Monday, July 31, 2006

My Montessori Journey

How did I get to this point of having a blog and trying so hard to homeschool Montessori style?

I first learned about Montessori almost 5 years ago. I was looking after a kindergarten girl and it was supposed to be a sort of homeschooling type situation. This girl was very active and only wanted to play, play, play. The only thing I 'knew' about Montessori was from signs on daycares that said the Montessori was "learning through play." I checked out some books from the library--David Gettman's Basic Montessori and Elizabeth Hainstock's Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years. I discovered Montessori wasn't at all what I thought it was.

The simple learning activities described in Hainstock's book made me want to know more. Gettman was beyond me at that point because of my ignorance of Montessori. (I later ended up returning to Gettman and borrowing the book so much from the library I bought myself a copy.) I then read The Montessori Method and was hooked.

What Maria Montessori discovered and her whole approach are just so sensible. It excited me that this woman believed so much in children and respected them so much and also believed that adults have to try to step out of the way most of the time. Her approach to education is not to force feed like the standard model we have available--it's all about the individual child's personal needs. The adult's role is to observe and to get to know that child as well as the child knows himself, and then some. To help when help is needed, but only as much as is needed. To inspire by 'planting seeds of interests' but to never force a certain thing to be learned at a certain time.

Montessori reminds me a lot of unschooling in that there is so much focus on the child and the child's freedom to work on what he wants to work on. Where the major difference is, is that Montessori believes in planting seeds (essentially, presenting some sort of curriculum, even if the child isn't going to stick to it) and also in steering the children towards work, work that forms the basis of the child's future self as an adult. And of course, in a classroom, there are a ton of materials available for the children to work with, but this is because the focus is on providing the children with an environment in which they can work fairly independently, but with work that they are actually attracted to, not stuff they 'have to' do.

Too many distractions and I've lost my train of thought! This is just a brief look at why I love Montessori!


Jane said...

Thanks for posting that Daisy!

Have you read much about 'strewing' which is the unschoolers form of 'planting seeds'.

Sandra Dodd named it 'strewing' but I guess 'planting seeds' is a better way to describe it. Not as formal as with Montessori but a similar idea ;)

Daisy said...

Yes, I heard about strewing at one of the park days. Definitely a form of seed planting!