Once I saw passion brimming from my son, I knew politics was going to be in his life forever. It was then that I was compelled to tailor his education around his goal of becoming a lawyer. I got some assistance on helping him set his goal by calling these family lawyers. Little did I know that I was following a basic tenant of The Montessori Method. As the years have gone by, and the more I’ve read, I am even more astounded by the genius of this philosophy. He is into sports so I could send him into the stafford sports college.
What is Montessori?
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. Her work with mentally disabled children in the early 1900s helped contribute to her development of the Montessori Education Method. She believed that if every child was placed in an environment that was tailored to their interests, they would naturally gravitate toward learning and thrive beyond imagination. Her philosophy was “follow the child” and their interests and they will teach themselves.
Clearly, independence and self-directed learning are key concepts in the Montessori Education Method. Kids are encouraged to move freely in a natural learning environment as they receive individualized instruction with an emphasis on reading, writing and training their senses.
The Quiet Hum of Independent Learning
A few years ago, Jenni and I visited a local Montessori school. It was one of the most interesting experiences I had ever encountered, as far as classrooms go. The first room we visited was the pre-school room.
There was a quiet, almost rhythmic hum across the room, as these little people moved freely about the different stations — a dish washing station; a station where they could have a tea party; an ironing board with a pretend iron; a space at a table for cleaning different items with Q Tips; a place to apply lotion.
Off to the side, there was a spot on the counter where the children could pour themselves a drink and grab a snack when they needed it. Oh, and did I mention, everything around the room was preschool sized? Every item fit into their little hands perfectly. It was like visiting a home run by pre-schoolers, and we were the outsiders peeking in on there well functioning world.
To top it off there was no arguing, loud screams or running around. Each child was quietly busy and completely focused and content with what they were doing. I hadn’t quite seen anything like it before.
As we moved to the older age groups (Montessori groups kids by age range, rather than strict grade levels), we saw the same quiet and focused independent activity. Some kids were lying on a small rug working through a math problem with the teacher. Two others were examining a globe and writing their findings in a book. Another student was nestled in a comfy spot reading a book.
We asked one of the teachers how it all works, and she explained that each student has goals for the week that they must meet, but how they choose to get there is up to them. Teachers are there to instruct when necessary, facilitate an occasional project, answer questions and offer guidance.
Jenni and I shot each other a knowing glance. What that teacher described sounded a whole lot like our own homeschool environments, which leads us to the question: how can homeschoolers bring this method that prides itself on self-directed learning into their homes?
Obviously, it’s best to start out when our kids are tiny. Earlier this week Jenni wrote a wonderful blog on creating a Montessori toddler bedroom. Be sure to check it out.
The Montessori Method is process-oriented rather than product-oriented.Typically, the process is first demonstrated for the child, then the child is encouraged to duplicate the process they were just shown and repeat it until they have completed the task or until they are tired of doing it.
The Youngest Learners
Workboxes are a great way to teach this process to younger children. A workbox is a container that has an activity in it which encourages the development of a particular skill. For younger children they are typically great catalysts in helping develop fine motor skills. Check out this link for some great ideas for workboxes and to see how it’s done.
As our kids grow and mature, so does their curiosity. Remember when your kids were little and they mimicked everything you did and said? They were learning. They were practicing how to be grown up, communicate, and process the world around them. Believe it or not, that never really changes. That’s why it’s so important for you and your spouse to set good examples before them with your free time, work ethic, adult relationships, decisions, etc. If they see you choose a book over TV, the more likely they will do the same. If they see you work through a problem through prayer and faith, the stronger the chance is that they will imitate that behavior. So, with that mindset, it’s so important that our kids see us modeling a love of learning, hard work and a spirit of excellence.
Kids at this level LOVE a project. The Montessori method teaches you to observe your child’s interests and follow those interests. They have some uber cool activities on Pinterest for this group. I found a DIY moon phase activity, a square root board, DIY solar system bracelet, and much, much more. I think you could almost run your entire homeschool year directly from Pinterest.
Einstein once said, “Precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not – or at least not in the main – through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture.”
Middle and High School
One style of Montessori education for this age group is called Erkinder, meaning “Farm School” (German for Earth-Children) and is very hands-on. In an Erkinder program, kids live on and literally run a farm, and their education is based on running the farm. They learn the business side of farming, how to tend to the crops and how to take care of the animals. Along with the actual running of the farm, students keep up with the rigor of academic studies based on books and field trips. These kids are taught creative living, real life skills and gain true confidence in themselves. These are accomplishments that they will look back on for the rest of their lives.
How about this for a skillset graduating from high school?
“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams, earning a secondary diploma, and proceeding on to university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.” — Maria Montessori, The Erdkinder
Bringing It Home
So, let’s look at some ways you can offer some of these opportunities to your kids if you don’t live on a farm. You could start by hunting down some great field trips. Most areas of the country have farms that you can visit. While you’re there take some notes as to how you can create different aspects of the farm in your own backyard.
Look for unit studies that you can bring to life. Maybe it looks like a butterfly garden or a hydroponic stacker. Ask your kids for input. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can study and try to recreate that environment on a smaller scale in your own space. Set yourselves up for some long-term projects.
Look for apprenticeships in the area that your kids are interested in or get creative and together figure out a business your child can run. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s student-directed and stirs up curiosity in your kid. The Montessori Education Method is all about creating an environment where your child is learning simply by being in that particular space and being allowed to flow naturally in it. Just be sure you don’t leave out great literature and the humanities.
To keep it all in order, consider making your student a Weekly Task List. Write down their academic goals for the week, and meet with them regularly to see how they’re doing. Jenni and I have used this system in our homes for years, and it works very well. You create independent learners, and although you are still there to do some projects with them, read to them and answer questions, you’ll also find that you’ve got a good amount of free time, which you can use to work with younger kids, make food, do house projects, or even reach your own personal goals.
Let’s keep in mind that the whole reason we homeschool is so that we can choose how we educate our children. We have the freedom to pick and choose from different teaching styles, curriculum and resources. So, if you want, you can do one subject using the Montessori method and another using an unschooling method and another using a classical method. It’s entirely up to you. That’s the beauty of homeschooling!
Tune in this Saturday at 10AM to hear Montessori experts talk about the fastest growing trend in education worldwide. Local folks can catch us on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else can listen live streaming at the WSRQ Radio website or get instructions there to download a mobile app.