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.
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.