Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Loosening up...

For the past little while I've pondering the idea of 'loosing up' the structure of our Montessori workcycle time. It does work quite well for Lovely & I (aside from a few issues which I'll list below) but it wasn't working out great for Hug.

In regards to Lovely, we have 2 mornings a week that are dedicated Montessori mornings. Hug is home on Mondays & I hadn't found a good rhythm for "working" with both of them so we generally have an outing or meet with friends for our crafty homeschooling day & then Lovely has 2 days at "school" & then there are only 2 days left. Having said that one of those mornings is when the Farmers Market is on (so many wonderful Practical Life lessons to be had there!) & I really want to commit to getting there *every* week. Ideally I would love to have 3 Montessori mornings a week & I seriously considered keeping him at home (his "school" is a Waldorf family day care) for the rest of this year but he was soooo excited when school came back after the holidays that I knew it wasn't the right decision, regardless of how much I might have liked the idea.

The other thing that I find tricky (in regard to working with Lovely) is that being just me & him - I am definitely "too involved" in the activities he chooses. I know that he could be quite an independent Montessori student were he in a Montessori classroom but when it's just 1 child & his mama it's hard to get the balance right;) Often, when I attempt to "blend into the background" (read or write some notes in a chair close by) he takes that as a cue that I'm not interested in the workcycle any longer & he loses his commitment to it too. I think it's understandable because in a classroom situation he would have the example of all of the other children working independently which he doesn't have here so I often find myself more involved than I'd like to be.

In regards to Hug, as many readers may have noticed I have spent the past year embracing the "Follow the Child" mantra despite the fact that I felt that it was leading us away from my Montessori ideals. I have worked hard to not put any pressure on Hug to do "work", although I will often ask him if he'd like me to show him something. Usually the answer has been no & I've respected that although I know that there are many Montessori-style activities that he probably would enjoy.

This week on Monday morning when we usually meet with friends for our 'Homeschool day' we all felt like actually staying at home & I said that we would try something new - that I would leave the Montessori cupboard open all day so that they could choose to work from it if they liked - or not. Hug actually asked me why he hadn't been doing any "preschool work" (as we call it - in reference to Hug's old Montessori preschool & so as to not confuse the children & their Waldorf teachers - my Montessori plans are rather private in that regard) in a long time & I answered with honesty that I didn't think that he had wanted to.

Well, he really surprised me! He immediately got out the Geometric Solids (I made them *!!* but I still haven't got around to posting about them) & did some wonderful work with them for quite a long time. Later, he got out a pack of wipeable addition cards that I keep on his shelf & proceeded to do more than a dozen of them! Pretty amazing for someone who hasn't done any structured Maths 'work' for months. He didn't want to listen to my suggestion to use the glass counter beads in conjunction with the cards (my nod to Montessori manipulatives) but did ask me to get out the other packs of cards (there are subtraction, division & multiplication cards in this set) for next time. Wow. He also spent time juggling lemons (that explains that first photo then!), talking to our neighbor about getting a solar hot water system & looked at an interactive science book.

Interestingly it was Lovely who had trouble settling into this workcycle... he didn't like my focus being split - if I wouldn't sit with him / join in with his activity then he wasn't interested! Again, I think it was completely understandable because he just isn't used to it. After a few half-hearted attempts he wandered off started playing elsewhere. Actually, he went & made us all a snack (Butter and Vegemite corn-thins - yum! - which was self-motivated PL :) & later we baked cookies together to share with friends in the park in the afternoon so he did end up having a productive day too.

Anyway, this has become far more long-winded that I had imagined! But it's just the first jumbled thoughts of my emerging plan to open up our Montessori learning into a way that will sit with our family in a more organic way.

Just this morning I read a wonderful post from the new blog (Hi C!) Sunrise Learning Lab about her littlest son who got up at 4.30 in the morning so that he could do the Montessori work his big brother was planning on doing first up! The commitment! I love it :). Her boys choose work in the evening to put out on the table to start first thing in the morning - often eating their breakfast at the same time. Wow. Now, eating & using the Motessori materials at the same time goes against my instincts in theory but I *love* how Montessori is merging in with their lives. School-time is life-time. And that is very cool.

How do you / would you like to / might you suggest / could you imagine - relaxing Montessori to fit in with life at home while still staying true to the underlying principles? I'd love to hear your thought...

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Comments :


  1. Following on from my comment on your red rods post (I read them in the wrong order!) ...
    I think there is really something in the 'school time is life time' comment - when doing Montessori or Steiner or anything else for that matter at home it has to work in that setting, and in the context of the mother-child-sibling relationship.
    Practical life, to me, can be incorporated so well in the home ... so we have Munchkin sized tools right next to ours everywhere we can. When there is an opportunity, I will set up some 'work' using Montessori techniques ... like today we had been sweeping and I said we should do some practice ... so I set up a board with a tape square etc. Or we did some tong work the other day with cotton balls, and then at dinner time she 'tonged' the food onto plates. But some of the more complex materials ... tricky! Will look forward to others comments.

  2. Wow! how did you make your own geometric solids? Especially the sphere, ovid, and ellipse?

  3. Hi Gypsy - Yes! School time is life time is school time (is life time is...) !! ;) it's the best way me thinks. I love how you described your PL activities - being just that - practical! BTW, we use tongs almost every night at dinner! I have some small "munchkin" sized ones but we *all* love using them.

    Hi Jessica - Ooo, I like a challenge. I'll try to post about making the geometric solids in the next few days :)

  4. Hi Amber, I just saw this post. I can definately empathize with being much too involved in their work choices when it just one on one. I have often thought how different it would be if I had a classroom full. I also completely agree about the positves of having other children all busily engaged in their own work, and how that can then inspire them to try something new. I struggle against encouraging the more 'educational' material (maths, langauge). Its tricky. But I'm glad to see that you have found a balance that works for you and the boys. :)

  5. Hi Amber, I love your last posts. Its great to see Hug engaged in work :)
    When I was homeschooling Little-N we just went along with the flow of each day and used the materials when needed. Usually I wait until a 'life experience' happens and then I tell him that I have a little material that could help you with that. The whole point is to make the materials relevant to his life. So the Stamp game isn't a material he has to work with, but if he uses it enough next time he'll be able to work out how much money he needs to buy the Lego sets that he wants!! I know that feeling when we really want our child to work with something!!!
    I'm happy to see that your finding what works with your boys!

  6. Hi Rebecca :)

    Yes, Montessori 'one-on-one' might be an up-coming post because I've been thinking about the limitations a lot recently. How are you & your lovely ones? Have been thinking of you guys!

    N - ahhh, you are like my wise sage :)

    I'm buoyed to hear how you & Little-N worked at home in a more fluid way. I think Montessori can be used in unschooling type way if you have the environment prepared in advance! I just gotta keep working on that ;)

  7. I'm coming from the other side... struggling to get a bit more structure into our lives. We've followed an eclectic-unschooling approach and whenever I introduce something goal-oriented or too structured, it can be very hard to find that balance where we're in tune, my child (who's six) is engaged and internally motivated, and what I'm providing is useful, relevant, and appreciated.

    I tend toward less is more, but I also struggle seeing the kids explore things totally willy-nilly. What's more important? That the beeswax all stay separate or watching my two kids work together to create the more giant spaceship ever?

    I ask myself a variation on this question every day, and we're still finding our way.

    I really appreciate reading about your ideas and practices in detail -- it is especially inspiring and helpful for me!

  8. How oh how did you make the geometric solids??? Pls share soon!


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