Teacher Series: Finding Materials on a Budget
I have come across many people, whose eyes widen as they attempt to process the fact that I am a Montessori teacher, after I tell them what I do for a living. First, because they might not be aware of what Montessori really is, and second, because the word Montessori itself sounds “expensive.”
From private tuition to materials, Montessori can be a pricey way of life. But, let’s be real here. A teacher is a teacher, and Montessori or not, teachers across North America don’t really have the funds to spare. And while Montessori materials are known to be esthetically beautiful, and any true Montessori classroom you walk into could possibly resemble a page from a Pottery Barn magazine, the truth is that we, Montessori teachers, are always on the look out for a good bargain. It actually makes us giggle, it makes our eyes light up, it makes our hearts beat fast, and we even play out the scene from Rocky (you know the part where he reaches the top of those stairs, triumph music playing in the background, yeah that part), when we find the most perfect and beautiful materials that do not break the bank. Oh, it is such beautiful moment, and we are constantly on a scavenger hunt for more. So while yes, Montessori is known for offering top of the line eye pleasing materials, we can create or find beautiful activities, and not break the bank.
Here are some of my suggestions…
First, let’s talk about your local dollar stores and thrift stores. These places are gems for a Montessori classroom, allowing us to choose from an array of things that are affordable and wont hurt us terribly if they break. From trays, dry beans to glass beads, with the right amount of time and imagination, you can create beautiful activities perfectly suitable for any Montessori classroom. Dollar stores lead the way in winning any teacher’s heart, due to the fact that they also offer seasonal items. With a Montessori classroom being ever changing, this is very important in order for us to keep our environments up to date and inviting. Thrift stores follow closely behind offering hidden treasures. While I have been fortunate to have lived in many countries, I have to admit that some of my greatest finds from around the world, have been at my local thrift stores. I have found beautiful artifacts, unique and delicate pouring materials from various countries, and even authentic dress wear native to some lands.
I also have to praise antique stores and garage sales. I once found the most beautiful hand crafted wooden calendar at an antique store and two beautiful large Japanese dolls, wearing Kimonos, at a block sale. Dollar areas or clearance aisles in your favorite stores are perfect for creation. Some of my nicest creations have come from these isles. Yes, some luck and a good eye is important too, but there are treasures everywhere, you just have to keep an eye out and have some good storage. Also, your student’s parents can be a great source as well. Don’t forget that your families travel, be it for leisure or business, and most often than not, they are beyond happy to bring back a little memory from their trip.
It is also important to note, that there is an array of materials ready for you to access, for free, online. Many Montessori websites offer some print outs for free. Some websites require a quick registration that might consist of your name and e-mail, which is a pretty good exchange for access to many free files. One of my favorites this year is https://welcometomommyhood.com/
This mommy developed website has a very heartwarming story as well as very beautiful free print outs. I gravitate towards this website due to the beauty and realistic printouts. I hope you like it as much as I do! Social media sites have virtual garage sales and Montessori pages you can join. They are a great source for well kept materials and some even offer shipping.
Lastly, don’t forget those coupons and teacher discounts. Many stores offer great savings in the form of coupons that will often offer 20-50% discounts on regularly priced items. And if you are a teacher, make sure that before you cash out, you ask if they offer teacher discounts.
Bargains offer much happiness to the heart. Keep an eye out for that perfect deal and enjoy finding hidden treasures that will make your Montessori environment absolutely esthetically beautiful, but won’t break the bank.
In our next two blogs of this “Teacher Series,” one teacher will share the treasures she found through visiting estate and garage sales and the magic of the Dollar store!