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, January 27, 2015

Work Plans - CONFUSION

Primary children should NOT use a written work plan.
But they can have the conversation!
And they can ask for a particular presentation
(as this boy is doing - because he has plans!)
There is a plethora of confusion about work plans.

I recently posted this in the comments of an online friend's blog and decided to make it its own post. I try so hard to "agree to disagree" on many interpretations of Montessori, while presenting information from a new viewpoint --- so each individual can make an individual choice for their own situation. This is one area where I am TIRED of being attacked, name-called, my intelligence and adherence to Montessori called into question because I don't "let" the elementary children "have complete freedom." Montessori never said "complete freedom". She said "freedom with responsibility" for the elementary age. And the misinterpretation of work plans and what they are SUPPOSED to be, I am drained of maintaining the quiet stance of "well, consider this aspect....".

Time for the truth to be told. Boldly.

Work plans are the child's segue into responsibility. 

They are the child's written down thoughts/plans for the day or the week or the month, following a conversation with the adult who does not dictate but listens, offers suggestions, answers questions, poses some questions and sometimes reminds a child of an area of exploration that the child doesn't know about (or remember) that would actually HELP the child's current explorations, interests, projects. 

Work plans are not checklists or pre-assigned/designed by the adult. 

Here is what I recently posted in the comments on another blog:

I think a good deal of the confusion comes from inaccurate information given to us first; it saturates us so that we come to the accurate information if it is not MORE forceful and MORE clear and MORE everything than the inaccurate information (and sometimes even then!) it gets pushed aside, not read/understood as intensely because an opinion has already been formed.

I REALLY wish certain other places would stop with the checklists - "download, print and use this as work plan". Those are not work plans, they are checklists. And they are adult led.

We ALL have work plans - whether written down or in a planner or in our heads - we all have a plan for the day, the week, the month, the year, life-plans - and we are all working towards those. To help the children we discuss, we check-in, we guide them, we make sure they are aware of scheduled activities that are upcoming so THEY can plan to get into deep or not so deep work depending on how much time they have, we let them make some mistakes but we also offer words of wisdom at the right moments --- and the children can write that down.

I don't see "checklist" in there anywhere. I am SO happy that the truth is finally being understood and being spread (I have felt like a lone voice for FAR too long) - but I am so sad at the depth of the misunderstanding.... 

A work plan is simply a written form of the plans in your child's mind. 

A homeschooler's version might look different from a classroom version - why? Because in the classroom, you have 35-60 children working in various areas to inspire the other children, reminding them of other areas of study.

Children in classrooms can observe others' work as a review and reminder of their own past work, inspiring them to further work or a way to apply that knowledge in their current work. Homeschool children don't have this inspiration, so it is OK to have a list of all the areas that could be studied in - as that way of reminding the children. They also won't be visually reviewing (observing) as much so it is ok to remind them to review areas they have not touched on in a while.

There are many other differences between classroom and homeschool, found in other posts - and some are still in-development.

Ultimately, we the adults have the map, yes the child still has his own personal journey - but how does the child know his options if we, the adult, don't present them.

Thus we continue to give new presentations (the children have a right to know when these presentations will happen, so they can learn to plan their own day); the children have a right to know there ARE more presentations and to request them. The children have a right to know how to plan their time wisely and receive GUIDANCE in their project and study planning.

If we do not have a conversation with the children and provide this opportunity for them to talk out their previous work (work journals) and their upcoming plans, then we are doing a SERIOUS dis-service to the children.

A GREAT article and video on the "Three Essential Tools of the Elementary Environment".
Montessori Guide: The Three Essential Tools


  1. Yes, yes, and yes. I just stumbled over the fact that as an adult I love planning (yes, I JUST stumbled over this thought) and that I want to share this skill with my children. Oh, right, that is what the work plan is FOR! THAT must be what is going on here. We are sharing a skill, and giving our children the tools they can USE to pursue their own dreams. They are exercising their own freedom of choice to focus their own ambitions in a way that and creates opportunities to do responsible work. :)

    THANK YOU for all your guidance and perseverance regarding this subject. I feel so lucky to finally understand.

  2. Thank you! I need to get to having some conversations with my kiddos!

  3. Great post Jessica. You are completely right in that Montessori does not say give the child complete freedom, but rather freedom within limits. Those limits are determined by the child - through observing their ability to be self-disciplined, self-directed and making good work choices.

    I hope you were able to direct those who were doubting you to the Montessori Guide vimeo on "Meetings & Conferences" (being the cornerstone of creating a work plan).