Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Montessori Home-schooling and You

Thank you to Ivy, who writes this in the comment area.  I think it should be put to you readers broadly, as it is a topic of much discussion these days.  I hope you'll post opinions.

... what do you think about homeschooling Montessori-style? Does it work, or is it a contradiction of terms? With respect to practical life curriculum, I don't see why not. Also, art, math, literature, etc. curricula could be covered by an intelligent adult, no? I stumbled upon your discipline blog, and the statement that the Montessori method relies on peer pressure for normalizing stuck in my mind. Does this mean that a group of kids is necessary for what seems to be a very important ingredient of the learning that goes on in a Montessori environment? And further, I wonder, if peer pressure is considered to be a key influencer, what does this imply for individuality? The thing I regret most from my childhood was in fact the concept of wanting, no, needing to be like others in my group. This worked great in terms of discipline, but not so great in terms of self-esteem. In my teenage years I struggled with the idea of being "average" and did my best to live that down. Luckily, most of the time these efforts were productive, rather than destructive, but it could have gone the other way.

I have a certain bias toward a school model for several reasons.  I believe in school for kids older than two, and I think Maria Montessori did, too.  I come from a school-based model and a school-based training.  I suppose it is possible to find a training program that prepares Montessori teachers for home-schooling, but I don't know of any.  (Do you?  Did anyone train in one?)

The particular problem I would expect, though, is mostly one of creating an appropriate context.  The Montessori classroom is necessarily a space apart, especially "for the children".  It does seem a contradiction in terms to have a "children's house" within the confines of the "family house" and operating within the family relationship dynamic.  I would think it would be very hard to create such an environment--with the necessary level of remove on the part of the adult--within the family unit.   I guess the point is that it is necessary for the child to be very independent of the adult, and especially of the adult's desires and opinions, for a true "Montessori" class to emerge, and it's hard for me to imagine a small child-- whose life, well being, and sense of worth are all utterly intertwined with those of her parents-- being able to isolate her goals effectively from the goals of the parent (to say nothing of the parent's ability to do the same) to a degree that the kind of motivational independence we aim for in a Montessori environment is achieved at home.

I DO think that a Montessori environment can be achieved at home for children two years old and under, because that early time is one of bonding and forming attachments to significant adults, who should optimally (according to Montessori herself) be the parents.  The Montessori infant/toddler classroom, however you come down on the particulars,  really attempts to re-create such attachments in a group setting while preparing the child for greater independence--which the parent would naturally be doing also.  There is not so much separation expected in these very early years.  The primary curriculum, however, is built on a school model.

This is not to say that Montessori philosophy can't be used at home.  In fact, it has to be for the school program to be optimized.  However, what Montessori schools ask of parents is not more Montessori school at home, but reinforcement of principles in a family context, which is not at all the same experience, even if the ultimate goals are one.  I do see the difficulty with the idea of "normalizing" a child at home--the one place in the world where every child should be made to feel special, and be allowed to need to be treated specially.  Children at home should be showered with affection (I think), and should be exuberantly loved above all others, but this is not really the optimal Montessori teacher-child relationship in school.

I know that many readers are doing Montessori-style home school, and are having success, so please tell me how you do it?   What does it look like?  What is the same?  What is different?  What is easy?  What is hard?