Sunday, July 22, 2007

Montessori

As I have no homeschooling plans to put together for next year, my mind has turned to Little Cherub. Yes, yes. I know she is only thirteen months old. And I learned a lesson about overdoing early education with my poor experimental first child. But still ...

When Angel was small I dabbled a little with Montessori. Read a couple of books, and started (but never finished) making various manipulatives. I did manage to teach her to put on a coat Montessori-style, but that was about it. Star came along, and somehow time to make materials and prepare an environment went out the window. I discovered literature-based learning and Charlotte Mason and forgot about Montessori.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about Montessori education on the 4 Real Learning boards, and it has inspired me to think about this for Little Cherub. This time round I have time - at least in theory - to prepare Montessori activities (buying anything more than a select few isn't an option), and should also find it easier to create and maintain a suitable environment. Space is an issue, but with some creativity I should be able to manage. If I ever finish decluttering, that is.

There are a number of things that appeal to me ...

  • the emphasis on practical life activities and fostering independence. I can see Little Cherub going the same way as her eldest sister ("I do it mine self! I do everything mine self!": Angel, aged 2) and this could help to minimise frustration.
  • the ordered environment in which everything has its place and in which the child can function freely.
  • freedom within limits. I like the idea that she can choose which activities to work on so that she can learn at her own pace.
  • the materials. Many of them look so appealing and I can see how they would be enjoyable for a child to use while also being educational.
  • lots of ideas for learning activities, which I hope would mean a child who was busy rather than bored.
On the other hand I know I would never be able to be a Montessori purist as I can't resist changing and adapting. Certain aspects do not sit well with me ...
  • I understand Montessori discourages imaginative play, and that bothers me.
  • I wonder how well Montessori would work with just one child. While it would certainly give me time to prepare and present materials, and to observe her needs, I suspect it could become too intense.
  • My understanding is that Montessori materials are presented in a highly sequential way, and my older girls - Star in particular - have often learned in leaps rather than a steady progression. How would this work with Montessori?
  • Is Montessori an all or nothing approach? I know I would end up picking and choosing parts and leaving others, and wonder if this would undermine the whole idea.
Lots to think about here, and to plan for. I'm afraid what would be typical of me would be to jump in with enthusiasm, spend a year or so making Montessori materials and then switch directions at the last minute and never use them. Either that or to spend too long thinking and then never put the plans into action. Can I manage a happy medium? Think ... decide ... construct ... implement. Maybe.

3 comments:

Katherine in TX said...

This is the rabbit trail I've been on lately. I've only begun to research the Montessori method, but so far I am very interested. I too especially like the idea of everything having its place to help the child function freely. Like you, I've been trying to use the FlyLady's tips to unclutter the house and am hoping that it will make a partial Montessori transition easier.

Purist Montessori I'm not quite sure about. The idea of my 3 year old coring an apple and grating a carrot scares the beejeebies out of me. :)

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this topic.

dorothy said...

Way. Way. Way too early to be thinking about her education!{LOL!}

Relax and have fun! I would!

Anonymous said...

I am a Montessorian - from my training and experience, I understand that Montessori would discourage fantasy. Imagination of real things is fine. Einstein was a supporter of Montessori and also believed in imagination being of utmost importance - but not fantasy imagination as adults often think imagination of children to be. Montessori felt that nature is amazing enough for the imagination to develop. Fantasy would not help a small child. I would not present a child under 3 and preferably under 6 with fantasy. I have brought up my children in this way and they are not weirdos today. Peter Pan can be enjoyed at six with the child fully aware that we don't fly and not getting nightmares or believing that Nevernever land exists. It is confusing for a small child even though we might not be aware of it. Imagination in reality is what the child would need. Montessori starts from birth (and most would agree from conception). Attitudes of mother count enormously. Natural birth, breasfeeding, etc are all part of it. The 0 - 3 period is more important than the 3- 6 and so on. You are right to be concentrating on your attitude/approacha and being prepared spiritually. It is this approach which is vital - not the materials. The materials are wonderful and have been used all over the world by different cultures and have proved to meet the needs of all these different children. Nothing goes to say that you cannot achieve this through other materials. However, these have been developed from observing real needs of children and so you can take advantage of this knowledge. Things like respect for tiniest children need to start at birth. No use of cot beds, but a matress instead so that the child can crawl into bed when she decides, etc. are all part of it. Cloth nappies, natural and beautiful objects are necessary - everything precious to your culture (including music, pottery art) should be present in the tiny child's environment from the start. I would recommend reading Michael Olaf magazine which is available on the web for an excellent overview of Montessori for laypeople. And all this sharing and watching your child grow into his unique self without molding him into some preconceived idea is FUN.