Welcome to the third post in my Homeschooling Styles vs. Highly Sensitive People series: Montessori Homeschooling.
Montessori schooling is something that is traditionally done in a school building with a trained Montessori teacher and a structured, prepared environment. However, with patience, self-education, and hard work, the Montessori style can possibly be brought successfully into the home environment.
In a very small nutshell, the Montessori method of education is one in which specific educational materials (or “works”) are thoughtfully prepared and stored neatly around the multi-age classroom. The teacher, trained in carefully observing the children, presents these works when the time is right, while the child or children observe. Once it has been demonstrated, the children are free to use these works one person at a time (or in a small group depending on the work). They are to use the work properly, as demonstrated, to the best of their ability, returning it neatly before choosing another. Through these various materials they learn sensory motor skills, practical life skills, math, language arts, science, handwriting, geography, and much more! The children work best in large blocks of time, freely able to go from one work to the next of their choosing (within the limits set by the teacher).
Here are a few links about using Montessori in the home:
(please add your own favorite links in the comments, I seem to remember other sites from my “homeschooling youth” that I can’t find now)
PROS for Montessori Homeschooling for the Highly Sensitive
(All the pros and cons that follow are based solely on my opinion and experience – the half year my now 16-year-old was in a Montessori preschool, copious reading both on and offline about the Montessori method and doing Montessori at home, and several months throughout a few school years attempting to make it work for us. And as ususal, the list is not exhaustive, simply my thoughts in the moment.)
I think Montessori can be a wonderful, calming and empowering style of homeschooling for highly sensitive children and parents alike, given some (many?) caveats which I will enumerate in the CONS section.
A good teacher (mom/dad) is a strong yet gentle presence for the highly sensitive child, one who through keen observation learns so much about her students (children).
Children learn life skills, and that they are able to control themselves in their environment, which can lead to happier children and parents – the children feel empowered and the parents are getting some help! 🙂
Children learn respect for their environment which bodes well for your house even outside of any classroom space you might be using.
The hands-on, experiential learning works well for many highly sensitive children.
The calm and quiet that can be obtained with gentle leadership and practice is a balm to highly sensitive souls. Who wouldn’t want a little more peace and quiet in their homeschools once in awhile? (ahem, maybe that’s just me)
Children are observed for readiness, not pushed into something before their time, nor made to languish in boredom if they have mastered a work and no longer find anything beneficial from doing it. This improves behavior and self image.
Highly sensitive parents, when in the right frame of mind, can *shine* as observers of their children, because they notice subtleties that others might miss.
(about now I’m wishing there was a Montessori teacher for adults that could help ME learn to live my life better, LOL!)
The materials, once made or purchased, can often be used for years through multiple children. You are not scrambling to reproduce the environment from scratch every year. Unless of course you are hunting for those preschool boxes you put away somewhere around here…
CONS of Montessori Homeschooling for the Highly Sensitive, and My Experience
I feel there is a HUGE learning curve for parents and students alike if you are not starting with your oldest child as a preschooler. Coming from a different style of homeschooling and/or parenting can cause a lot of stress when little junior won’t use the materials like you are saying, because he is used to doing what he wants with his toys and games.
I found the above especially true of a sensitive, creative child of mine. She’s even the one who went to a real Montessori preschool – even the experienced teacher couldn’t get her to use the materials as intended. Fuggedaboutit at home… she was not destructive, but also was not learning what the work was supposed to be teaching because she was being creative with it. Then my other children followed suit (This child has a stronger personality than mine, even if we are both sitting quietly in a room). This caused me so much stress.
While being a keen observer of my children was a strength of mine when I used it, it was draining, and often led to me overthinking everything, particularly due to the other issues I’m bringing up here in the CONS.
Using bought materials can be expensive (another stress – spending money, even when we have it, is an “issue” for me due to childhood and current baggage). I tried home made, and there was just something essential missing. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just didn’t have the same “life” to me when I took something obviously homemade out of a baggie or tacklebox vs. made of wood or thick cardstock out of a neat shelf or store bought box. My kids didn’t like it either. And it was disappointing, in a way, when I would spend hours I didn’t really have, on creating a material only to have it mastered in 10 minutes and never picked up again.
This brings me to my next issue with Montessori at home (my home, at least). Space. We are 7 people in 1000 square feet (plus finished basement). We have no dedicated schoolroom for materials to stay out, and at the time we were trying this method, no real place for extra shelves even in our normal non-homeschooling rooms. So things had to be small and packed away. We used a tackle box for many items, and while I loved it for it’s ingenuity as a take-along homeschooling box, it *really* didn’t shine for me as a Prepared Montessori Environment. My kids and I needed the freedom to take whatever work we needed at the time, not only the 3 I could fit out on a shelf, or would often forget about what was put away because we are a very out-of-sight-out-of mind family. With a large age range, people were working on all sorts of different things, and so much needed to be accessible at the same time.
Babies and toddlers can also make Montessori Homeschooling just “too much.” We were not able to train our littles NOT to touch the older kids work or to keep the noise down, or not dump the math beads, etc, etc. The prepared environment was impossible, any space was typically a messy, shreik-y, cry-y space…and that was just ME! 😉
Call me too sensitive, call me a perfectionist, but I just didn’t want to do Montessori half baked like we were forced to if we continued here in this house, with this family. It’s beautiful and wonderful in theory, but didn’t work for us in practice.
So those are my thoughts. What is your experience with Montessori? Have you found it useful or beneficial in your own homeschooling?