I considered most of these questions to be unresolved until I read a message on the Yahoo! Group "Montessori Online". A mother, a former teacher like myself, who is already homeschooling a 5 year-old and one year-old recently discovered the Montessori method. She was wondering if it was possible to self-train or if she needed to become Montessori-certified through either a traditional or online course of study. Did she need to buy albums? She also wondered if Montessori was an all-or-nothing method of homeschooling, "Is it only worth doing if I do it all?"
These questions very similar to those I once had, and as I considered what I might say to her I realized that I had actually had (some) answers. I didn't respond to the Mom's questions because a brilliant response had already been written by Sharon Caldwell. If reading the question made me realize that I had found some answers reading Sharon's response made me realize I had also found peace and confidence in those answers.
Sharon is perhaps uniquely qualified to answer these types of questions because she was a traditional classroom teacher who later discovered Montessori, went through training while homeschooling her own children, and went on to teach in and found a Montessori school. You can read Sharon's bio here at the website of the organization she is involved with, The Montessori Foundation.
I wrote to Sharon and received her permission to re-publish her reply here on my blog. I find that I have a lot I want to say about some ideas that she was only able to touch upon briefly in her group message. Since her post was such a jumping-off point for me, I thought it was only appropriate to present it as a jumping-off point here as well. I am presenting her reply in its entirety so that her words can be taken in context at all times. If you are a Montessori Online group member and would like to see the message in context of the question and replies it is message number 21652.
Sharon Caldwell's reply:
You are asking valid questions. I was in your position 16 years ago and wish
that I had had someone to guide me. I took Montessori training while trying
to teach my sons (and opened a small school) and only with hindsight do I
realise how much I messed up - how many things I misunderstood, misapplied
etc. They have both turned out fine so it was not a disaster and with no
other alternatives would probably do the same again.
The Montessori Foundation has been looking at ways of supporting mothers in
your situation ... but it is complex. You simply cannot create a fully
Montessori Schoolenvironment in a home, and a Montessori Home is
different from a
. Maria Montessori did not design any Montessori School
program or method specifically for home-schooling and you can't simply
transfer the principles of the school to the home as the home environment
lacks many of the essential components of the Montessori classroom. On the
other hand, you have other opportunities and possibilities to incorporate
the *principles* of Montessori at home. Unfortunately, what often happens is
that parents who homeschool inspired by Montessori tend to do far more
direct teaching than is really desirable (but ends up necessary in the
absence of the social grouping of the multi-age class) and spend an
inordinate amount of time making materials - far more time than the children
will spend using them - because it is almost impossible (in the high
adult-child situation) to get the level of interest, repetition and thus
concentration you would get in a Montessori classroom. This is a simple
reality. The Montessori approach works the way it does simply because it is
an integrated approach - all the facets work together.
Another challenge is the ages of your children. What age are you going to
study? Are you going to take a Toddler training so you can best support your
one year old? Or do you take 3 - 6 to be ready? Do you take elementary
training at the same time to support your 5 year old who is moving into the
second plane? These are important issues to address.
I would not suggest you simply buy a series of albums. There are some really
good albums and lesson videos available for free on the internet (although
separating the good from the downright dangerous could be a challenge if you
don't know what to look for.) The thing you will be needing most is a good
understanding of the philosophical principles which underpin the approach
and support in adapting those to your particular situation.
All of the above does not mean, however, that you do not do those parts you
can. Some Montessori is better than no Montessori.
Having said the above - the Montessori Foundation recently began offering an
overview of Montessori to non-Montessori trained heads, a course which I
could easily adapt to make applicable to a homeschool situation. This would
not be a teacher certification, but a much shorter, quicker overview of
those factors which would be important to understand in a home situation,
but could allow for looking at aspects that relate to your children where
they are now. I am interested to know how much support there might be for
such a program. I am thinking of something that is quite intensive for about
12 - 15 weeks, focussing mainly on method and theory as it can be applied to
home and giving guidance on the full age range 0 - 12 with access to a
support network/forum and file sharing resource and mentor support on an
ongoing basis for a nominal monthly subscription.
Anyone interested in such a program - please contact me directly.
Montessori Foundation and IMC Representative: Africa
Editor: Montessori Leadership and Montessori Leadership Online
Instructional Guide: Montessori Leadership Institutes
In the following weeks I plan to publish a series of posts that I have been working on that come back to Sharon's words. Some of the topics include: the advantages and disadvantages of Montessori in the home, downplaying our disadvantages, capitalizing on our advantages, the unique dynamic between "teacher" and "student" at home, what a Montessori training program for a homeschooling mom might look like, the best Montessori language approach for in the home, and whether to buy albums. At the same time I know I have some other promised posts lingering, and did I mention our house is for sale? Yikes. I have been thinking about all of this for a couple of months and dragging my feet on getting started because it is kind of "heavy." However, as I find myself responding to comments, commenting on other blogs and returning e-mails I keep coming back to these same topics. I have come to the conclusion that it would be prudent to just finish writing the posts so I can link instead of writing individual lengthy discourses.
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