Sunday, June 17, 2007

What makes Montessori homeschooling different from unschooling?

I've been asking myself that question since reading this the other day:

Michael attended a Montessori school from age 2.5-5, and one semester at a Montessori elementary class. From then on, at his choice, he was homeschooled. His educational materials consisted, for the most part, products from the family Michael Olaf Montessori company which he reviewed for the catalogue, weekly visits to the library to research the interest of the moment, daily music practice, and exploration in nature. There was no TV in the home.

He was allowed unlimited time whenever possible—days, nights, weekends—to explore and chose his own path. Many experiences and study directions were offered by his parents, and periodically by other mentors and teachers, but his choices and his passions were always respected.

The parents both worked full time (mother in her home office) and spent very little time "educating" Michael. During the elementary years, they helped him make weekly work/study plans which included roughly grade level math and English suggestions, but was otherwise made up of his own choices in many areas such as music, literature, mythology, history, astronomy and the arts. There was no TV, and no video or computer games in the home as distractions and time wasters. He loved exploring and learning, and having his own interests respected.

And it goes on. On the same page is this:

AGE 6-18:
Q. What Montessori ideas can I use for school age children?
A. Here are a few of many:

(1) The child is learning all of the time, from the environment and from the adults in the environment. It is better to put energy into enriching the environment and becoming good models than in teaching the child.

(2) Children learn what they love. Anything forced will probably be detested, or forgotten.

(3) A child must know why he has to learn a required subject.

(4) State educational requirements can be reduced to one page per year and the child needs help in learning to schedule time, develop enjoyable methods, and become responsible for meeting deadlines. This work usually takes no more than two or three hours a day.

(5) Follow the child. Aside from requirements, if the child's choice are respected and facilitated she will learn at a level that can amaze parents.

The Michael Olaf catalogue for ages 6-12 has been an enjoyable read, too.

I've been needing a reminder on what Montessori is, and what it can be, in the home. When it was all clear to me, things ran fairly smoothly. But it hasn't been clear to me as I've delved more and more into requirements. *sigh* But then from requirements, I bounced to no guidance and that didn't work either. I need to refocus this summer so we start off on the right foot this September!

I know the 13yo can not be given the freedom that is usually a part of Montessori, but it's because of where he's at. To be honest, at this point, with only 2 years left with me before going to high school (or even doing high school with me, makes no difference), he's got to be pushed. There's too much emotional baggage blocking him being self-motivated. Re-reading Marva Collins this past week has reminded me of that. How I'm going to balance the Montessori of my two, the 13yo's high school prep and the 16yo's high school courses somewhat remains to be seen! lol.

When we used the above idea of work plans, things definitely went more smoothly. But I don't think I can have the 13yo on a work plan, except maybe an afternoon work plan, or a plan for when he's not doing his required work (LA, math and French primarily). Doing the work plans means resuming our morning meetings. Those fell by the wayside sometime during the first year with the two oldest because people had just gotten into a groove and were getting to work right away on things without us needing to discuss stuff.

I've totally lost my train of thought. It just went whoosh and left.

Back to my subject, then: how is Montessori different from unschooling? As I read through the first thing I posted above, it just seemed like unschooling to me. But those work plans and working together to plan out things and making suggestions are all part of Montessori. If that family managed to make Montessori work with just one child in the house (mind you, he'd had 3-4 years of Montessori school before being homeschooled!) WHILE working full-time, then surely I can figure out a way to homeschool my kids the way I want to and do my work (which means homeschooling the other kids in the way they need to). I was trying to have everyone the same as much as possible and it wasn't working. Of course, there's also the aspect that I bet the parents were involved in showing the kids things and I know I definitely do not do enough of that!

Okay, enough for now. :)

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