A while ago, a friend asked me if I knew anything about homeschooling older kids with the Montessori method. I had no clue but I promised I’d look into it for her.
I still had it on the back burner (being 5 months pregnant with 4 kids, too many gardens and an affinity for the internet and junky TV will send a whole lot of things there) when I happened upon a blog post where a mother was talking about how she homeschooled her middle schooler.
Even though her daughter had been educated in a Montessori school and loved it, they abandoned that when it came to the middle school years because the mother said Maria Montessori believed kids of that age should mainly be doing “farmwork.”
She followed that up with a quote from Montessori expert Michael Olaf that immediately had me thinking that I was a fan of Montessori for middle schoolers and got me off on a new rabbit trail.
“The Montessori program for the young adult from age twelve to fifteen is very different from that of traditional school. Dr. Montessori felt that because of the rapid growth, the increased need for sleep, and hormonal changes, it is useless to try to force the adolescent to concentrate on intellectual work. She recommended an Erdkinder, or Earth school, where children would live close to nature, eat fresh farm products, and carry on practical work related to the economics of supplying food, shelter, transportation, and so forth. Intellectual work is still done, following the child’s interests, but without pressure.”
Okay, let me get this straight…
Kids are supposed to spend time in nature.
Kids are supposed to follow their own interests academically.
Kids are supposed to be taught important life skills like gardening, baking and building.
Kids are supposed to be allowed to follow their own natural needs and rhythms.
Kids are supposed to eat healthy, whole, locally grown foods.
What part of this is a bad thing? 🙂
This is pretty much exactly my line of thinking for how I’ve been homeschooling my kids but especially my older girls (11 and 13, ending 5th and 7th grade).
- The kids all help me in the garden and have their own plants they get to buy and tend.
- Cooking and baking are very important skills that each child gets to learn. Jack was thrilled to learn how to cook rice in the rice cooker recently and keeps asking when his next cooking class will be. Anna cooks dishes like fried eggs and tomato soup. Victoria is now in charge of daily bread making in the bread machine. Daryl and I try to involve the kids with cooking and baking as much as possible.
- Anna mended a pillow from my bed that she noticed was ripped today. She jumps on any opportunity to sew or mend things around the house.
- Victoria helped Daryl build me two raised garden beds. She got to saw, drill and help figure out the amount of lumber needed and how to figure out its final area for filling with dirt and compost.
- Nature is a huge part of our homeschooling. The kids do a lot of hiking, exploring, bird watching, tracking, tree climbing, rock hunting and so forth.
- We talk a lot about life skills, budgeting, homemaking, nutrition and other parts of life that we think are important.
- Daryl involves the kids in using power tools, doing repairs and such.
- The kids are given more and more responsibilities as they age. Victoria is in charge of a lot of our laundry, for instance, and Jack is in charge of taking care of many of the cats’ needs.
- Our home environment is still filled with enriching things that help foster learning. The living areas are strewn with the Brock magiscope and various slides, math gadgets, educational games, books, tools, science gadgets, notebooks and so on.
- Interest-led learning still plays a huge part in the kids’ education. They take part in science conferences, script frenzy, nature programs, community theater, volunteer activities, homeschool events, and so forth. They read National Geographic, follow literature blogs, play math games… and on and on.
- I’ve repeatedly stressed to the kids that I want them to be prepared for life by knowing how to live well on very little money. We talk about how to find dirt cheap good housing, how to grow and preserve food, how to make meals from scratch, how to avoid big spending traps and so forth. This knowledge will serve them no matter how much money they make, and help give them real freedom in life.
Here’s the article I ended up writing about how to use Montessori principles for middle school years. I’m planning on following up with several more on the topic, too.
Far from seeing all of this as “farmwork,” I see all this as a really natural way to teach during the middle school years — and a really practical way.
Far too often, even middle school years are spent almost exclusively getting children ready for college. A Montessori education prepares children for life.
College-bound teens can still devote time to subjects they’ll need for college. But for middle-schoolers, is a life spent engaged in nature, life skills and interest-led learning really such a bad thing?
You know my vote. 😉