I had a question asked of me the other day: “Why Montessori?” There are many many methods of education out there, but we landed on Montessori. I thought I’d write today about the why behind our choice.
I’ve been a music teacher for a long time now, and one of the things I learned early on was that there is no one method that works for everyone. I maintain a full studio of 40 students ranging in ages from 3-adult and there is no possible way for one method to meet the very unique needs of a preschooler as well as the needs of a middle school student or adult. For my music students I know exactly what needs to be taught and the methods I choose from stick with my criteria, but within that range I can account for different kinds of learners. It is more complex than aural, kinesthetic, or visual so once I’ve chosen a method that fits I still need to tailor the method to the individual. Montessori is our base; it is the very closest thing to our educational goals for our children, but as in the music methods I described above, not a perfect fit. I’m trying to tailor to the boys needs, adopt a bit of other methods that we think are just as important, and to follow to a certain extent where the boys might take us in their educational desires.
There is no one way for everyone, but I do believe that there are certain paths that suit each of us better. Big Kid is a pretty quiet boy. He would sit still to read with us at 15 months old and that is still his favorite part of our day. He was very verbal early on and is constantly trying out bigger and better words in his vocabulary. He wants to read very badly on his own- I think he believes that it’s one of the most important and exciting things to do with your day. We sit and read many separate times a day, I read or study material while the boys play, Superman is in college again so we rarely see him without a text book open these days. Little Bit, on the other hand, is quite a handful at 17 months. He is constantly moving, climbing, exploring, opening, closing… you name it, he’s into it! I’ve started really trying to teach him to sit for a short board book- the kind that has one word per page for maybe 6 or 8 pages. I’ve been holding him on my lap for the length of one short book so that we can start to increase his attention span second by second. He has no verbal vocabulary yet, but he is very good at getting his point across by pointing and signing. These boys are very different already, and I knew that when I started looking into different options for their education. It is important to me to provide a structure in our home that works for all of our children without forcing anyone to conform to a lifestyle that isn’t really in their personality and I feel that Montessori provides that for us.
There are a few things about Montessori that called out to me above other things. I also find great appeal in Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, and we will probably include elements of those methods along our journey, but Montessori really fits with me and the things I was already doing with my boys (specifically Big Kid at that point, but as Little Bit is getting to be 18 months he will really join us as well!). As I’ve been reading more and more about the method I find myself saying, “we already do this, this and that, Big Kid knows all of these…” and feeling like it was a natural fit with what was already working really made me feel comfortable with calling Montessori home. The more I read the more I find that this fits our whole family and that is just as important. I as the director of their education have to be able to actually follow and complete my part of the bargain- if I found something that was perfect for my children but completely clashed with my own personality that would not work for the boys either!
I love that work time is a structured thing; when it is time to work you must choose work to do and it is as simple as that! But also there is great flexibility- if Big Kid wants to choose the binomial cube over and over each day he can do that, or he can switch to whatever is most attractive to him that day. I personally like to know what I have to accomplish in a day but then have the flexibility to arrange those tasks however I’d like. Big Kid would like every single day to be the same as the day that came before it, so having to choose his work has been a really good skill for him to build on. For Little Bit I can already see that learning to stay with his work through completion will be a good step for him when he is able to get to that point.
We have a certain rhythm to our day now that we did not have before, and I dare say a bit more peace as well. The boys know what to expect next each day and in turn it has given me a better schedule and routine as well.