Last week I wrote about what we wanted for Prima (and future children) educationally. This week, I’m discussing how we believe that a Montessori education will help us meet those goals. A couple of notes before we dive in.
- We do not plan to homeschool for high school. I don’t feel comfortable with it, and the Norseman probably won’t have the time. We want our children to comprehend the maths and sciences well, and to have access to things that we probably won’t be able to provide (like lots of cool science things and programming/computer stuff.)
- This is a brief explanation. I’ll write more about Montessori activities and lessons as we go through them, and try to write a post detailing basic Montessori soon. So if it is confusing, still, hopefully future posts will clear it up for you. Here is an outline of Montessori vs. traditional education methods.
- It (our chosen education method) must develop critical thinking skills, balancing the emphasis on reading, math, and science. We really, really like the way that Montessori teaches math. Beginning at three or four years old, children are introduced to algebra, geometry, statistics, and calculus through sensory materials. I struggled with math most of my childhood, I mostly because I could not mentally visualize the concepts. As I’ve read about the various sensory (and visual!) ways that math is introduced, I realized that I would have likely thrived learning math this way. Since our children have a 50% chance of having my mathematical abilities, the Montessori method of learning math reassures me that, should any one of them be like me, they will probably have better success. (In fact, I’m hoping that as I work with Prima on the various lessons that my mathematical skills will improve!) The Montessori method also introduces basic concepts of how the world began, zoology, botany, chemistry, physics, and astronomy starting around age 3-4. This isn’t so different, teaching through a lot of sensorial materials but it purposefully adds an emphasis on appreciating the beauty found in science and introducing the miracle of life. This is in line with our values regarding the sciences, natural world, and life at all stages. More broadly, the Montessori method doesn’t simply lecture or show. It allows the child to discover the principles being taught for himself or herself, which in turn leads to deeper understanding of the subject. Really, it is an already organized approach to the way I already envisioned teaching our children. (Look here for additional information on science and Montessori.)
- We would prefer their education to be of such quality as to allow them to perform on-par with students in countries who rate in the top ten in the world, as measured by the PISA test. There is no promise that the Montessori method is some magical method that will produce amazing results. What is promising is that some adults who created amazing things attended or had in some form, Montessori schools/education. That aside, there is currently no way to know which type of educational philosophy will meet this goal. But as I read through the book The Smartest Kids in the World, what struck me was just how much the top ten countries’ approaches to education mirrored Montessori educational methods. We may be on to something. Or not. Time will tell.
- It should allow for the existence of God. Since we are planning to homeschool for now, really any curriculum could be supplemented with Biblical teaching. Montessori curriculum could teach evolutionary theory, but it can also teach creationism. What is more important is the way that Montessori teaches the children to think, to ask questions, and to search out answers. This is, we believe, crucial to their spiritual development: to know how to do struggle and reach answers, rather than rote memorization or simply accepting something because we the parents (or the teachers) say it is so. It may indeed be so, but how does the child know? At some point his faith and beliefs will be tested, and he must know how to grapple with hard questions, and still arrive at answers and truth. Another component of Montessori that we love is “freedom within limits.” This is what we strive to teach as parents, and what sums up the Christian life (Romans 6.) It is a concept taught universally to French children, resulting in well-behaved children and inspiring the book Bringing up Bebe. That book is what led us to finding, and wanting to use, the Montessori method. I recommend it for new parents.
- We don’t believe one type of schooling is superior to all others. And so, if Montessori turns out to not work well for our children, we’ll find something else. If homeschooling is illegal or doesn’t work well, we find a public or private school. If we are in a season of life that I don’t have time to homeschool, they will go to school somewhere. In the end it is about what is good and best for our children, not our personal preferences.
- We hope for a school that is calm, orderly, peaceful, beautiful, and full of independent thought. The private, three-room school house I attended as a child is what I think of, when I picture this sort of school. It wasn’t perfect, but it fostered a wonderful learning environment. A few of my sisters attended a small, country public school that was likewise this way. Montessori schools are intentionally set up (or, “prepared”) this way. And this is how we want our home to be – calm, orderly, and beautiful. If our home is this way, then it follows that our homeschool will be. This sort of school hasn’t been common in my experience, homeschool or not. Perhaps I am too idealistic. But if such schools exist, wherever we may be, I surely hope we can enroll our children there (even if it is only “home.”)