Choosing to homeschool is a powerful way to take control of and improve your child’s education, but it’s not a decision to take lightly. As a homeschooler, you will find yourself acting as both parent and teacher, needing to not only craft a learning plan, but also research, prepare, instruct and keep records. Not to mention keeping up with your zillion other mom-sponsibilities!
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Is Montessori Homeschooling Right For Me?
Structured homeschooling methods like virtual school, school-at-home and the classical style may be quicker and easier to implement than others, but they require significantly more from you and your children in terms of time committed to instruction and paperwork. And, they disallow one of my favorite benefits of homeschooling: schedule flexibility.
Homeschooling is a golden opportunity to upend traditional teaching methods, and to craft a unique and customized learning experience for your family. Most kids aren’t big fans of sitting still for long periods of time, being lectured to, doing worksheet after worksheet, or memorizing for the sake of memorizing. Younger students are especially curious, exploratory learners, and rigid, seated instruction tends to go against that urge to self-directed learning. This is why self-directed and gently guided exploration is so much more likely to ignite a passion for learning in children. And, this is what Montessori homeschooling is all about!
If you’re wondering if Montessori homeschooling is right for you, you’re in the right place. The following information is designed to help you figure that out.
What is the Montessori method?
Developed by Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and based on her observations of kids at various ages and stages, Montessori developed a method of instruction that centers around respecting each child. Montessori is a child-centered educational approach that views children as natural learners who are capable of initiating learning inside of a prepared environment. Always attuned to the needs and sensitivities of each learner, Montessori encouraged a whole child approach, which values equally the social, emotional, physical and cognitive aspects of development. In essence, the Montessori approach allows us to prioritize what the child needs when (s)he needs it, and allows us to prioritize each of those 4 aspects of the human equally.
Is Montessori only for children with special needs?
Although Dr. Montessori’s work focused extensively on children with special needs, she discovered that children with or without special needs respond well to Montessori education. And, modern day research confirms what Dr. Montessori knew: the Montessori method has been successful with children of virtually all socioeconomic statuses in virtually all of our worldwide cultures. And, this success has occurred in both short-term and longitudinal studies.
To this end, Montessori created her first schools in 1929, alongside the method of instruction that Montessori schools have been using ever since. The Montessori curriculum focuses on:
- Self-directed learning, with guides (as opposed to “teachers”) modeling ideal behavior and patterns of speech, and gently guiding students rather than rigidly instructing them
- Collaborative learning, usually with mixed-age classrooms (which makes Montessori an ideal choice for multi-child families)
- Teaching children to self-regulate in various situations
- Building confidence and independence
- Strengthening conflict resolution and executive functioning skills
- Hands-on, experience-driven learning rather than direct instruction from texts
- Developing a view of the interconnectedness of various topics, like math, reading, history, and so forth
- Child-driven learning
- Learning through movement, with lots of tactile and spatial interaction
The Benefits of Montessori
Montessori produces kids who are informed, responsible, accomplished and have the vital spark of life that gives them strength, resilience and vitality:
- Through the use of a scope and sequence that meets or exceeds state standards, children in Montessori environments are given the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the subject matter being studied.
- Through curricula that nurtures order, coordination, concentration and self-regulation, children are able to obtain more knowledge than their peers.
- With self-paced learning, kids have the opportunity to advance, delay or review as they feel ready.
- Through the use of individualized learning plans, education is based on the unique interests and abilities of the student.
- Granted freedom within limits and age-appropriate tools, children pursue answers to their own questions, and seek out knowledge for themselves.
- With a Montessori approach, children are responsible for their own knowledge acquisition. This lays the groundwork for kids to develop their own unique potentialities in their own unique ways.
- With a prepared environment, children develop their own capabilities, learn how to communicate their needs and problem solve effectively.
- Through the use of developmentally appropriate works, both individual effort and cooperative work is encouraged. This helps the child to realize their potential while internalizing the benefits of both self-directed work and collaboration.
- Again with the opportunity of freedom, children are free to choose between developmentally appropriate options. This means that the Montessori method gives kids the opportunity to learn to make choices and to understand the consequences of their choices. This sets the foundation for kids to grow into accomplished and successful adults, because they were trusted to make their own decisions early on.
Kids with a Vital Spark:
- By nurturing sensitive periods as they arise, kids can work to their fullest potential in the time and way that feels authentic and empowering.
- By allowing children to pursue their own interests within the context of a supportive community, it sets the stage for them to begin understanding their place in the world and within their community. Further, they become capable of understanding how and why their contributions are valuable.
If all of that wasn’t enough, newer research also shows that children taught with the Montessori method are predictably more confident, collaborative and better at conflict resolution than their peers. Since learning is at the exploratory pace of the child, they learn to explore their interests, deeply engaging with topics that inspire them. Naturally, this type of environment produces a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. Some of the most recent studies have even indicated that Montessori produces long-term psychological health and happiness.
How to tell if Montessori homeschooling is right for you
Montessori teaching is flexible and adjustable. Because of the freedom given, it requires considerable trust between you and your children. You need to be able to guide them gently, without limiting their ability to choose what, how or when they learn. If you and your children can self-direct and have respect for one another, Montessori may be a good fit.
Do you thrive in structure or can you work in free-form space?
You don’t need a lot of special equipment or items for Montessori homeschooling, despite what you might have read. You will need to plan out how you’re going to guide your child’s learning, so setting up areas for this reason will be necessary. For instance, you will spend a lot of your time preparing and setting out age-appropriate activities for them to explore.
If you or your child needs more structure, however, a more traditional type of homeschooling might be better. Many children thrive with the competition, set standards and high expectations more often found in school-at-home style curriculums.
Would you prefer to instruct or lead?
Homeschooling with the Montessori method is about using deliberate speech, actions, and thought to demonstrate these to your students. Conflict resolution, for instance, is less about cause-and-effect punishment and more about showing how we choose how we speak and react to other people. This shows children they have the power to control themselves and to use that control to affect outcomes.
Traditional teaching can be more instructive rather than demonstrative - do as I say, not as I do. Montessori teaching rejects this, so it will require you to reframe your own behavior and parenting, to a degree. You will find, however, that Montessori homeschooling’s transformative effect on your parenting will enrich your lives.
Are you able to improvise?
Montessori lesson plans are great and highly important to direct your teaching, but if it’s a nice day outside, are you okay with taking your materials on a bike ride? Would you love to turn a nature walk into a teaching opportunity and do you value that hands-on experiential learning?
Can you think of a board game as your math activity for the day? Do you value your child’s need for movement such that a scavenger hunt could be used for language arts or geography? The Montessori method requires both mindset and curriculum, so you will need to be flexible as you follow your child’s lead.
Can you carve out a space for a Montessori learning environment?
Your Montessori learning space need not be large or look like a classroom. And, it doesn’t need to be filled with Montessori equipment or furniture. But, having a dedicated space for your child to immerse themselves in this education method is critical.
For one, having a dedicated learning space that is only for learning is critical to getting into the mindset of education. While Montessori learning goes beyond just “this is class time” rigidity, it places high value on the prepared learning environment.
Additionally, having a dedicated Montessori learning space lets you create shelves that kids can use to direct their learning. Spots with manipulatives, books, and printables are critical.
Montessori education is transformative
The time you spend dedicated to Montessori education feels different than the hours traditional education or school-at-home requires. Montessori homeschooling will change the way you think, parent, and interact with other people. It will help your children develop confidence, conflict resolution, and self-direction, unlike any other educational model.
It may require some mental reframing, but this isn’t a bad thing. We are all products of our experience, environment and education. So, if you grew up in public school, it may take time to unlearn what “education” means.
If your family thrives on a rigid structure, Montessori learning won’t work well for you. But, if you can improvise, and thrive on flexibility and hands-on learning, then this style of homeschooling can be an amazing fit. By stepping back and softly directing education rather than rigidly leading your children, they gain confidence and a love for learning. They are free to explore what interests them, and how it fits with the broader scope of education; math, science, reading, and geography.
The Montessori method has over a century of proven success, and if you can give your child the space to grow within this educational model, you’ll see them blossom.