huge commitment. Add that to the mileage costs, and budget something for uniform purchases and classroom donations, and you end up somewhere north of $23,000 per year ($2,300 per month on a 10-month payment schedule) – again before attempting to value the time spent shuttling back and forth. Over the full three-year lower elementary cycle, that’s nearly $70,000. Yikes!

On the other hand, this school at home thing sure isn’t free either, especially when we’re trying to provide a Montessori experience. So far, it looks like the physical Montessori items are going to cost about $1,800-$2,000 from KidAdvance, with another $600 on the CD full of materials from Montessori For Everyone. Add another $500-$1,000 for material preparation and classroom/office supplies, and you end up right around $3,500 in cash out of pocket. The good news is, these materials are designed to last for the three-year lower elementary cycle.

Now, to get the full picture we have to include some other elements as well. We’ve joined up with a local homeschool enrichment group, where our daughter will participate in classes one day a week. Tuition for that program is roughly $500 per quarter, so add $2,000 per year. Plus, there’s transportation required, of about 27 miles each way, or 55 miles round trip. Taken roughly 30 times per year, that’s 1,650 miles, or another $825 per year. Total drive time: approximately 30 hours per year.

And of course, there’s the cost of the Montessori training program through NAMC – another $3,000 one time fee to cover the three-year lower elementary cycle.

So, taken together, that’s a one-time hit of $6,500, with an annual budget of roughly $3,000, or maybe a bit more depending on what other enrichment programs we end up with. Over the full three-year lower elementary cycle, that’s $15,500, though in reality it will probably creep up towards $17,500 or $18,000, which would equate to $6,000 per year.

Conclusion: for us, homeschooling is substantially less expensive, and less logistically complicated, than enrolling in the nearest lower elementary Montessori school program.



Chinese checkers

We are beginning the process of moving things around within our house to prepare for the upcoming school year. Initially, we considered doing away with our guest room and placing the classroom in the basement, but the need to supervise two one-year-olds during school time and a recent reminder of the guest room's usefulness convinced us to look at other spaces for the main classroom area. In the end, we decided to shift the contents of the playroom, a smallish square room on the main floor of our house that was built as a home office space, to an oddly-shaped, mostly unused landing at the top of the stairs. After recently investing a not-insignificant amount of time turning a huge pile of mess into an organized play space, we were loath to dismantle it. Seriously, loath. We did it, however, reminding ourselves that our house is not a museum, and that it needs to work for our current needs. (See also: dining room as nursery.) Here are a few photos of the room in playroom mode:

Playroom mode


Playroom mode

Doors and windows

Playroom mode

Dress up, etc.

Playroom mode

Table area


Given that our goal is to create a Montessori-style lower elementary learning space, our priority in furnishing the classroom space is to create a peaceful, organized space with room to work on the floor and at the table. Our classroom's table will be an Ikea desk harvested from the landing area. We also brought in four three-level, folding wooden bookshelves from other areas of the house. To clear these, we traded a bunch of our beloved books with a local used bookstore for store credit. (We plan to use the store credit to buy non-fiction books and reference books for the classroom.) It took us years to work up the nerve to get rid of some of our books, but it felt good once we finally did it. The local used bookstore deserves further mention as a resource for this sort of project, and will be discussed in another post.

We hope that the shelving we have available will hold a nice selection of Montessori materials, though we're not exactly sure yet how the materials will be arranged. We'd love to create some approximation of the traditional areas of a Montessori elementary classroom, but space and budget will place some limits on our ability to do so. Most of our materials have yet to be purchased/made/created, so stay tuned on that front. Here are a few pictures of the room in what we'll call an early, very rough draft of classroom mode:



Our particular situation

Like all experiments, ours is conducted within a particular environment. As of summer 2012, the key facts are:

  • We have three kids, ages 6, 10 months, and 10 months.
  • Both parents hold at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Both parents are products of public schools and school systems from K-college graduation and even for some graduate work. We loved most things about school. We even met in school.
  • Dad works from home most of the time.
  • Mom is a certified secondary English teacher who has taught in public and private schools and is currently pursuing Montessori lower elementary certification.
  • Mom is also an experienced tutor, though currently on a very part-time basis.
  • Our daughter, 6, recently graduated from an AMS-accredited Montessori primary program.
  • From the age of 6 months until age 3, our daughter attended traditional center-based daycare during the school year.
  • We live in what would probably be considered by most to be the exurbs of DC, but we are close to almost every suburban amenity under the sun.
  • We plan to homeschool our daughter using a Montessori-style approach for at least the next academic year, which will be her first grade year.
  • Our twin one-year-old sons will also be at home full-time. Yikes.
  • We live within a half-hour of our children's three grandparents, all of whom are still working. This means that we have some relief help available to us, but that we do not have daily assistance.

Let us know if we left out something essential.

What we’re up to

This blog chronicles the efforts of a family to assist its children in their efforts to become fully-functional, independent adults. I suppose we'll spend a lot of time later debating what actually constitutes a fully-functional, independent adult in this place and time. That should be fun; we genuinely look forward to that sort of discussion and debate. We love constructive input, suggestions from those who are knowledgeable types in all sorts of areas, and food for thought. We hope you'll find it interesting to learn more about the approach that one family in one particular situation is taking to education. We'll try to contribute productively to the ongoing conversations from which we've learned so much and stolen so many great ideas. Next time, we'll describe our particular situation and where we stand right now.