Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More on Montessori

Because this has the potential to get a little lengthy, I thought I'd move the discussion from the comments of the previous post to a new post:

Nutmeg wrote:

My 3 oldest went to a Montessori school here in Texas, and it was wonderful....reading about Maria Montessori really chalenged the way I was parenting (just call me Mama Hitler) and opened my eyes to see things from the child's perspective. Hard balance, though, that fallen nature/listen-to-the-child thing. My oldest "figured out" how to get away with doing as little Math as possible, and now really struggles with it. Also his handwriting is atrocious, since he never really knew how to make the letters, he would just trace them on the light box. There is much that they were exposed to and did, that I am very grateful for, but I just wanted to share our struggle, and see what others think about it...

Thanks for the comments Nutmeg. I've never had any of my children in a Montessori school (and I think the one yours went to was particularly good). I'm definitely not an expert on Montessori. These are some observations based on how Montessori has influenced our family and various things I've read on the subject.

The first is that I've heard (this came up in Natural Structure from Catholic Heritage Curricula) that it is much more difficult to implement the Montessori Method with children who are spoiled. Montessori worked with poor children over a hundred years ago. Today, even many poor children in our country will tend to have a lot of toys and spend a lot of time in front of the T.V. and computer. When children are accustomed to being passive and being entertained by flashy, colorful things all the time, it is much more difficult to get them to want to exercise their brain and do challenging things. I feel that this is one of my greatest challenges (whether using Montessori or not) is to try to avoid letting my children grow up spoiled or too "coddled" in this day and age. In any case, I think it is important to interpret Montessori's writings in an historical context. In her day, many children worked in factories, were "seen and not heard", etc. Now we are at an opposite extreme where children can do no wrong, etc.

One way of implementing the method that I've incorporated to some degree into our homeschool (I think I got this idea from Michael Olaf someplace) is to have certain requirements that the children have to meet first thing in their school day. When those are finished, they have more freedom to choose from different educational areas. Our children have to finish their Math, Latin/Phonics (depending on the age) and Music (for the ones who take piano) on a fairly strict schedule and before they can get to other things. They aren't completely free after that, of course, but things are less structured and those subjects (like History and Science) tend to be their favorites. With my 10 year old boy, I have to insist on an hour of reading in the late morning, where I can hardly keep my 12 year old daughter away from the books. I am also more structured (in general) with the older students than the younger students.

I've never been a strictly Montessori person anyway. I do engage in some "no-no's" like using some rewards some of the time (such as M and M's to get my 7 year old musically talented daughter through piano lessons when they made her completely miserable - we got over the hump after a few weeks and no more M and M's). I also use rewards sometimes for extra credit (motivation) or to test what they are capable of getting accomplished when they are motivated.

Just some random thoughts. :)

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