Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

Maria Montessori

I am back from a short break of blogging.  Over the past few weeks, I looked over some of my most popular and most searched posts.  My first post on the above quote is a popular search.  However, the post I wrote with it does not go into much detail about the quote.  I thought it fitting that I would use the quote again as I wrote about some of our summer.

The past few weeks have been filled with blogs and articles about the importance of play and giving kids the opportunity to play freely in their environment.  Well, this is what we have done-not because an article or a blog or research told us to but because it is fun, and it is what we do anyway.

My husband and I set up the environments (not really, but we chose the environments we live in and play in are our choices so I will say that we set them up).  Our backyard is wooded with a sandbox, a zip line, a swing set with slings, a small play house that is now storage for the kids’ inventions, lots of woods, a mountain bike trail nearby, gardens, tools, and supplies.  Inside, the children have art supplies, legos, blankets galore, and food.  They bring their amazing imaginations into our environments and fascinating things start happening.

We schooled for the 9 months prior to our summer vacation.  Since I am their teacher, I know what was taught.  I get to watch as the lessons that we went through during the school year come together in their play.  They used their environments to develop tipis, lean-to’s, and other forms of shelter- learning what will keep out the rain and the wind and what won’t.  They developed tunnels, roads and lakes in the sandbox to allow the explorers to search out their new world.  Worlds and stories were made in the playroom with legos.  My kids do not like to make what is on the box of the legos.  They want to design their own creations.  Their worlds contains boats, fire trucks with the appropriate apparatus, bucket trucks, ticket booths, farms, marinas, police stations, junk yards, stores and more.  They make the worlds come to life.  They name their people based off of the characters in the books they have read or the myths that they have studied.

The creativity is amazing here everyday.  They cook.  They draw.  They invent.  They play in their environment utilizing every piece of it.  So what does this have to do with education?  Everything.  During their play, they are experimenting and working through the scientific method without even knowing it.  They are increasing their vocabulary by using the words that they have learned throughout the year in context of their play.  They play for hours in these environments which will help with increasing their attention span and working memory when we do go back to lessons.  Cooking (which they love, because the love to eat and with all of our crazy food choices-we have to cook everything from scratch) gets them reading, doing math, and sequencing.  (For us, it also teaches patience-why do the brownies take so long to cook?).  They observe as the bees go from flower to flower and know that that bee is essential for our garden.

People ask me if we school during the summer.  Of course, my answer is, “no.”  However, the reality is that yes. there is school going on here-just not formal schooling.  They are not listening to me give a lesson or watching a television or playing a video game.  They are manipulating and exploring their environments, inventing new gadgets for matchbox cars and legos, and educating themselves in a way that I can not.