Friday, August 24, 2012

Pack Animals

One of the differences between the primary and elementary child is that while primary children are happy working alone the elementary child prefers to work in a group.  Montessori schools recognize this need and make a change from giving presentations to individual children to giving presentations to small groups.  The classroom is also set up to accomodate the children working in groups of their chosing at nearly all times. (Edited to add:  See Annicles' comment if you want the specifics of that.  I am generalizing here and probably came off a little "know-it-all."  She has the real dirt!)

Unfortunately this atmosphere of constant collaboration is one element of the Montessori method that cannot be entirely replicated at home.  While that may be an argument for choosing a traditional Montessori school over a Montessori homeschool, it often comes off as an argument against using the Montessori method to homeschool, leading families to chose another method for their homeschools when that is not the intent.  (This plays out all the time.  An excited family finds a Montessori community online and says "we plan to homeschool and are so excited about Montessori."  The Montessor teacher says "The group element is an important part of Montessori so I wouldn't consider it at home."  The family says "Oh, Okay!" and homeschools using a different method.  The teacher was trying to encourage them to consider a traditional Montessori school, not chase them away from Montessori altogether.  I think they forget that sometimes the decision to homeschool can be stronger than the decision to use Montessori.)  I happen to believe there are enough positives that result from homeschooling that I am interested in educating the boys at home despite missing out on that one element of the method.  "Cherry-picking" different aspects of the Montessori method is always discouraged because the many principles of the method work together to educate the child.  However, the fact remains that we are still only talking about one piece of the puzzle here, and I don't think its necessary to stand so firmly on principle that one has to throw out the whole casserole.  Since I get to choose how to educate the boys, I am going to stick with my favorite....Montessori.  I'll try not to act all surprised and disgruntled when I run into the consequences :)

This means that one of my jobs IS still to find outlets for Kal-El's new "pack instinct."  Interpreted quite literally, one of the things he will be participating in this year is boy scouts.   I think it will be a perfect fit for my nature-obsessed, vest wearing, patch-wearing 6 yo.

Also, because we have chosen the pack that is associated with the relatively small neighborhood school that services our neighborhood, we hope that this will be a good way to connect with the other little boys in our immediate area.

Another exciting addition this year is the homeschool coop that we have joined through our church.  We have chosen a church with a large homeschooling community.  Twice monthly we meet on Friday mornings and the children have art class, physical education, and one other subject that changes annually.  This year the third subject is "American Presidents."  Once a month there is a field trip.  Once a month they do a service project "out in the world."  The coop also puts on things like an annual music program, play, and graduation ceremony because that's the type of thing public schools do that homeschooling families are actually a little sad about missing.  It is great that this is through our church because the kids in the coop are then the same kids the boys see at Sunday school, church picnics, etc.,

As last year, the boys are studying Suzuki violin.  Suzuki violin traditionally involves a weekly group class in addition to individual lessons.  We are still waiting to hear about that for this year (we've changed teachers) but I anticipate that we will be able to do that.  The boys really love seeing other kids playing the violin too and like to play in a group like that.

Lastly, the boys are very VERY interested in some kinds of martial arts class.

As valuable as I'm sure it is, we can NOT be one of those families that reports to karate classes twice a week.  The violin is already a time-consuming, expensive hobby with similar benefits.  Sometimes you just can't do everything.  However, one of our local Karate studios offers a package that lets you buy your uniform and a pack of 8 drop-in classes that you can use as you wish.  It will take us a long time to use up eight classes and I am hoping that they might be convinced to let us buy another pack after we use up the first one.

My next post will get into all the nitty gritty of math, language, spelling and the like for the next year. I apologize for my slow posting lately.  We've had house guests (again) and it gets really hard to get a turn on the computer with extra adults standing in line.  It's extra tricky to write a homeschooling blog during your turn if your house guests don't believe in homeschooling, don't believe in blogs, and don't believe in putting the kids pictures on the internet.  Our family is back on its own again.  I am really excited about the new year.  The kids are charged up.  Materials are pouring in.  I have sooo much to blog about I'm ready to explode, so I hope this period of "dragging you along" is over.  Thanks for reading!


  1. I like the sound of your classes. In the classroom I find that mostly the maths and language materials are worked on individually, except when they spill over into other areas of the classroom, like writing a report about something from the cultural shelves. Otherwise, most children are working at their own rate, enjoying not being interrupted by other children and not worrying about how much faster another child is working. When it comes to cultural work, that is when the group thing really shows itself. Maybe you could engineer some way of working collaboratively with other children, even remotely, online or something? The experience of working together and producing something that is different and somehow better than what one child alone could produce is very rewarding and the children learn a lot from seeing how some one else tackles and produces research.

  2. You make a really good point and it was one I considered alot before I decided to "do" montessori for the elementary! The group thing is super important and I think it will be missed, but we have a small homeschool group with several kids Bunny's age and I have grand plans for that this year! :) We are going to be doing open ended explorations with the group each week, so I hope that that will fulfill the pack need for now. It also helps that Bunny is a bit of an introvert, so she doesnt want to do a bunch of stuff! I really love the idea Annicles has of collaborating with some other bloggers online. Maybe there is someway that we could all work together. I know that Karen over at Mi Escuelita Montessori is starting elemnetary work this year and I am too. Maybe the kids can do something together online. I cant wait to hear all about the nitty gritty details! Happy Schooling!

  3. It sounds like you have the pack instinct all worked out ;)

    My son is an only child, and while it is obvious he needs other people of all ages, he is really doing great thus far (at 8 1/2 - homeschooled Montessori) :)

    I wish we could get into cub scouts, but there are no real options for him at this point in time (no offense to women or to moms, but I require that a MAN be the LEADER (not the assistant leader to a woman) of any MALE group for my son - I'm a single mom to boot and most of his other teachers are female! He needs males!).

    He has his religious ed class (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), speech therapy, our weekly Montessori co-op, playing with children after church on Sundays, families we visit routinely enough to just have free time, boys club in the winter time --- and tae-kwon-do (probably the best thing Montessori-like non-Montessori thing ever invented!). Not to mention all the Goings Out we do. And the piano lessons; and the other occasional things we do at Home Depot and such.

    It's enough!

    As far as studies, I agree with Annicles - a lot is done independently with only portions done in the larger group (interest groups if you will) --- and the adult has to play the role of the co-conspirator many times (but that is the fun of being a homeschool mom!). ;)

  4. I love the style of this post "Pack Animals". I am finding that DJ is at the point that he is ready to do cooperative games, so it is neat to see that he is ready to play a sport to have fun, and learn the game( no more whining about whose first, or I didn't get the ball). This year we are reaching out to a home school group for the same reasons you are. Fantastic line up of activities. DJ would enjoy joining boys scouts too, it just hard to work in a schedule. Yeah I think our boys may have a lot in common. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I have heard those arguments before about Montessori Homeschool, there is so much good in Montessori that they never discouraged me, I'm glad to see that someone else isn't being discouraged either. Even though my son is still very young and we haven't started homeschooling yet,the social or pack aspect is something I've been thinking alot about. It sounds like you have some great ideas on meeting those needs for your boys. We may start a similar homeschool group in our area in the future.

  6. We homeschool now, after trying a Montessori school nearby (where I taught and my eldest boy, now 6 1/2, attended the Casa for around 1 year). A very bad philosophical fit for our family, as sadly the school seemed to compromise the essential elements of Maria Montessori's vision. So out of all other options, including a stint in a private school which also turned out badly, we have decided to embrace homeschooling and all that it offers us as a family. I have an almost two year old boy as well, which makes life very interesting - is there such a thing as a herd instinct for two year olds? ;)
    We have started a small homeschoolers group with two other families, so five children all up of elementary age, and the rest all under 6, 10 kids in all. I am the only trained Montessori teacher, but the other two mums have enrolled in Jessica's Keys of the Universe course. We are trying to sort out how everything will work and have not yet found our groove (which will happen at some point!) but have figured out that the maths, geometry and language materials are probably best left to each individual family as they are the most sequential in nature, and we will be focusing on the Cosmic Curriculum as a group, which will hopefully be the spring board for some extended work at home too.
    As for the social aspect...we participate in Aussie Rules Football for kids in the winter, and are just about to start Kids Cricket for the summer season, we are trying to organise a private tennis coach for a small group of homeschooling kids (my boys are very sporty), we do Suzuki guitar and Suzuki baby music with the little one, I run a Montessori/Suzuki Infant Toddler Community program once a week for my little one to also benefit from some appropriate social interaction, and my big boy has had five weeks of Scouts (his age group is called Joey's here in Australia, 5 to 7 1/2 year olds) which has been an enormous blessing in so many ways! I found a very interesting article on the links between Montessori and Lord Baden-Powell here...

    Thanks for sharing your life here, it helps to know you are not alone even if we live on opposite sides of the world!