“Montessori is an education for independence not just for school, but for life.” Maria Montessori

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I spent some time this week reviewing my plans for this year.  Thus far, I like where things are going.  I have noticed a change in my philosophy though.  The previous two years, we mainly followed a Waldorf type of home school curriculum.  I love the way Waldorf brings art and creativity into school work.  I believe the information taught is very appropriate for each age.  However, something didn’t feel right.  I decided to do some more research.

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I found that I am still very much a Montessori-type person.  Thus, I think I need to flow with that.  During my research, I came upon a sentence that basically said- the teacher sets the minimum and the student sets the maximum on each subject.  This resonated with me, so I decided to continue my research into Montessori and this is what I found.

Choice and Deadlines: Montessori schools tend to allow choices within a set of limits (kids do not have endless choices but they do get to have a choice in their work).  Deadlines are not pushed.   I am definitely using the blocks that I had originally set up.  However, I am not forcing the materials that I purchased.  Each child knows what their block is on each month.  From there, they each have some choices in how and what is studied.  Allowing the kids to have input into the curriculum gives them ownership of it.  I also explain that I would like to complete the block in X amount of weeks but that I am not set on it.  For example, Sims decided this month that he would like to continue with business math.  Thus, he started his next book/project on starting a company.  I am finding that when I put a deadline on a work, the motivation quickly decreases.  However, when I present an activity without a deadline, I find the kids working on it outside of “school time.”

Internal versus external motivation: Montessori-schooling believes that children are not empty-vessels but actually motivated doers.  Thus, they do not need extrinsic rewards. I want my kids to be internally motivated.  I find this to be very important to me.  I do not like to set limits; although, I do.  I am finding that I do not have to set nearly as many limits anymore as the kids get older.  We do not have a policy for completing work each day.  There is no reward for completing your work, just as there really is no punishment.  For us, this works.  The kids may not love what they are doing but they do take ownership of it.  I like that they set goals for themselves.  I have goals for each of them as well, but I do not overly focus on my goals.  Typically, both sets of goals will come together in one way or another.

Get a lesson, do a lesson, give a lesson: Ok, this may be my absolute favorite part of Montessori!  I LOVE watching this in action.  Children get a lesson from the teacher or a peer (in our case from me-Mom- or a sibling or a teacher at a class).  Next, the child works on the lesson independently.  Finally, the child gives a lesson on the subject to another person to demonstrate mastery of the subject.  All three children will teach their siblings.  Sometimes, I am taught the final lesson.  Teaching gives each child a better understanding of the topic at hand.  It also gets them thinking about other ways to explain the topic if the first attempt was not understood.  The kids will also collaborate on a lesson.  Collaboration allows each child to teach a part of an activity.

Meaningful learning: Montessori doesn’t have you learn information that is not useful to you.  The lessons tie into real life.  I want the lessons I teach to have meaning to my kids.  Why is it important to learn about history? business math? myths and legends? folk tales?  We make sure that our work is relevant and meaningful.  When the work is not meaningful in their minds, the kids simply complete the work and do not embrace it.  However, when they  see and understand how it effects their lives or they see it in action, they will go over and beyond my expectation of the work.

We are beyond the primary years of Montessori.  We do not have the physical materials that a typical Montessori school has, and I do not give Montessori lessons.  We do have an organized (most of the time) house, with little distractions (the tv and the radio is off), an environment waiting to be explored, and amazing opportunities all around us.  I am beginning to feel settled again after a week of research.  I always seem to end up back in the world of Montessori.  I look forward to observing my children find their summit in each block this year.

 

Second Block

I decided recently to shorten our blocks and repeat them throughout the year.  Thus, everyone is pretty much finishing up their second blocks this week and beginning their new blocks.

I tried out a new curriculum this year for a few of  our blocks.  I purchased the Christophorus Waldorf books for some of the blocks.  The books have a nice layout and the story form is nice.  However, so far we are not loving them.  Parks’ second block looked at heroes.  He began determining what the word hero means to him.  We then went through the Saints and Heroes book and chose a few of the stories.  Overall, the stories were okay.  His imagination was not sparked as it usually is with stories.  For some reason, they did not resonate with him.  I do plan to try another heroes block in the next semester but I will use materials from the library and Waldorf Essentials.

 

The same went with Sawyer’s first man/animal block.  She really wanted to study owls, but for some odd reason (maybe my type A ness popped out after I had done a lot of planning) I could not bring myself to flow with it.  If I had let her study owls in the beginning, the block may have flowed better.  She began by looking at the human and the parts of the human.  We then went through the mouse, the cow and the lion.  Again, in her seconds man/animal block, I will most likely follow the plan set up in Waldorf Essentials.

So the other two blocks went ok but not stellar.  Sims’ block was awesome!  His seconds block looked at business math and economics.  He enjoyed it so much, he asked to continue it before going into our Rome Block.  We used the book Striker Jones by Maggie Larche as our guide.  The book also has a teacher’s companion that is well worth the extra money (if purchased through your kindle it was only an additional $1.99).  The teacher’s manual laid out the concepts that each chapter covers, the definitions, discussion questions, and assignments.  He loved them all!  He also demonstrated the ability to apply the concepts throughout the month in our discussions and errands.  Next, he is going to work through the Pet Store math curriculum by Simply Charlotte Mason.  He is looking forward to the Pet Store.  He designed his logo and started deciding on his inventory.  Over the next few weeks, he will “run” the store using the principles that he learned through Striker Jones.

Now onto block three!  Parks will begin  Animal stories,(although this week we read a story from Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime).  Sawyer will begin the Norse myths and Sims will continue with Business Math.

 

What Am I Missing?

Parks enjoying the peaceful lake.

Parks enjoying the peaceful lake.

I get asked over and over, “how long do you plan on homeschooling?”  My classic answer-”As long as they want to and we are able to financially.  The kids can choose to go back to school at any time.”

So what happens when they actually ask to go to school?  Well, first I try not to freak out (of course, there is a crazy fest going on in my head).  Second, we stop what we are doing and find out what is going on.  So far this year, two of my three have inquired about school.

The first child wanted to have more kids to hang out with.  I think my kids envision school as an episode of Saved by the Bell or High School Musical.  We went through his/her like and dislikes and what type of activities he/she is looking for people to do stuff with.  Needless to say, the activities he/she wanted to do had nothing to do with hanging out or anything to do with the indoors (no shocker since my kids are ALWAYS outside!).  Next we looked at the school schedule.  Here, the public schools are in session for 7 hours each day with a 30-45 minute bus ride each way.  This means being away from home for a minimum of 8 hours each day.  Wow!  (This discussion always makes me realize how fortunate we are to be able to home school.)

The second child simply wanted to experience school.  Why can’t we just go for a day?  He/she wants to know what is going on behind the closed doors.  Again, I have to stop and breath.  What do you want to experience?  Kids hanging out in the hallway.  Playing all day with other kids.  (Uhmmm….again, I think TV shows are influencing my kids, and we don’t watch much tv-Saturday mornings, that’s about it.)

Finally, I have them research the local schools.  Rules-No talking, No getting out of your seat, Raise your hand, Be respectful.  Schedule: Reading, writing, enrichment class, lunch, math, science, recess, reading, dismissal.  Homework:  Homework assigned on Monday and turned in on Friday.  Nothing, they can’t handle and possibly a lot of fun.

So what next?  Well, so far for us-the next step includes looking at what  you will be missing when you do go to school (because so far, everyone hasn’t wanted to try school at the same time so at least two others will still be at home which means that we will still be homeschooling).  Those not going to school can sleep in (well, sort of.  at least until 8), research areas that they are interested in, complete school in a few hours a day, hike weekly, hang out with kids who enjoy the same activities as they do (although, the hanging out isn’t quite as frequent as when you are at school-it is with kids who have the same similar interests), learn using the learning style that fits them best, and have very little stress.

I am not sure where each kiddo will stand next year in their decision to school.  However, every time we have this conversation (which isn’t too often), I realize how grateful I am that I get the privilege to teach these awesomely amazing children.  I also realize how lucky we are to set our own schedules, pick our own studies, and create our own stresses-such as what am I missing at school!

Have your kids ever asked to go to school?  How do you handle it?

Gleaning, Cleaning, and Celebrating!

The week flew by!  Monday, we caught up from the fun-filled weekend.  School included reading and easing back into the swing of things after a week off.  Tuesday morning, everyone jumped right back into their normal routines, which was nice.  However Wednesday, I rocked their world by waking up and saying, “No school books today.  We are going gleaning!”

Sawyer picking green beans

Sawyer picking green beans

We have never gleaned before, but I  recently heard of an opportunity that we could join.  We met up with a group of about 12 people at Barbee Farms in Concord, NC.  We pulled into the farm and immediately jumped onto a tractor to take us out to the fields.  On this particular day, the group gleaned the green bean field.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Clear skies with a gentle breeze.  As this was our fist time, we were not sure what to expect.  Well, it is fairly simple.   The tractor brings you to a field.  You hop off and start picking.  We were spoiled because with gleaning, we got to pull the whole plant out of the ground to pick the beans.  It gave me a major appreciation for all of the workers who pick our veggies throughout the year!  They have a laborious job!  At the end of two hours, all of the beans and people jumped back on the tractor and back to the parking lot.  Here, the beans were distributed to various people who deliver the beans to different organizations and neighborhoods such as loaves and fishes, the battered women’s shelter, and local soup kitchens.

I highly recommend the experience if you ever have the opportunity.  The Society of St. Andrew organizes gleaning groups all over the country.  Not only are you helping your community, you also meet amazing and wonderful people.  The kids learned about different crops, rotating crops, the importance of honey bees on the farm and so much more!

Today, we were back to school. They were extremely productive and motivated to work today.  I am not sure if that was due to the excitement of yesterday or the fact that they had their Muddy Boots Club at Latta Plantation today.  Either way, it was a terrific way to end a terrific week!

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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merton

LEAF!

LEAF!

I am a bit “behind” on my blog due to our annual LEAF festival trip.  We arrived home late sunday evening after another amazing festival.

The LEAF festival is, on the exterior, simply a music and arts festival.  However, you experience so much more.  We arrive the night before the festival begins each year in order to have one day of escape.  The camp appears fairly empty, although all around you people are setting up booths and stages.  The stillness of the evening allows you to listen to nature, see the stars and explore the camp before it comes to life on Friday evening.

Every year, the festival amazes me even more and in a different way.  Last year, the kids made bows and sold them.  They met lots of other children and played with them throughout the weekend.  This year, the kids sold bows again.  Instead of getting excited about the financial gain of selling bows, they got excited seeing their bows throughout the camp and hearing from children who purchased their bows last year.  Evidently, their bows hold up well over time-which they enjoyed hearing.  The kids did not meet a whole lot of new children but they did see lots of familiar faces.  We even connected with several families who live in our area.

We experienced art in many ways.  We listened to and felt the music.  We awed over phenomenal handiwork from metal works and hand-made instruments to beautiful scarves and tapestries.  We witnessed mother nature’s canvas as the leaves change colors.  All around us, we had a world of color.

If you ever get the chance to go to your local art and music festival, jump on it!  You may feel slightly out of place if you are not artistic but that is the beauty of them.  Everyone there is unique.  My youngest kept asking for the meaning of things.  You may look for this too.  However, I have found that sometimes it is best to experience art, see how it makes you feel, accept it and move on.  You may find things you love, and you may find that you do not connect with it.  Your children may find something that they connect with which is such a lovely gift.

And before I forget…Happy Diwali everyone!

 

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First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?

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Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

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