Our version of homeschooling is an eclectic mix of theories, models and research. I knew nothing about homeschooling prior to 1999, when I began researching different homeschooling philosophies. Unschooling seemed a likely fit, I believed in child led learning, going with the flow and trusting the child to learn what they need to develop over a period of time. As my girls grew, unschooling didn't totally suit their personalities and I will be honest, I wanted my children to have a strong reading foundation, something I didn't feel they would get through unschooling. So, I took a moderate approach, and as long as they did reading and writing, they could unschool for the rest of the day.
For about a year, this is how we approached our day- reading and math were a must, but they would explore and play after those two areas were done. My oldest was struggling with reading and we ended up getting her vision tested by a developmental optometrist for convergence issues. As I began researching how we could help her, I someone stumbled onto the Montessori approach to learning. I knew a little about Maria Montessori and her work, but what little I did know, wasn't enough. Over the next year I began reading anything and everything that I could about Montessori.
I know many would argue that what we are doing isn't Montessori, because we put our own spin on it, but it as close as we can replicate in home and for now, it works. I will get into the specifics of what we do and why, below.
As a Montessori inspired homeschool we will attend to the following tenants of the Montessori Method.
3 Hour work period-We will follow this approach, as it allows the child to become engrossed in an activity.
Prepared Environment- We believe that having a prepared environment, with careful consideration to the child's needs as well as set in learning centers, like math, science, sensorial, reading, social studies etc
I can do it myself- Children are capable of learning the skills they need to develop into capable and successful adults. Our goal is to limit the amount of lecture/teacher directed activities to only a small amount of the day.
Peace Table/Talking Stick- The Democratic meeting
We employ non punitive discpline techniques. One way to resolve a conflict is through the use of a democratic meeting. As a group, the children and adults discuss any concerns or problems. Solutions are offerred and voted on. The adults vote is not greater than the childs.
We also use a talking stick, to give each child a chance to discuss their ideas and concerns. The person with the stick is the one who can talk.
Life Skills- Our children will help to care for the house, for the earth and for themsleves and others. To this end, we will wash dishes, scrub floors, iron clothes, sweep floors, plant flowers, mend clothes etc.
Math- We follow a hands on approach to math, as well as the practice of skills through paper and pencil work. We also allow some computer work, as this really has helped the girls reinforce what they have learned. We follow a curriculum, Hands On Standards, which isn't Montessorian but works well with the Montessori approach. (I alter lesson plans to be more Montessorian.)
Science- We follow a similar approach to science, careful observation as well as scientific method.
Areas of Study- We believe that children learn best when they are using more than one sense and when they are actively involved in the planning of the learning. We also believe that multi-disciplinary (multiple areas of study) approach to learning is most effective.
Assessment- We do not grade children on their work, rather they are asked to reflect on their progress, and areas of concern, areas they want to improve. The children use portfolios to assess themselves.
Character Education-We believe that children who work on developing themselves as a person are more well rounded, caring and empathetic humans, who are capable of living and being an active part of their community.
Receptive sensations from the environment
Exercise of observation, comparison and judgement
Freedom of Movement- The classroom is arranged for ease and freedom of movement, we have individual desks. The children can work alone on a rug, in a small group, with Mom or with their sisters. The children are free to choose materials that interest them and work with materials until they are ready to move onto another activity.