Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling

Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling

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How do I start Montessori homeschooling?
How do we begin using Montessori at home?

Useful tips for starting a new classroom or transitioning in new-to-Montessori children as well.
Over the years, there have been numerous blog posts and other articles helping parents get started with Montessori homeschooling; most of these articles are addressed to the primary level; a few to elementary. None really get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Montessori intensely observed the child and his inner workings, observing what has been there since the moment of creation - and found a way to provide for what she discovered. On the one hand, nothing magical; on the other hand, so profound that it affects our very being - because that is what she observed - the depth of the human soul. Thus Montessori is about more than materials and lesson plans (album pages), more than the academics... it gets down deep and the environment MUST reflect this depth in order to achieve the true fulfillment of the child.
Elementary is compatible with primary, if you have children of both ages in your home; but it is NOT the same. The needs and tendencies are the same, the core response is the same (respect, follow the child), but the outward signs are different. Why? Because the elementary child is now in the second plane of development, which brings about a set of changes. A need for order? Yes! but order has now been internalized and the child no longer feels the need to keep order in his outer environment - now we must be very conscious about keeping our space cleaned up out of respect for the other persons in the environment and not for our own internal development. Among many other examples.
So how do we get started with Montessori homeschooling at the elementary level? What if your child has had no Montessori background or is even approaching the adolescent years. Let's take a look at what remains the same. First some previously posted articles of interest that remain pertinent to our needs in this article - these apply to both primary and elementary, with my elementary additions:
Thoughts to keep in mind as you FOCUS ON THE KEYS: 
    • A set of Montessori albums (manuals, lesson plans) will be your "keys" - your academic teasers to get the children working on their own interests. 
    • The children should be exploring their own interests; and you will need to pull in resources according to those interests.
    • You do NOT need the most expensive manuals with every possible interest included. You want something reasonably-priced with the *keys* so that you have both time and money to do what you need to do with your child's interests.
    • You WANT a theory album to explain all the background in every day applicable terms.
    • The elementary level is OPPOSITE the primary level in the following key ways:
        1. If the child is not yet reading/writing, reading will typically come first. (in primary, writing was first)
        2. We will now provide the BIG picture first; then go back and fill in the details. We will provide that big picture every single year of elementary - so there is plenty of time to come back to it; they don't need to get everything the first year. (in primary, we start with the most basic) - Cosmic Education (everything is inter-connected) - the big picture is told via stories called the Great Lessons. 
        3. It is NOT necessary to finish the primary albums before moving into elementary, if you have AMI (keys) albums that provide for what to do with children who didn't finish or didn't do primary Montessori.
So how do I suggest getting started?
(these tips are good regardless if you are new to Montessori altogether or are transitioning from primary to elementary or even if your children are nearing or even in adolescence)
  1. Follow the steps in the two articles above. This is just to get started in laying the foundation. Add in the book Volume 2 of The Advanced Montessori Method (available free online through Google Books) - just the background portions to get a feel for things. Purchase your core set of albums, or at least the "theory" album. Hint: if the set of albums does not contain theory, it probably won't suit your homeschool needs at this time; these other album options can be added later if you find your child has particular interests. 
  2. Focus on de-cluttering your home. Don't get rid of anything just yet (you'll end up wanting some of that stuff back) - just clear it out of the main living areas. Do get it out of the way - what is the purpose(s) of each room, just have what you need there. You do not need 5 tools to do the same job. You do want your children to have access to the tools they need. Consider placing strong chemicals in a high-up cabinet so that the accessible cabinets contain safe items. Consider replacing your cleaning chemicals with safe substances your children can use with you.
  3. IF you are transitioning from primary, you will be removing a LOT of trays (or keep the trays for your other littles). The elementary child now has things he needs in more logical places. Science experiments are only trays for the teacher demonstration, and when the child goes to the supply shelf to gather his needed supplies. He does NOT need everything laid out for him on a tray anymore. Trays at the elementary age, for the most part, are an insult to his intelligence. Yes, a nice basket of interesting items, requested by the child or presented once in a while by the adult is a great way to entice an interest, but that doesn't look like primary ;)
  4. WITH your children, make any necessary repairs on found items. These practical life skills are HUGE to the foundation of an elementary child's education. And a very strong preparation for a fantastic adolescent experience.
  5. WITH your children, truly clean the house. Same idea with the practical life skills. Use those safe cleaners (white vinegar, baking soda and citric acid go a LONG way; add some washing soda and borax and 99% of your cleaning is done). Use those large muscles and those tiny muscles. CARE about the environment and show them how to do so as well.
  6. On your cleaning breaks: Begin telling the Great Lessons. Just the stories, with the included experiments. You'll pull your supplies from what you have, only buy what you  need for these lessons.
  7. Work on remedial language skills IF needed. 5 minutes at a time, interspersed throughout the day - the needed keys should be in your elementary Montessori language album. The ideal is that a 1st grader can read at what the public schools consider a 3rd grade reading level. By 2nd grade, a Montessori child utilizing KEYS, will be reading at middle/high school level and your only concern from there is keeping up with maturity in regards to topics.
  8. Where do your children's interests lead? Establish the pattern of hearing a story, exploring what we think about it, what entices us, what questions do we have (write those questions down and expect them to find answers, sometimes with your help), what do we want to DO with this new knowledge (write that down too). The children can copy the chart, re-create the charts in another way, repeat experiments, seek out further information on a key point of interest.... If they have more than one idea, write down the other ideas to save for another day. Encourage a point of completion - write down the question and the answer found; draw pictures; collect ideas in a notebook; create a poster; etc. Around this time you will also be starting to work on work plans and journals - as you are comfortable and find the need for accountability, it will come more naturally. Not every story or presentation will lead to self-designed follow-up; be ok with that, but also be encouraging of the child asking questions, going further, and EXPLORING. 
  9. (this step might be a month or more in) With your chosen set of albums, go through the early math lessons to find where your child is. Keep it fun and interesting - let your child show you what they know. Let them know this is what you are doing (show a material, state its purpose and say, "show me what you know, I'll fill in the rest"). Do NOT worry about the age on the album pages when you are starting - just focus on finding where your child is since the sequence is very different from every other math option out there. Begin where needed and move forward from there. Hint: Good elementary math albums include a section on what to do with children who have had no (or limited) primary experience. Do not start a typically developing elementary child in the primary math album.
  10. Getting into the rest of the albums. By now, you should find that you are using most or at least half of the subject albums based on the child's interests (geography, music, biology, history) and the basic skills (math, language, geometry). Add in the remaining subjects when appropriate for your family.
There you have it: 10 Steps to Elementary Montessori Homeschooling.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Total Impressions


Looking at education from the viewpoint of taking in total impressions, aids the adult in understanding the need for opportunities for rest to calm the conscious mind.

Over-stimulation can urge the brain to too much activity, preventing the unconscious mind from doing its work; the subconscious then closes all the doors, making learning extremely difficult. 

The child needs to return to simpler work after a period of intense activity and learning, or will require a short nap or area of quiet, in order to calm the mind overall and to fully absorb into the unconscious mind all that was just experienced.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dr. Montessori left us a plan

Dr. Maria Montessori developed an approach to working with children based on observation and response - through observation, she found the best response was to provide key experiences based on real life: keys which open the doors for discovery and exploration.

The keys she developed are found in albums and training (albums being the written description of the key experiences as provided in training) which adhere to the concept of the "universal child" and leave time and psychological space for exploration and personal discovery.

Yes there are some albums/trainings that have too much, modified much over time, with many details that Montessori left for exploration and personal discovery now handed to the child. There are still VERY good presentations and suggestions, just perhaps beyond the keys.

The adult can only know how to utilize the materials through the use of a good set of albums that guides, but does not dictate the scope and sequence of the child's exploration. Albums contain the keys. If albums were useless, teachers in training would not have to create them ;)  Teachers in training receive presentations from the trainer, then practice with the materials, then write-up the descriptions of how to use those materials, with pre-requisite suggestions, main purpose (direct aim), follow-up purposes (indirect aims), follow-up activities, and SO MUCH MORE. These albums are then read through by others at least 3 times before the teacher graduates.

Some people are pushing the idea that albums are not only not needed, they are downright anti-Montessori and are a very bad idea. That you can have the materials on the shelves and just explore with them. JUST explore. With no guidance from the adult who is called a "guide"; with no guidance from Maria Montessori beyond the bit she describes the materials in her writings (she provided training and her trainees were the ones to write things down); with no idea what each material does going in. So what is the role of the adult? Set up the materials and walk away? NO! Maria Montessori never said that! The child needs to receive a presentation from a knowledgeable adult (Maria instructed others how to use the materials, said "do it this way with the children, observe, and report back to me the results", then responded accordingly).

Here is the kicker: the albums contain MUCH more than 'how to use the materials' - they are full of key experiences that do NOT utilize a single piece of special material - and many do not use a material at all.


Not everyone needs an album to focus on key real-life experiences that set the child up for exploration and personal discovery with a properly prepared adult who is ready to guide.
And that is great!

Most people DO need a guide-book to guide them in their own journey.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Organizing Elementary Montessori Presentations

Elementary Suggested Scope and Sequence

This is a starting point – to help the adult feel a structure in which to follow the child. Follow your child’s needs and interests – interest trumps age and prerequisites every time!

Some tips:
  • First mention of a topic/thread: that area CAN be introduced in the year listed.
  • Final mention of the topic/thread: the topic is ideally being reviewed, recapped and any final mastery happening.

Points for Emphasis: 

1) Follow the child's needs and interests. I can't tell you each day or even which year what your child will be interested in. I can only provide you with the guidelines given by Maria Montessori based on universal development. There is universal development, then there is individual need. 

2) This is a PLANNING GUIDE - not set in stone, or even hardly in play-dough ;) It should serve as a starting guide for what is likely to happen first - then build from there. You can see areas that typically don't come until later. Your child might want those sooner, but when you realize that, you'll have already prepared and laid a foundation for the current year, so you'll be able to be more flexible. 

3) As a planning guide, use it to focus in on certain areas to prep. Consider in each area listed "what does my child need in this area right now?" and prep for that. 



Music and History are not necessarily year-specific at all - introduce some concepts each year!
Art: Provide for art skills as needed for your child. Provide key art experiences very early on, with personal work including continued art exploration and application. To reiterate - children need to know basic art skills (not projects), how to use art tools and media - and from there, they can be exploring art based on the subject matter they research from below: 




Year 1

Math: Numeration

Math: Operations

Math: Squares and Cubes

Math: Fractions

Math: Associated Word Problems


Biology: Botany

Plant Parts
Biology: Zoology
Discussions and Story Material
Biology: Ecology

Language: History

Language: Word Study

Language: Parts of Speech (Grammar)

Language: Logical Analysis
Begin with similar to primary
Language: Written

Language: Spoken

Language: Literature

Language: Style


History


Geometry: Congruency, Similarity, Equivalency I

Geometry: Polygons

Geometry: Angles I

Geometry: Lines

Geometry: Angles II

Geometry: Circle I
When interested

Music



Geography: Universe

Story, follow-ups, Composition
Geography: Nature of Elements

Geography: Sun and Earth
2 options:
1)      Introductory work in each chapter
2)      Children select one based on interest each year
Geography: Work of Air
Geography: Work of Water
Geography: Human Geography Cards




Year 2

Math: Numeration
Review and fill in
Math: Operations

Math: Squares and Cubes

Math: Fractions

Math: Decimal Fractions

Math: Squaring & Cubing

Math: Associated Word Problems


Biology: Botany

Plant Parts, continue
Biology: Zoology
Dissection and Body Function
Biology: Ecology


Language: History

Language: Word Study

Language: Parts of Speech (Grammar)

Language: Logical Analysis

Language: Written

Language: Spoken

Language: Literature

Language: Style


History


Geometry: Angles II

Review and fill in
Geometry: Equivalency II
(only time this is listed)
Geometry: Polygons II
(only time this is listed)
Geometry: Equivalency III

Geometry: Circle I
When interested

Music


Geography: Universe

Review, go deeper per interest
Geography: Nature of Elements

Geography: Sun and Earth
2 options:
1)      Some work in each chapter
2)      Children select one based on interest each year
Geography: Work of Air
Geography: Work of Water
Geography: Human Geography Cards




Year 3

Math: Operations
Review and fill in
Math: Decimal Fractions

Math: Fractions
Review and fill in
Math: Squares and Cubes
Review and fill in
Math: Squaring & Cubing

Math: Signed Numbers

Math: Associated Word Problems

Math: Word Problems


Biology: Botany

Plant Parts, continue
Biology: Zoology
Dissection and Body Function
Biology: Ecology
Review and fill in

Language: History

Language: Word Study

Language: Parts of Speech (Grammar)

Language: Logical Analysis

Language: Written

Language: Spoken

Language: Literature

Language: Style


History


Geometry: Equivalency III

Geometry: Area

Geometry: Circle I
Review and fill in
Geometry: Circle II

Geometry: Solid


Music


Geography: Universe

Further details, Formation of Mountains
Geography: Nature of Elements

Geography: Sun and Earth
2 options:
1)      Some work in each chapter
2)      Children select one based on interest each year
Geography: Work of Air
Geography: Work of Water
Geography: Human Geography – Taxes/Government




Year 4

Math: Decimal Fractions

Math: Squaring & Cubing

Math: Signed Numbers

Math: Powers

Math: Word Problems

Math: Number Bases

Math: Algebra

Math: Ratio & Proportion


Geography: Human Geography other areas


Biology: Botany

Fill in nomenclature
Biology: Zoology
Dissection and Body Function
Biology: Classification


Language: History

Language: Word Study
Last bits; Review and fill in
Language: Parts of Speech (Grammar)
Finish verb; Review and fill in
Language: Logical Analysis

Language: Written

Language: Spoken

Language: Literature

Language: Style


History


Geometry: Equivalency III
Review and fill in
Geometry: Area
Review and fill in
Geometry: Circle II

Geometry: Solid


Music


Geography: Universe

Further details, Formation of Mountains, additional Creation stories
Geography: Nature of Elements
Finish up initial work – invite lots of follow-up ideas
Geography: Sun and Earth
Finish up follow-up presentations; continue personal work
Geography: Work of Air
Currents; Wind as Sculptor
Geography: Work of Water

Geography: Human Geography – Taxes/Government




Year 5

Math: Decimal Fractions
Review and fill in
Math: Squaring & Cubing

Math: Signed Numbers

Math: Powers

Math: Word Problems

Math: Number Bases

Math: Algebra

Math: Ratio & Proportion


Biology: Botany
Personal experiments
Biology: Zoology
Dissections and Body Function
Biology: Classification


Language: History

Language: Logical Analysis

Language: Written

Language: Spoken

Language: Literature

Language: Style


History


Geometry: Circle II
Review and fill in
Geometry: Solid


Music


Geography: Universe

Further details, Formation of Mountains, additional Creation stories
Geography: Work of Air
Currents; Wind as Sculptor; Personal work
Geography: Work of Water

Geography: Human Geography other areas




Year 6

Math: Squaring & Cubing
Review and fill in
Math: Signed Numbers
Review and fill in
Math: Powers
Review and fill in
Math: Number Bases
Review and fill in
Math: Algebra
Review and fill in
Math: Ratio & Proportion
Review and fill in

Biology: Botany

Finalize nomenclature
Continue experiments
Biology: Zoology
Dissections and Body Function
Biology: Classification
Review and fill in

Language: History

Review and fill in
Language: Logical Analysis
Review and fill in
Language: Written
Review and fill in
Language: Spoken
Review and fill in
Language: Literature
Review and fill in
Language: Style
Review and fill in

History

Review and fill in

Geometry: Solid

Review and fill in

Music

Review and fill in

Geography: Universe
Further details, Formation of Mountains, additional Creation stories
Geography: Work of Water
Review and fill in
Geography: Human Geography
Review and fill in – other areas in this topic