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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Guess what we are doing? ;)

Yeah, that's just the books. (minus the two tubs of fabric on the table)

And apparently not even all of them.

Will post photos of the library when all is unpacked in the new house ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reality vs. Fantasy Before Age 6 - My Experience

I knew about the Montessori principle of focusing on reality before my son was born. So I was good to go from the start. And I fully supported it because it made sense - it fit with my own experiences working with children that I had not been able to clarify before.

A not so scientific survey - well, it's scientific, just anecdotal/observational science:

Children founded in reality in the first plane of development (conception to age 6) have stronger imaginations, greater creativity and are generally still in awe of the world around them into the elementary years, as compared to children who were surrounded by other people's imaginings in those formative years.

For example, I can tell what sort of 0-6 upbringing a 6-8 year old child has had in response to the first Great Lesson: God with No Hands. Children founded in reality, recognize immediately that there is some amount of fantasy here (the inanimate world does not actually whisper "I hear my Lord, and I obey" nor do angels actually carry heat up and bring cool down). The children immediately recognize words such as "like" and "as if", referring to analogies. The children understand these analogies and pick up on them, even if they have not had an explicit lesson on "analogy." These children can immediately get into the exploration of the actual facts and have JOY in the imaginative pieces - 'those particles, "like" people, like some but have a strong dislike for others', the children find such amusement in this line!

On the other hand, the children who have had experience with a lot of other people's imaginations (things that are not real, adults telling stories that couldn't possibly be true for the fun of it, cartoons, etc.), even when they tell you they "know" the difference between fantasy and reality - will ask at the end (or interrupt in the middle!) of the First Great Lesson, "Is that real?" Or they will say, "Well, that's not really what happened."

Yes, you are correct my child, but did you actually listen?

The story itself doesn't say that it is really what happened - the analogies make this clear. But these children have been set up to argue something that wasn't an argument. They have to repeat to themselves the concepts in the story itself to say that the story is an imaginative event, with a good deal of real facts. So 1) they consciously miss the clues that are obvious to the other children yet 2) they are re-stating those very clues in their own words ("this isn't how it exactly happened").

It becomes almost a difference between true pure joy and a building cynicism.

Wow. And I just wanted to tell a story to open up the geography album.

It happens in other areas too.

The children with the mixed experiences before age 6 seem to spend several of their elementary years sorting out the difference between reality and fiction. I wonder, if a longitudinal study were done, if this carries over into their adolescent and adult years - leading to people questioning objective Truth in this world. Even those without cynicism waste those elementary years still sorting out real versus fiction.

The children with the solid foundation in reality spend their elementary years enjoying the awe and wonder of the world around them, asking many "what if" questions that explore the very real natural laws around us; then testing them out and seeing what more they learn. This is true imagination - to test the limits of reality.

The children with mixed experiences generally consider fairy tales to be girly stories (if they are boys) and baby stories (if they are boys or girls). They might participate because they know there is something there, but there is a rough exterior that says, "I'm actually too cool for this but I'll go along with it since everyone else is." Or they tend to tease the other children who actually still like fairy tales.

The children with the reality experiences DELVE into fairy tales (which are actually moral tales), reading the original versions and various re-writes. They explore the moral dimensions, they re-write endings, or write alternative viewpoints. They explore the cultural dimensions and what it meant to have Cinderella's eyes pecked out by ravens. They are fascinated with Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" and can actually sit through a reading of the original Jungle Books.

Now does this happen with EVERY child? Probably not. But think about this: even the children who SAY they understand the difference, and verbally state they know and then proceed to prove it... doesn't mean they really get it. And sometimes, the fact that they have to verbalize it, means that they have not entirely internalized it. Sometimes the whole talking through something is a sign that the child is still working through it.

And it has been consistent with all the children I have personally observed in this area.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Small Home Montessori - Elementary - What we're doing

The space:
We have an 850 square foot apartment with a large bathroom and a tiny kitchen. Yeah, they could have shifted that space!

Legoboy has the smaller of the two bedrooms (less than 1/3 of less than 1/2 the apartment); I have the master bedroom (the full third end of the apartment (including the walk-in closet).

We had primary set up in Legoboy's bedroom; his clothes went to my closet (on a lower rack on wheels; he has the bottom half of the dresser which is also in the closet). There was a small couch in his room for his bed. I removed the closet doors to extend the space, placing the map cabinet in the closet, with shelving above and behind it.

We even had the bells in there:
IKEA shelf (no longer sell that particular one :( ) on side
placed on top of a coffee table
Sensorial materials below.
The mess above is stuff I swapped up/down. 

My bedroom was/is the library (umpteen shelves), sewing room, and holds my bed. The tops of the bookcases and the shelves in the closet are "storage", which right now equates to empty boxes because we have been trying to move into a house for the last 6+ years.

The hallway had a rack with science supplies; the lower cupboards in the kitchen contained items for Legoboy's use (practical life, dishes, etc.). The bathroom has the art easel and 2 sets of drawers of art supplies.

As we entered elementary, we were slowing adding and replacing the primary materials, but then moved our whole set-up to the local school building to offer a Montessori homeschool co-op, which last some time. We brought materials back and forth as needed; not ideal, but allowed us to have some space at home to get through some other projects. Now we have had to move everything back home and, well, we've just not fully set up. We get out what we need, when we need it. Much less than ideal (less visual options as reminders) but now we are in upper elementary, we need the materials less and less anyway.

So what have we done for elementary?
The classroom sized charts and other large flat items are in the living room closet.

Side by side shelving in Legoboy's room allows us to store items while allowing him to keep his couch-bed, desk and plethora of bookcases.
I can't find the photo of this room off-hand. I will add it if I remember to do so before this posts goes live ;)

Science supplies are in a kitchen cupboard. The hallway has been replaced with the keyboard and our huge 5-gallon bucket of coconut oil. Looking closely you can see we have two maps on the wall (a world map and a US cloth map made by Legoboy with a print from Joann Fabric); two space posters; a globe; art/writing supplies in the far back corner. And this area connects his bedroom, my bedroom, the bathroom and kitchen; I am standing in the living room to take the photo. And the dictionary because he was "hiding" it from me - the whole thing about hiding stuff in plain sight. Yep.

I keep thinking it is all temporary as we look for a rental (you'd have to know the area to understand why this is taking forever), but reality is, he's 10 now. Yes I want to offer a co-op of sorts when we move into a house, but he himself is coming to the end of most of these materials anyway. My heart is breaking and joyful at the same time - that tug of not wanting him to grow up yet, but seeing the wonderful young man he is becoming. :)

But all these materials? 
I totally GET the folks who consider the multiplicity of materials compared to living a simple lifestyle. Not wanting our children to live an indulgenced lifestyle where they get all these expensive (or time-consuming materials) all to themselves. Or to have a tightly filled home when Montessori herself promoted simplicity, beauty in sparsity. My home right now is not the ideal. But it is not Montessori materials cluttering it up. It is all of my own unfinished projects. It continues to improve and I love every inch of free space and time we have as projects finish up; it is a long uphill battle from clingy to clutter-FREE. Montessori HELPED! ;)

My balance to those concerns that I also share?
The joy in sharing these materials with others in one fashion or another certainly goes a long way. We have these blessings, we share them. With local children via co-op and tutoring, with the blogging world, with other homeschool parents wanting to do Montessori at home.