Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Friday, January 11, 2013

How We Homeschool

Here is what I see happen in many homeschools:

A wonderful curriculum is selected or compiled from a variety of sources. This is for science; that is for math; etc. Or it's a complete curriculum package. Very handy and neatly laid out.

Then mom and dad (more particularly mom) gleans a neat idea from a homeschool friend in the neighborhood or homeschool co-op or from an online acquaintance. Or the child has an interest in something and a kit or supplies are found at the store or in storage. "This would be great to do with the children!" The materials are purchased or gathered. And there they sit.

Or they do work on it, but the curriculum has to be set aside for the time it takes to work on that project. Because there is only so much time left in the day.

And then we're behind on school.

Repeat cycle.

And there is burn-out.

Sometimes those fun things are saved specifically for burn-out time - February for many people (I happen to LIKE February myself ;) ). A good plan for anticipating what is coming, because you know it's coming, so let's have something on hand to cover it!

Well, if it works out that way.

Most of that stuff ends up sold to other homeschoolers who love the idea and may or may not use it. I once tracked the ownership of a particular resource I had just purchased back no less than EIGHT homeschool families, most of whom didn't even open it up before eventually passing it on. All contents were intact and none of the projects had ever been done in it.

But I ask: why plan for the burn-out? How about avoiding it altogether and still doing those fun things? ;)
Why sell off unused stuff that you KNOW your kids would have just LOVED if they'd had it at the right time, but they're now in college and you're online selling it off?

In our homeschool:

We do hit our times here in our homeschool where we just need a break. We don't call it burn-out because we're not burned out - we're just gearing up for a change of pace. We have these built-in times anyway because we live according to a liturgical year and that helps. But our curriculum choice helps too.

We have and use AMI Montessori albums. These albums provide a foundation and framework in their appropriate areas, as well as build connections between the subjects. If I just provide my son with THOSE lessons, he will have a solid foundation and a firm framework, but he won't have everything he needs.

Yikes, you're thinking! You mean your curriculum doesn't cover everything? (nope!) But that's terrible! A comprehensive curriculum is what a family needs to ensure the child learns everything he needs to know! (Well... not exactly).

See. My son has the foundation and the framework. And if I had more children, each child would then receive a solid foundation and firm framework. But what each child *needs* from there is going to be very different from the next child!

SO. We have a foundation and a framework. We then have TIME to explore personal interests (no, not just the interests he expresses, because the Montessori albums guide me to present in new areas in order to find new interests) in ways that speak to this child. So if my son is interested in the layers of the earth over types of rocks right now - so be it - we explore the layers of the earth. I know we'll come back around to that foundational presentation in the future and he WILL come around to studying different types of rocks.
And if he doesn't get there on his own? It is covered by 'family requirements' and 'local educational requirements' (anything required by the state in which you homeschool).

If my son wants to explore the orchestra by attending orchestral performances, we can do that; or if he would rather go to the music store and talk with an employee while the employee is pulling an instrument apart to clean it, repair it, and tune it -- we can do that instead! Or do both!

Thus, all the requirements are covered, with minimal time.

And we can pull in ALL SORTS of additional resources that supplement our "curriculum" (I know my Montessori trainers cringe at that word! Sorry! it's what most people understand, in regards to organizing a child's educational experience, so I'll use it for now ;) ) --- and we can explore personal interests SO DEEPLY.

And still have time and space left for family life.

What sort of stuff do we pull in while at home?
  • Fun science kits
  • Cooking experiments
  • Art projects of ALL kinds
  • Just sit and read for hours on end
  • Work on handcrafts for hours on end
  • Play games - lots of games - cards, boards, co-operative, etc. 
  • Writing one's own music
  • Being allowed to attend a midnight showing of The Hobbit and stay up afterwards to discuss it. 
  • Learn a foreign language; continue learning sign language --- for the FUN of it. 
  • Keep the house clean, together. 
And the stuff we can do outside the home is endless.

Ok, so some of those things apply more to my son than to my own free time (I run two small businesses from my home after all!). The point is that time is available because we're not looking at just the bare minimum requirements for 8 hours a day.

There is also a teeny-tiny amount of time available for computer usage, but at age 8, that time is less than half an hour per week. Not that I actually clock it at this point; it's just that the computer is for work and minimally available for play. Thus... there is also time for... SOCIAL INTERACTIONS. The only thing that non-homeschoolers want to know about ;) 

Lots of time. Lots of energy. Neither of which are spent on tedium or unnecessaries. 

Especially now I am pretty much DONE making materials or earning money specifically for Montessori materials. Blissful SIGH! ;) 

Consider how YOUR child learns. If you have more than one child - what are their similarities and differences? Is it possible to provide them a foundation and a structure and then allow each one time to explore their individual interests? Can they then learn from one another? And be involved in each other's interests at each one's own level?


By the by, the kit mentioned above that had 8 previous owners? We had a BLAST with it! I'll post about it soon. It's been a while but is still discussed quite often.


  1. Nice post full of inspiration!

    I have a lot of materials that we are reusing this year that the kids weren't interested in before but now enjoy it.

    That's funny how you traced a material back to 8 different families. It just goes to show us homeschoolers that we are different and what doesn't work for me may just work for you:)

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. What is even more funny about the material in question is that last year I had a group of children get together a few times for some planned activities (Montessori in style, but not the co-op I did). I used that particular material one day; 3 of the "previous owners" were there - their children loved it, they loved it. But all the parents said, "I wish we had time to do this stuff at home!"

      And I agree with them - there are some things, even Montessori, that I didn't do with my son until we had a group of children together - it just seemed more "worth it"... but that gets into another post I have planned ;)

  2. Where do you get AMI albums if you are not officially trained?

    1. Here is a link to currently available albums that I know of:

      AMS or AMI affiliation is noted if known.

    2. Meant to add that the page I linked to is organized by age and contains very basic information, with a link to purchase each set of your choosing :)