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, June 9, 2015

Montessori - When to Present

There are many questions about "mastery" of late - how to know when to move on to the next material or presentation. I would like to submit/repeat an idea to consider, to ponder.

At the primary age ("Casa dei Bambini" or Children's House) - If you are using an album set that has 4 subject areas (exercises of practical life, language, sensorial, math), and you present ONE thing from one album and wait a few days to observe your child's response, they will have ONE choice that whole time. Put yourself in their shoes/socks/bare-feet and consider what that is like. One activity to choose from? Seriously? As a child I'd be finding something else to do and the adult would be very disappointed.

So maybe you present one thing each day, 4 days a week. By the end of the week, the child has 4 options. Would you be bored? (those of you using albums that have more than 4 subjects will find that with this method you only touch on a subject once every 2-3 weeks - or longer).

Getting Started with Presentations and Work Choices: 

This work is not successful
until EPL and language are successful. 
So start out with a series of presentations - the EPL album has all the preliminary work, some of it is just practice carrying objects, practicing walking quietly (then in the kitchen and the bathroom be showing various skills as appropriate); the language album has all the spoken language games - go with it - "Let's practice carrying objects!" and do a series of objects - slowly, focusing on each one, but you might do this for an hour or two hours. Stop when your child needs a break. The first days of homeschooling will be full of EPL and language - and consciously involving your child in all aspects of household/family life. He should have some free time with his favorite toys as well.

Walking on the line; playing outside; singing songs; reading books; being involved in everything that happens in the home; keeping things neat and orderly.

Thus the first days will be ***busy***. They will be ***full***. It should be natural and fun. And there will be almost NO MATERIALS beyond what you have at home already.

This lays the foundation for when you do get into the "official" Montessori materials (or modified from at-home materials).

They can't do this until they have the focus,
the process,
the trust in the adult to show them something valuable.
All lessons learned from exciting Exercises of Practical Life
- many of them -
throughout the day
and over the course of weeks.

Continuing on with this theme of when to present and how much:

MASTERY - does a child need to master one material in a subject area before moving on to the next?

Short answer: NO! Let's apply the same logic as above. If you have 4 subject areas as AMI does, at 3.5, the child is likely to only have EPL, language and sensorial (math typically comes closer to the 4th birthday). That is THREE work options if you are waiting for mastery in one concept before moving to the next, within each subject. Within each album can be found a few threads that come together at various points (such as language as separate preparations for the physical side of writing and the mental side of writing), so in reality, within each subject are parallel "threads."

Do we want to be presenting all day long? NO! But think about the classroom experience of a child - he may not get a new individual presentation each and every day, but he does get lessons in grace and courtesy during group time, he spends time observing his companions (a presentation in itself), and he works with some of these companions at various tasks.

In the home life, this equates to being involved in as many aspects of home life as possible, observing the doings of the various people in the home and the neighborhood, having real conversations using real language, and being shown new skills or materials that are appropriate for his age and development. This last part is where we look to the scope and sequence for what is typically appropriate, then modify according to the individual child in front of us.

How Often to Present Once Things Get Going: 

If you look at this post at Montessori Nuggets: Montessori Nuggets - Organizing Primary Presentations and you've actually then opened yourself to the true depth of the Montessori materials, you'll find that you're presenting something every weekday of a year-round school. Something. Sometimes more than one something. Some things are left for child-discovery (a good deal is), but there are enough direct presentations for a homeschool environment to do something with your child (who, after all, wants to be with you) every day. Explore with your child.

Every day.

That's not a new material every day - that's "let's look at something else we can do with the spindles!" (just one example - I have noticed many people forget the bundling stage, but this is actually crucial to gaining from the true depths of this rather simplistic-looking material). And it might even be a suggestion thrown out while you are washing the dishes ;) That happens a lot in our home - I say "I wonder if you could (fill in the blank) with (list a particular material)? And show me when I am done washing the dishes (or whatever I am doing at the moment)." And THAT might be my presentation for the day!

Given we typically have a daily social graces lesson or chat (grace and courtesy), lots of involvement in real life activities of the home, go off and play by yourself time, outside time, etc.

Three-Hour Work Cycle in the Home: 

I have recently heard from several individuals that they expected their child would work independently (which equates to being "alone" for some of these children) for a solid 3-hour work cycle.
  • Humans are social creatures. Young children learn their social skills from the adults around them. 
  • Our work cycles at home are 24 hours every day, not 3. If you want a set-aside school time where the materials are only available during that time, that is awesome, but your child will be learning throughout all of every day - and many of the Montessori "works" do not require specific "Montessori" materials (Exercises of Practical Life, art & sewing & painting, much of the language work, applying math concepts to real life, real life science exploration (cause and effect, asking questions and testing out answers, etc.) - so much more). *Most* of Montessori is about living real life, not about materials. 
  • During a school-based work cycle, the child is chatting with friends, having a snack, in the ideal Montessori environment the child is free to go outside and play/garden/watch butterflies, observing classmates, using the bathroom, etc. The child is alive and learning, but not always engaged with the specific material. And he has role models around him to guide him in his choices and possibilities. This needn't be any different at home! The child should be engaged in the environment and that includes the adult. If you have a block of "school time" use that time to prepare your materials, to practice with the materials, to explore for yourself - and be present when authentically needed ;) 
  • Will the adult get some "hey! my child doesn't need me at this moment!" times - yep! It will happen. But if you really want your child to work independently of you, you should be engaged in the materials (making them, practicing with them, organizing them, cleaning them) - or doing something else (household or family related) that the child can't "help" with right now, but that he can observe you doing during his own work time. 
  • Read more about the 3 Hour Work Cycle at Home at this Montessori Trails Work Cycle page. 

Making Materials Takes So Long: 
Mom and son
together at Montessori school
He had been sitting and staring at the math materials for 30 minutes.
Doing some mental math he was trying to explain to me 

Most of you - I'll be honest, I love you all, so please know that going in to what I am about to say - MOST of you are making way too many materials. STOP!
  • Your children should be involved in SOME of the material making. Extensions or ideas that they have? Let them help create materials! Primary aged children? Yep. Seriously, 3 year olds? Yep. And the 4s and 5s too. And if you have elementary children and teenagers - get them involved too. This is a lesson in creativity, using art skills in real life situations which is far superior than doing a craft just to do a craft. 
  • If the children come up with an idea - they should be making it - or involved with the making of it. Wait, I repeated that. ;) I wanted to make sure you read that ;) 
  • The children can SEE you making materials too. Let that be *your* work that they 1) observe and 2) makes you too busy to always be hovering like a helicopter. Your children might find they can problem-solve on their own sometimes, make their own decisions or get their own drink of water. YOU can do it! ;) 

Also see our Montessori Trails page on When Montessori Fails for futher insights into how the environment works.

Ask me other questions! I'll reply in comments and/or add to this post.

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