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, March 1, 2013

Project-Based Learning

I started one blog post and it became two! So I just finished writing them both together, then I'm separating them, so you might see some similar sentences here ;)

The blogosphere is such a small world. ;) Someone saw my comment on someone else's blog and asked me some questions; I responded; she forwarded my response to a friend of hers and suddenly I am having a 5 way conversation via e-mail.

And that, my readers, is how these long blog posts get started!

Picking up from the first post:

Projects! Elementary children should be working on PROJECTS! Research; timelines; creating their own materials! OH! The FUN!

Not to be confused with THE "Project-Based Learning" (and here) that still can lean just a bit too far into adult-led territory, even if only in the ending expectations. Yes, we are there, yes we provide guidance as needed, yes we are involved, but the work is truly the child's work in Montessori.

A search for "project based learning and Montessori" pulls up a LOT of other people's thoughts on the integration of the two concepts - indeed that project-based learning probably started with Montessori to begin with, and someone(s) took the idea in a direction that felt better for the non-Montessori adult ;) (this has happened with many things, such as "independent learning activities" ;) ).

If your elementary children are not exploring their own interests (or they express an interest and you fill in too much, too fast for them), consider backing off for a bit. See what happens. You still provide the framework and foundation (there are things they simply do need to learn in elementary!), but then... Ask them, "What would you like to learn more about in this area?" "I've just shown you the Timeline of Life - what area interests you to learn more about?" Or "I see that you are really interested in the images of the plants in this area, what is it you are thinking as you look at them?"  OR "You have a question about this - I wonder where we could find the answers." (guide them to the possibilities if needed the first time or two, but you really want the child's mind to truly THINK).

"Let's go find a book (or a video) on this topic."

Let them explore. At some point, "Have you found the answer to your question? Yes? Do you have more questions now? I see you are now interested in this particular type of plant." (continue exploring).

In the moment research:
they had a question and spent 20 minutes searching
all the books in the atrium for one tidbit of information.
And what they learned in the process would take a week's
worth of blog posts to cover :) 
At some point again, "Would you like to share this information with others? Here are some ideas of how we can do that (if the child doesn't think of any)." OR The child has his own way already and you assist him (or step out of the way ;) ). Some children need a push to present - they need a small, simple requirement now and again to share their findings either in a journal for themselves or as a presentation for others - but some way of following up their research.

These projects can be very small or VERY LARGE.

Only the child's imagination and creativity can dictate the child's need; we adults have the job of removing boundaries.

The materials should be an aid to you, not an hindrance. They should inspire the child to be inquisitive and seek further answer, developing skills of searching out that answers in a variety methods. Thus, the "keys" - not exhaustive, but enough to get them going, with a firm framework built on a solid foundation.


  1. The latest project in my house is to make fire using wooden blocks! We've been rubbing and rubbing! Can't you tell what great lesson we are on?!!

    I love to read your thoughts on how we can go about creating an interest, helping or assisting with it and recording or presenting! Can't agree more on sometimes the best is to move away and just observe!

    1. Oh! I missed your comment when it was first posted! That sounds like hard work, but quite interesting! And yep, I bet I know where that follow-up fits in ;)

  2. I need to learn to step out of the way with my 7 year old. He is finally starting to read to himself and not feel the need for me to sit with him. We started his timeline this year and hopefully he will start individual projects next school year.

    1. It is SO hard for me to let go sometimes; but the balance can be found. My son loves the things we work on together, even if they're not his favorite thing; and he at least pretends to understand that I have no interest in building Legos with him, but I will ooh and aah over every creation, take photos and love his stories and adventures that go along with them ;)