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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Work Plan for 6 Year Old - Yes? No?

I was asked to give more information on the following statement I made in a previous work plan post:
     With that said, I find that 6 year olds without a work-plan at all, are missing out on a *huge* piece of Montessori elementary. 

Aren't we supposed to follow the child?

YES! That is why there should be some form of a work plan and/or work journal, and best is both - starting around age 6.

Remember the 4 planes of development?

In the first plane, the inner teacher of the child directs their learning and growth. Children will generally grow and learn and develop certain skills regardless of what WE do. Most parents know to give their children food, warmth, snuggles, conversation. Thus children who are even abused and neglected gain SOME skills, develop at least SOME. I realize there are extreme situations, but here we are focusing on *most* parents.

The child's inner teacher guides that growth. All that we adults can do is provide the *optimal* environment. I say "all that we can do" - but I also say "that IS what we should do."

And we trust that inner guide to utilize the good things we have placed in the environment to develop that child before us.

By the second plane, as the absorbent mind peters out and the social connections become hungry, children now need societal expectations; they live on rules and order - creating their own clubs, their own languages - that herd instinct that still craves identity. The first plane achieved strong identity of self, the second plane now works on strong identity of group dynamics.

Just as we fed that ego in the first plane, now we feed that need for group dynamics in the second plane. If the need is fulfilled now, we will have adolescents who seek to be members of the world, not clinging to the vestiges of "group belonging" that should have been fulfilled in the second plane.

Wow. What does that have to work plans? ;)

This work plan and/or work journal is one small way we create those societal expectations. We also have the following:

  • studies on the fundamental needs of man
  • meeting those needs throughout time
  • reasons for laws in society
  • taxes
  • continuing the same skills from primary - preparing work for the next child, completing a work cycle
  • environmental expectations (chores)
  • Goings Out - formal or informal - interacting with society
  • prepares for 3rd and 6th year in elementary when the child should be working a bit with the local school standards
  • there's more but Legoboy keeps interrupting me with some Lego creations I need to post about soon!

In essence, the true definition of following the child is to observe carefully, note the child's needs, have an understanding of where things are going and providing those things that fulfill current needs in order to lay a strong foundation for what is coming up. 

The work plan does not dictate a child's every waking moment, or even a majority of it. It simply says, "Here is a slightly bigger plan than you usually have in your mind right now" (for some children it might be a morning, or a day, a couple of days and most 6 year olds can handle seeing a week) - and "here is what we can likely work on this week/today" (keep it light at first). Now today is Monday (or it is 8 am and we have lunch at noon). Today (this morning), let's continue that language study you started last week and I have a new presentation for you in biology. Come get me when you are ready for those things."

Or "Tomorrow, we have the men coming to cut down those dead trees. They will be here at 10 am. Let's write that down on our work plan. If you would like to watch, here's where you can take a chair, will you want your camera?" (then write those things on the work plan, as a reminder). 

Then for the work journal - anything will do - a notebook of blank pages - note the date, write down what was done; later the child can be required to write the beginning time or the ending time, then both times. It can be drawings of what was done, a sample sentence/problem, an interesting statement - pretty much anything that notes that the child is recording his/her choice of time spent. So when Grandma asks, "What are you learning in school?" The child will stay say, "Nothing," but Mom can pull out their work journal and say, "Maybe you can show these things to Grandma?" Although Grandma likes to see the art work and actual math problems ;)

The work journal is most handy when preparing for the upcoming work plan - review what was done, how much progress was made, ask further questions.... "You didn't really do anything after our story on the (fill in the blank). What have you thought about that story since then? Let's have another story in that area this coming week - here are some choices, which would you like?" (this doesn't force an interest, but does develop other important social skills, such as making choices in an area of no interest, taking some ownership for learning, and could potentially develop an interest). 

One last thought - an analogy: 

When we grow plants - at first we let them grow how they will. See which ones will be strong. We cannot control which seeds will sprout - but we plant them all, give them all the optimal conditions for growth. 

Then it is time to transplant them - or perhaps you're not needing to transplant them because you planted them where they will stay. Ok. 
(end first plane of development)

But now those tomato plants are going to go all over if you don't stake them; that tree sapling is going to bend in the strong wind, so we prop it up. We provide it *guidance* as to where to go, modifying and later lessening that guidance as time goes on. 
(second plane of development, moving into 3rd and somewhat the 4th)

Eventually the tree is strong enough to do what it will do without our interference and the tomato plants are producing fruit. 
(fourth plane and life beyond)


  1. Pretty please keep posting on this topic. I am almost there:)

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I don't know you in person, but I can just hear you saying that so sweetly ;)

      Do you have something specific about you'd like me to share? :)

  2. You may have already specifically shared this, but I am a bit slow! Could you please share in detail what specific daily rhythm is on the work plans for elementary. Are all areas done everyday? If not how does it look? On Monday is it Maths? or Does a child just focus on one particular material in the subject areas until there is some sort of mastery?

    Is the Work Plans available at Montessori for Everyone just about sum it up? See I am confused!!

    Thank you so much for all that you share, I have learned so much from you and I can see that I have gotten a lot of "wrong " information(sigh).

    1. DM - I thought I had responded to your question, but I don't see it here! Yikes!

      I will provide a post to answer most of your questions. As for the ones at Montessori for Everyone, I am personally not a fan of them - too organized without the child's participation. Just because a child is doing one area in math doesn't mean he's doing a very particular area in language - he could be all over the place at once. I also find that monthly work plans are much better for upper elementary and adolescence, with lower elementary needing weekly and daily plans. Just my own two cents - everyone's mileage will be different :)

  3. Stopped over from What Did We Do All Day. Interesting post. I actually look forward to having a work plan. I feel like I will then feel more certain that the kiddos are getting what they need. However, my oldest is 3.5 and has no work plan; I think that's okay for now. Thank you for your thoughts.

    1. At 3, the work plan is more on the part of the adult having an idea where the child's work might be headed and plan to have those presentations ready. At age 6, with the reasoning mind taking precedence over the absorbent mind, work plans on the part of the child come into play. So you've got some time :)

      But yes, do consider having some way of tracking your children's work so that you can see the progression. Do you have a scope and sequence for the albums you have? Mine (at primary) are dividable into 6 month increments for ease of focus.

  4. Interesting post! Any suggestions for how to start a work plan for a 6 year old who is new to Montessori? I have a feeling it will be day-to-day for quite a while, but . . . .

    1. The paper-clip version seems to be interesting to most people. The main thing to remember is that not every subject needs to be done every single day; but you do want a good balance of review/new items, while providing time for depth of interests.

      So select a very small number of items that are "daily" - these get done almost no matter what. Then some sort of rotation (such as the paper-clip style or similar; I also had a set of cards that were just transferred from one basket to another) to assure there is a variety done over 2-3 days.

      When ready to start looking at a week, there are even more varieties of options - I like the cards used by some families that can be re-arranged on the spot when the child realizes that the initial lay-out will require their one dreaded subject all day on Friday ;)

      Our job as the adult is to have MORE ready for the child than the child will do in a set period of time, but to help guide the child to plan the "minimum" to be done, with lots of time for exploring personal interests (which is where our over-planning comes in ;) ).