Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our Journey Into Montessori: Part 1

We’ve been home schooling now for about 2 years and 3 months (wow how time flies). During that time we’ve tried various approaches from school at home, the classical method to complete unschooling, some of these approaches felt right some of the time. All of these approaches were brought about by our spending time with other well meaning home schoolers that felt that their approach was the best approach and after spending time with them I began to feel that maybe it too was the best approach for us. Whilst I completely understand that these different approaches work well for certain families using them as a hard and fast rule was not for us. If there is one thing for sure, that is we will never be a true ‘school at home’ home schooling family. I think I can safely say that we will always be an eclectic homeschool, picking and choosing the bits that work best for us at any particular time.

In saying that, I strongly admire, in fact I am in awe of families that unschool and allow their children to learn naturally, as learning should be. Not those that do next to nothing with their kids and just hope they grow up ok. The families that truly meet the needs of their children whilst allowing them the freedom and having the confidence in their children to be their own driving force with their education.

To be able to just drop everything because your child has decided that their current passion is Vikings and they wish to construct a viking ship and reinact a viking battle is, in my opinion, a precious commodity to behold. Not all of us are so open and relaxed with our time and approach to our days.

I am a planner, love to plan. Just ask my husband I am forever walking around with a notepad and pen, planning something. I do not do schedules though! I’ve never been able to stick to a schedule anyway and so over time I have learnt to not bother with them. So although I have my plans I also really love to have the flexibility to drop everything to go on rabbit trails, should the desire strike or to allow the kids a day off if they are deeply engrossed in some other worthwhile activity. I am however uncomfortable with just leaving everything to chance and hoping the kids will learn all that they should so that they end up with a solid education.

That’s where, for me, Montessori really comes into it’s own. I can plan and prepare various topics covering all of the subject areas and still allow my children the freedom of choice. The freedom to work on geography all day or all week if they so desire. That I am comfortable with!

Whilst I’ve been aware of Montessori schools and the movement itself for some time I didn’t know a great deal about it, except that it was very child orientated, until recently. Something, I have no idea what, pushed me to pick up a couple of books and to start reading Montessori inspired blogs. I’m guessing now it was the knowing inside that I wanted more for the kids; more freedom, more pleasure, more satisfaction in their learning journey. Not just the coming together at the dinner table to do their school work and then running off to play where the real fun and enjoyment is had.

I don’t believe that learning should be a chore, especially for young children. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know how to work hard and apply themselves. Everyone needs to know how to apply themselves when necessary, but to be able to do this in work that has meaning, (not time wasting worksheets) work that is inspiring them, making them think, getting them excited (not spending wasted hours in a classroom). This has been something that has been on my mind for awhile and so seeking out Montessori was a fairly natural progression I suppose.

I first tried the feel of Montessori back in April with our Easter Activities. I prepared several themed activities (mostly just for fun), laid them out on trays and positioned them on the shelves. It certainly made for a lovely display.

I was amazed at how the kids took to it. After explaining the procedure of choosing the activity, taking the tray to their chosen spot either on the floor or at the table, completing the activity, cleaning up and returning the tray ready for the next child to use. They jumped right up and got to it, they really took to it like ducks to water.

After Easter I emptied out our large hallway linen cupboard and started laying out the kids schoolwork on trays and allowing them the freedom to pick and choose their activities.

This worked, except, in my opinion we still had too much bookwork and one cupboard was nowhere near enough shelving.

Recently, K5 especially, has been asking when we are doing more , “of those activities on trays, like we did at Easter time mummy” obviously she loved the set up and the way in which the activities provide structure but freedom within that structured environment.

So I am now in the process of rearranging our shelving in our learning room bookshelves (which is a temporary space, but that is a whole other post) so that the bottom halves are empty to use for ‘Monti Trays’.

I’ve been reading, reading, reading and watching lots of ‘how to’ videos on You Tube. Books, blogs, articles anything and everything Montessori. I will add to the left side bar the books I’m reading and I do plan at some stage to give my own review on them (albeit a very new to the ‘monti way’ perspective) I’ve been gathering (at this stage) mostly free printables and have been cutting, gluing and laminating. Organising the materials is quite a task. I’m also sorting through what we have on hand to see how I can use it in the room or how I can adapt it to suit the Montessori philosophy.

My plan is to present more monti shelf activities to the kids this term. I should have enough shelves to cover all of the major subject areas. I will however need to rotate more often as I simply don’t have the space that a standard Montessori room would have.

Here's a few shots of the room as it stands, bare bottom shelves all ready and waiting for lots of activities to be added to them.

The view of the room from the doorway.

The shelves to the left will be Math, then the large shelf unit to the right (which I have already given away to a friend, I'm just waiting on a couple of new low shelves to take it's place) will house Language and Science/History work.

This area for now will hold sensorial and practical life. I think we are really going to run out of room though but for now it will do.

And the Geography/Cultural Area.

The bookshelves house all (well most) of our books, except children's picture books, they desperately need a home.

I plan on a few more posts about our initial journey into Montessori, these will also (hopefully help me get my head around a few things.


Stuff On My Blog said...

Really nice set up Kylie! I think you're going to kill the book cases housing the reading books, that's quite a collection!

Kylie said...

Thanks Cari! Oh yeah they are just cheapies. I am waiting on custum built floor to ceiling day they will come ;-)

Heidi said...

Those are great shelves to start your Montessori journey on! Start small and you will have plenty of time to figure out what you need and what you don't need.

I appreciate your comment on not being an unschooler, yet knowing you would never be a school at home homeschooler. I have always wanted to write a post or an article (I freelance write) on the connection there. I definitely see how Montessori fits into that niche!

I can't wait to hear more!

Kylie said...

Thanks Heidi, it can be a bit overwhelming to know what to do and not what to do!

I truly believe (from my reading) that Montessori fits perfectly between the two just nicely.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I will be visiting and scouring your blog alot nowadays hehehehe

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