Plunge into Montessori

by Alenka

Baby doing MontessoriHaving a second baby didn’t change anything for us: we are still as eager to spend tons of time educating and having fun with our kids. Actually, it is the same thing – learning – is fun…

Having a second baby changed everything: we have absolutely NO TIME!

I needed something that will allow kids more independent learning, so that I can pay more individual attention to both of my lovely boys. I love Doman methods and I want to continue doing math, reading, encyclopedic knowledge, physical staff, music, languages… but there are just 24 hours in each day! And most of those 24 hours I spend feeding somebody and putting to bed! Sometimes I get a feeling, that feeding and teaching to read are all that I ever do… sleeping and eating myself, obviously, not – my friends are kidding that now I am eating once a week, and they are not too far from truth…

So, I am investigating Montessori methods. As another very overwhelmed and wonderful mother of three put it: “With Montessori – you just have to set the correct environment right and let it do the rest…” It is just a bit more complicated than that.

Our home has always been “Montessori-like” – our oldest “gentlemen” never misses a chance to participate in every possible household task. “When I grow up, I really wish to be able to clean the toilet!” – he once said, when I insisted that this duty is being taken care off without his intervention. Wow, I bet this will change. So we enjoy it while it lasts: wee cook together, we clean together, we do our household errands together. Or, now, at four, he loves to do most of those independently: vacuum the room and wash the floor, sort the laundry and fold clothes, dust and wash, cut vegetables and toss salads… He has his duties and he cherishes his cleaning tools more, then his toys, compute, and even cartoons altogether!

That’s practical activities. But there is a lot more to it! Maria Montessori developed a method of learning through play, through manipulating educational materials, through starting development very early, through kind and respectful interaction between kids and adults, through independent learning. I find many similarities with Doman’s approach: joyful and respectful attitude, enjoying the learning process, starting the development early. I find many differences: Doman’s physical program is unbeatable. You can start Doman reading and math from day one, while in Montessori method, they are not introduced until… 4? 5?

Nevertheless, the downside of Doman’s method is the passive participation of the child – the child is looking at the cards, enjoying the process, but not actively participating in it (unless he is crawling away :) and then Doman method kind of dies in vain). In Montessori classroom – the kids are not only active participants, they each individually learn by experimenting and finding, discovering this knowledge all by themselves. Maria Montessori placed a great emphasis on small motor coordination, that is completely absent in all Doman’s methods, even though they acknowledge its importance.

Well, if the system is so great, why bother with homeschooling and not just send your kid to some Montessori school? Well… of course you can. Especially if you have to send your kids to some preschool/school anyway due to work, time or other limitations. But as one Montessori teacher put it, “there is not Montessori police”. There are wonderful books by Maria Montessori. There are great courses and certification for teachers and even parents. But there is no universal committee going from school to school and verifying that all the principles and ideas are utilized precisely as Maria Montessori envisioned it. So the schools can use the name Montessori, can get accreditation, certification, and its teachers can take courses, but they are still businesses. No offense. It all comes down to the director who is running the school and how they decide to interpret this philosophy… and to the teacher in the class, who communicates to the directly to the kids. After looking at different schools and listening to various friend’s experiences (not only with Montessori), I reached the conclusion, that it is not the system that is important, but a personality of the teacher. A talented teacher can make kid’s eyes sparkle even in the most rigid and confining system, and the ordinary teacher can kill their curiosity even in the most inspiring environment. I think I can be a good teacher to my own kids and create the environment, that will be tailored to their specific needs.

So, why not take the best of all the methods and let kids decide what works for them the best? I see no need for fanatically being a purist. I strongly believe that we can pick up from each author, each method, each scientist only those things, that work best for our kids and our families!

So, enjoy some resources that we found useful for our family: Montessori Resources (coming soon – I’ll start posting our resources tomorrow).

One thought on “Plunge into Montessori

  1. Kristina

    As a AMI Primary trained former teacher, I find that AMI schools are wonderfully reliable as far as being dedicated to the Montessori philosophy in a way unlike any other Montessori schools that I have observed. As a teacher, I had the Montessori consultant evaluate my classroom and offer a several page long assessment of how my classroom should be managed in such a way as to remain true to the Montessori philosophy. There were discrepancies from the Department of Health Services (required rest time and playground time), however, her suggestions were very helpful and informative. So, I just wanted to let you know my experience :) AMI schools are far and few in between and the training center in Arizona has closed down as my trainer retired and did not find a suitable replacement for herself. It is nice to know that AMI sends out consultants helping the schools and teachers remain true to Maria’s philosophy though. I agree that the teacher’s personality impacts the classroom immensely and an open minded, loving teacher makes a huge difference!