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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First Paper - On Respect

Recently, Legoboy was required by his tae-kwon-do instructor to write a one-page paper on respect. This is the first outside "assigned paper" he's ever had, outside of some paragraphs here and there. At home, we've had other types of writing assignments, easing into writing "papers".

The pictures throughout this post are some of the resources he used to write that paper.

Despite having all the keys he needed, he felt quite overwhelmed. So, while I was occupied with my own work, I non-chalantly reminded him of the writing process:
  1. get your ideas down on paper (wide variety of options - notecards, bubbles, lists, etc.)
  2. organize those ideas under main headings
  3. consider any other headings that should be included (look at "audience requirements") - edit as needed
  4. physically organize all these ideas in order, and begin writing on paper with complete sentences.
  5. Edit from there as needed.
Praying for Gifts of the Holy Spirit

So he did just that list. As he considered the types of respect, he decided to divide it up under "Mom (and Dad, if ever)", "Teachers/Instructors" (to include all the teachers and instructors he has such as catechists, speech teacher, TKD instructors, any camp leaders, etc.), and "Other Adults of Authority" (godparents, grandparents - the sort of people whose opinion and advice he seeks out on a routine basis). 

He then proceeded to write his paper - one paragraph for each type of adult. It turned out great! And he even capitalized where he was supposed to do (an ongoing idiosyncrasy of his is to leave out capitalization).

learning the names and definitions of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Before I proceed forward, let's look at some background: 

Why do we homeschool?
We homeschool because it is the best available option for us at this time. If we had a full-time local Catholic Montessori school - or if I could open one at this time - Legoboy would attend. 

Why Montessori or homeschool and no other option?
I want my son to think for himself, be a productive and contributing member of society, be self-assured and live as a true Child of God. Unfortunately, I find these things difficult (not impossible!) to achieve in a public school or most of the locally available private school settings (including our local Catholic schools). The local school system is an excellent one - it just doesn't meet our needs. Legoboy interacts with a full society on a daily basis, as he would in a multi-age Montessori classroom with Goings Outs. 

Level 3 (ages 9-12+) - Peoples and People of God
Peoples are the nations and civilizations that have risen up,
made discoveries, invented, created gifts -
then faded away - but left their gifts to others (horizontal connections amongst peoples).
The People of God are the Jews and Christians.
This work explores the connections amongst peoples, and the moral responsibility
to utilize the gifts received from others, develop them, and pass them on
on a national level - and on a very personal level.

I also do not believe in wasting time. Rising before 6 am to be on a school bus with ages 5-18, before 7AM, to return after 3PM, with a total of 90-120 minutes on the bus each day - when you are 6 years old (now 9yo) is not a good use of time. Driving back and forth to pick-up/drop-off is not a good use of my own time (I did this for 2 years when I had in-home daycare - picking up and dropping off children during what would have been our family prayer-times - but I was paid to do that). Legoboy has been able to accomplish the schoolwork of the public school in a matter of minutes each day, without additional homework time; he has time to explore his own interests and go very deep with them. He has time to participate in activities that others have to say "no" to (or that others say "yes" then back out when it gets to be too much).

My son is learning to maintain his commitments, because he does not over-commit. Each new activity, whether on-going, short-term or one-time, we are able to discuss the realities of the situation and make an appropriate commitment level, such that we don't break promises. We have the experience repeatedly with children attending full-time schools of broken commitments, tired children, cranky parents who over-step their boundaries in public. It is simply not a culture we seek for ourselves. 

source for the Gifts: Scripture itself
Scripture is the primary reading reference in our household
It is so easy in school to just "get by" - our Montessori-homeschool is based on mastery: while we might move on to other areas of study within that subject, we continue to review and work on skills that need to be mastered - they don't just get passed over and left behind as so readily happens in schools. As homeschoolers (and Montessorians), we review just what needs to be reviewed and reinforce all else. 

Some of the definitions - particularly COUNSEL

Also, we can take our time when needed - have a deadline for a project at school and turn it in late? Grades get knocked down, but you move on with life; don't do so well in 5th grade, you move on to 6th grade without enough time to ensure basic skills are thoroughly covered. Most schools simply cannot handle the developmental needs of a child who has a wide variety of ability levels - one-room school-houses and Montessori schools address these appropriate developmental needs of their students. It is not the fault of most teachers - it simply how "the system works". What a sad fact. How many times, I (the "good student") learned how to play the system when I was in school - sometimes to my own long-term benefit, but many times to my own long-term detriment. "Playing the system" is NOT something I want to my son to learn. I want him to respect legitimate authority, learn to function within it, and know when and how to properly address concerns. 
The Mystery of Life and Death

As a Montessori homeschooler, we have our foundation and framework provided by the Montessori albums ("lesson plans") and we have the construction of this growing human being fleshed out by his own interests, local educational standards (he's been studying US History because that is what the local schools do in 3rd grade - that is the ONLY thing they've done to date that's he wouldn't have done on his own), and parental requirements. To flesh out these interests and go deeper with our work, we utilize other resources. This is a Montessori practice at elementary. 
Level 2 (ages 6-9) Maxims Cabinet
maxims are moral statements of Jesus calling us to our "maximum"

He has responsibility for his own work - my responsibility lies in assuring he has the necessary keys to get the job done to his greatest potential.

Level 3 study of some of the moral parables

What does this have to do with writing a paper?
Short answer: I don't do his work for him. I don't homeschool to DO his work, his study, his learning, his projects FOR him. I know this is common practice in schools - for the parents to do so much for the kids. NOPE. Not a chance in THIS house. My mother didn't do my work for me when I was in school - my experience was my own - for better or for worse - and for that I am SO grateful. I wish she'd been on my case a bit more, but there's another bonus to homeschooling. Want Lego-playing time? Get that project of yours done.
(funny thing is - those parents who do the work for their kids - could spend the exact same amount of time homeschooling their children instead - and there'd be a lot less stress in those homes, a lot more responsibility, and time to just be together as family - all the reasons I homeschool)

Legoboy has been writing with pen and paper since he was 3 1/2, when he started writing "thank you" on cards of his own accord (I thought he was drawing pictures until he asked me how to make a K). Not consistently and he wasn't writing out a college thesis at that age (he's still not ;) ). I do not consider him a genius, but I do consider that he has had the proper keys to learning, via Montessori and homeschooling, that allow him to blossom forth at the proper time for HIM. 

We have used some writing resources outside of the Montessori keys: 
  • Creative Communications: a series of writing exercises designed to get the children thinking and utilizing real writing skills - nothing arbitrary here! These are assignments from me, but he enjoys them. 
  • writing prompts from the history and science magazines he reads - these have never been "assigned" by me, but have been freely worked on by Legoboy
  • Typical writing experiences: letters to family, grocery lists, write-ups to me about why we should spend our hard-earned money on specific purchases (what would be the benefits and drawbacks, how much will it cost, how long will it last, maintenance, where will it be stored, etc.)
  • summaries of Scriptural passages, with some quotes
No formal writing - he's not even in middle school yet. We did purchase this resource to utilize when he is done reviewing some elementary materials for me: 

He is REALLY excited to do this work, because over the course of the curriculum a magazine is created. He's already selected his topic. Anyone's guess what the topic is ;) (I'm not telling - it's too obvious!)
I have looked the material over and I know that at age 9 1/2 he is just barely ready for this middle school work. Go Montessori! (and homeschooling!)

I repeat the short story: I DON'T DO THE WORK FOR HIM. That is ridiculous to think of anyway - who checks his work? Me. Who doesn't assign grades? Me. If it basically wouldn't be considered "A" or "B" work in a school setting, who works with him to make sure he understands the concepts at hand and has him re-do it? Me. Who is with him every step of the way and knows the progress he is making? Me. 
So why would I do any of it for him!? I spend my time TEACHING him (or providing the tools that he uses to learn it for himself) - what benefit do either of us get for me to do his work for him? I don't have to report his work or show it to anyone. And it would go against all my parenting goals of raising a responsible adult.

Reading the Scripture itself

The Respect Paper:
So there we are, in the level 3 atrium at our local parish - I am working on materials and organizing boxes of mixed items. He is sitting at a low table surrounded by the Moral Formation materials, working on his respect paper. He reads the first paragraph to me (about parental respect) - great; he reads the second paragraph to me (about teacher/instructor respect) - not so great - I am a HUGE stickler against blind-obedience. So we discuss that I only want him to obey when it is not a sin (my words) - he can do a tae-kwon-do form wrong by instruction, his speech therapist can correct his pronunciation wrong - and these he needs to obey and speak to me later about it - but if someone tells him to commit a sin, he is NEVER-NEVER-NEVER to obey. So he re-wrote his second paragraph to say that he would "obey all moral instruction" - perhaps "morally correct instruction" would have been better, but at the time I let it go, because he got the concept and this is HIS paper. 

His words. 

Not mine. 

Level 3 Prophet studies - moral and messianic
Then he struggled with the 3rd paragraph - he struggled for quite a while on this one - he knew what he wanted to say, but didn't have the words for it. I, in my impatience at the sound of a whining voice and busy with my own work, tired and hungry at the time, told him in a rather (too?) sharp voice, "You have everything you need to figure this out - use the materials in the atrium if you have to."

So he did.

He wrote about seeking the counsel of those who have moral authority over him and considering their words when making decisions of his own. 


I thought it was great. I was so proud of him. I AM still proud of him. 

Typology studies - this one is creation (How does creation continue today?)
Legoboy has also studied Sin (How do we fight Sin today?)
and the Flood (How are we renewed by God today?)

So here I am feeling guilty about snapping at him - when he's writing a paper on respect. Seriously, talk about a hypocritical Mama, right!? 

He was told by the tae-kwon-do instructors to re-write it with the insinuation that Mom did the work; that he couldn't possibly have written it himself. Later, after I explained that he had taken bits and pieces from several of the atrium materials to construct this paragraph, the accusation was changed to him copying it from somewhere. There was so much mis-communication during this time period, I am not sure how any of us got to the other side of it (but we have!).

The two instructors involved continue to state that Legoboy is obviously intelligent, surpasses his peers in many ways especially academically, they see the books he reads. So why is it so hard to believe he could write this paper BY HIMSELF? 

Because for every belt test there is a paragraph supposed to be written - and he previously only wrote a sentence. Well, no-one told him to do otherwise. Once he was told to write more, he did. He's a boy - and a child - and it's not school-work - he's going to do the bare minimum needed on something that is not of direct interest. So if you want more, TELL HIM - then he'll do it. He also took a short-cut (which I stopped as soon as I caught him) - he went through the entire book and tried to fill them all out something like 4 belt tests ago - he is supposed to write one PER belt test - the progression of growing and maturing is supposed to be shown. He's efficient, I'll give him that. 

The one instructor then had the audacity to tell me that Legoboy couldn't have written that 3rd paragraph specifically because if he'd written those words, he would be living them out in his life. Ummm.....

This man is a father of several grown children and he has already forgotten that head-knowledge isn't always heart-knowledge? And that sometimes the act of writing something down and thinking through what one believes about something turns it into heart-knowledge. That's not copying - or getting help - that's figuring it out and making it one's own (one of the other reasons we Montessori and homeschool).

Ever since Legoboy wrote that paper, he has been living it out - to a T. He didn't "live it out" beforehand because he hadn't organized all these thoughts and teachings yet - this paper has been GOOD for him, let us allow the child to grow up now and not hold him to his understanding BEFORE the paper!

10 Commandments and the Level 3 maxims
(same as the level 2, on smaller tablets - and 5 more of them)

I appreciate the assignment from them, because of this growth in my child. 

I also appreciate the bitter side of this gift in that I see my son growing stronger through being in appropriately accused of something - yet still respecting the very people who falsely accused him. 

Level 3 History of the Gifts of God
(level 2 is bigger but covers the same concepts)
Level 3 requires personal responses
regarding the Gifts we have received.
Yes, I'm offended. This started a month ago - and the more I consider it, the more I pray about it, the more I let it go - the more I realize how much pain could be inflicted here, how much trust is being broken, how much my son is hurting because of the pain and the dropping trust - and how much he is growing by working through that adversity and forgiving. He is a better person than me. 

We ALL have so much to learn from the children.

In the end, Legoboy was asked to provide examples of respect - because I refused to have him re-write his legitimate work, and I am his ultimate authority here on earth. I think this is the first time ever I have modified a requirement from someone in authority over him. So they provided a new assignment. Since they didn't give any other guidelines to it, he created a "graphic paper" for them:
UPDATE 10/7/2013: It turns out they loved the fact he used a combination of art and some words to show the examples. They also love the examples he utilized. Success!

For the PUBLIC record - I edited the first page of his paper entitled "respect in graphic" - I replaced his name for obvious reasons - you can tell where that was/is.
He provided 5 examples of "this/not this":

  • practicing low-block while the instructor isn't watching (do it right, or do it sloppy)
  • putting a book on the shelf properly in our home (yeah, there's a history here on this one)
  • saying no to drugs
  • seeking counsel (I love this one: say "hmmm" to consider someone's counsel - or say "I don't care what you think" in the other)
  • speech therapy (he listed the things the could think about if being disrespectful (Legos, etc.) compared to what he would think if respectful (whatever it is she is telling him to work on)). 


  1. Oh boy.

    Interesting post and enjoyed reading it.

    What I can say is this: Aren't you glad you don't have to deal with someone else's inaccurate and unnecessary assessments of your child day in and day out. It is only on the rare occasions like this, where we are faced with what we would be much more frequently if we outsourced their education, that we are reminded to appreciate the freedom we have to opt out.

  2. This made me tear up. And yes, children are so very forgiving. More forgiving than I ever am....especially of their mommy. We truly are being sanctified through them. :)

    1. Yes - and that sanctification so many times comes through balancing when to step in and when let others have the authority. In this case, I am SO glad I stepped in and stood up for him. I try SO hard not to be the helicopter parent and there are plenty of times I have taken my son down a notch in favor of another child.

      Re-reading this post though - brings up some discontent in me. There have been lingering issues dealing with that book where they write a paragraph per belt test. The one instructor in particular keeps talking about the "one-liners" - I keep telling him, "That was BEFORE he knew the requirement. Let IT GO!"

      I love TKD and all the other instructors. I like this one too.

      It just seems that some people will simply NOT let up on a child's misunderstanding despite the child attempting to move on. (I have people in my family who maligned me as a toddler - I'm in my 30s now and they still can't let it go - seriously - it was over 30 years ago - LET it GO!)

      Haha! I need to let it go too! Just when I think I have ;)

      Yes - definitely sanctified through our children. Purified by fire ;)

  3. Yeah, I have a family member who will throw something random at me that I did when I was like 5 and I'm thinking "seriously"? They still don't get it. That is why I want to share Montessori with everyone I come in contact with. I don't want them to ruin their relationships with their children. I have to bite my tongue soooo much when I see some of the things my friends do as parents. I also wish so bad that my parents would read these Montessori books I read so they could be better grandparents. I see them doing the same things to my kids that they did to me when I was little. Ughh!

    I just always try to tell parents that kids aren't being "bad", they are just frustrated because they are misunderstood!