I talked to my husband, who suggested that it isn't too late to send them to the elementary school down the road. But, he was missing the point. I'm not panicking about homeschooling the boys, I'm panicking about homeschooling them using the Montessori cosmic curriculum. Today it feels like I have to have picked the most difficult way possible to do this from the perspective of the homeschooling parent. There are easier ways to do this. I'm not usually concerned with the easy way, but rather the best way. That said, I'm not sure I want to sign up for the "hardest way."
Just in case you are not familiar, Montessori elementary does not have separate subjects (math, biology, science, etc.,). Montessori uses its Five Great Lessons as an introduction to all topics, providing a "Big Picture" to demonstrate how the the sciences, art, history, language, geography are interrelated. You can read more about cosmic education at the AMI website.
Even math and language fall under the umbrella of the great story of life. Every day I tell the story and the story should get the children excited about something. That "something" is what the child will learn about that day. Now, the elementary child does usually have some kind of work plan that they participate in creating. But, as Jessica points in the Keys of the Universe History album, "The environment will be much more dynamic if every day starts with a story; keep telling the stories, keep the children's interests and give them a reason to want to write, to read, to learn their math facts" (3).
As I'm trying to prepare our materials so that when I begin to tell the story we can pursue the elements that are exciting for Kal-El it is feeling very impractical. I'm sure what I'm experiencing is the some of the same that a brand new elementary classroom will experience. An already existing classroom that has taken dozens of children through 3-6 years of cosmic education will have accumulated all of the materials and will have given every presentation. So, when they present one of the great lessons to a child, even though they may have no idea what the child will want to pursue afterward, they can feel pretty confident that they'll know what to do and have some basic things available to get them started. I, on the other hand, feel pretty uncomfortable.
I feel very comfortable with the math and language albums. These are, perhaps not coincidentally, the albums I have spent the longest amount of time with. But, part of what makes me more comfortable is that I know that most Montessori students seem to do a language and math work daily as part of their work plan. However, this is not universally agreed upon and planning to do that makes me feel like I'm cheating.
Jessica phrases it well when she describes the place of math and language in elementary Montessori as follows:
The success of the adult determines how well the environment as a whole is truly Montessori. The adult must keep the dramatic elements going in work and in telling the stories. If we focus on human beings in this way -- through stories -- language and math will fall into their proper places. Language of words and of numbers are simply and wonderfully achievements of human beings -- so they fall into the Story. They are also tools in which we need to develop skills; they are necessary tools for exploring cosmic education, but they are not the two most important subject areas of the integrated curriculum. Separating those subjects out and forcing them on the children, rather than approaching them through interests and as tools, is a developmental hindrance to the children. (3)
As for the other "subjects", not only do I feel like I'm going to be caught unprepared every day, but some of the things that make the method so natural for the child are intimidating ME. For example, instead teaching handwriting, spelling, narration, and copywork separately these are all integrated into the child's own chosen work. If they are interested in volcanos they might summarize some things they learned about them in their notebook (narration), copy something from a resource (copywork), all while I pay close enough attention to keep their handwriting moving in the right direction and use that work to spot misspellings so I can create interest-driven spelling lists. That all sounds a lot more delightful and less painful for the child than a spelling workbook, narration/copywork book, and handwriting workbook. However, for ME it sounds like a lot of things to miss while I'm scrambling just to keep up with continually being surprised by which presentations I'll be giving.
Speaking of little things that may get lost, I just read a tip that reminded me that late in the mathematics album it mentions that you should follow up EVERY math lessons in the elementary album with a word problem. There are a LOT of little things like that. How many important details am I missing across how many subjects? This is less of a problem when one plans to teach a certain segment of knowledge in a linear fashion. What seems to be scaring me is having to have three years of topics ready, perfectly, from the first day.
I understand why I am probably feeling this way. When I look at the albums I am looking at 3 or 6 years (Depending on your point of view. The children hear the same Great Lessons every year for the full six years of elementary. What changes is what is chosen for follow-up and the depth of that follow-up.) worth of material at once. Not everything I see will be done this year. I have been snuggled up with the primary albums for four years at this point and am very comfortable with them. I forget how it felt to suddenly have the 12 primary albums at first. I don't remember feeling as overwhelmed as I do about elementary today. During primary, I had the Gettman periods to show me how the albums intersect and give me an idea of what activities are taking place concurrently. That doesn't really work for elementary.
So, I don't know. I feel like I'm having to prepare six years to do one year. And I feel like I'm going to lose track of a lot of important things along the way. I am beginning to think that it is this daunting process of getting started that steers so many away from Montessori at home after primary. I already planned to incorporate the Story of the World recordings. Tonight, I feel like my life would just be so much easier if I just added the great lessons to that and purchased something like R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey to fill in the rest. Kal-El LOVES science and wants to do something with it EVERY DAY. It would be so much easier to not have to reinvent the wheel each day. To know what lessons are coming up and plan ahead. I'm afraid that he won't do as much as he wants to because I'm constantly putting him off because I'm not ready.
This post is not going down in history as my most well-written, logical post ever. To do this topic justice for many of you there probably needs to be a whole post about what cosmic education is and another on elementary classroom management. But, not only do I not have those posts in me today but it cannot be summed up succinctly and would be better read from original sources.
Is Montessori really the hardest way? Probably not. I'm being melodramatic. Plus, while Montessori could arguably require the most preparation on my part it probably involves the least amount of "boredom" for my kids as well as the least amount arguing, coercion, or battle of wills between me and my children. In the end, that, not the preparation, might be what defines the hardest way to homeschool.