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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Planning in a Montessori Homeschool

Planning in a Montessori Homeschool sounds like a huge contradiction in terms, depending on how you define each of those terms ;)

Homeschool - school at home, but we're not always at home; and we spend less time on "school" than children at an out-of-home school.

Montessori - seems to be a free-for-all for some; trays on a shelf for some; multi-age grouping that can only happen at a school for some; and other variations. Indeed, Montessori incorporates freedom, a very few trays, multiple ages can be addressed in a homeschool situation in another way (including for only-children - siblings have that multi-age setting built-in!)

Planning - juxtaposed with Montessori, some people flip over. You can't *plan* a child's education weeks and months in advance - especially not in a Montessori setting! No, this is correct - I cannot tell you what your child should be doing the second of week of June the year they are 4 years old; nor can I (or *anyone*!) tell you what your child should be doing the 25th week of the 3rd year of elementary. Sorry!

But what DO we have? We have a set of key experiences that are typical for the universal child within some time ranges. We can be prepared to provide for those key experiences as the child is ready for them. This part of the three-sided support that IS an authentic Montessori environment - the prepared adult. Please visit that link for the prepared adult - because it highlights some of the many things we adults need to be prepared for - items such as right use of imagination, the four planes of development, human needs and tendencies and so much more!

What about those who don't follow a schedule - and maybe not even a loose routine?
I personally still need to have an idea of what is upcoming - so we can ensure we have time, space, materials, and the right attitude (nothing like saying "Mom, I want to do the river model" when the only space available to do one indoors is the only clear space in the home because of our other projects! ;)

CAVEAT: None of the planning suggestions on this page are boxed into a particular schedule or routine. What is here, is adaptable to any kind of schedule.

The planning style that has worked in our home: 

First, I need some tools:
  • Key experiences appropriate to the plane of development of the child/ren before me. 
  • Noting the particular child's needs and interests. 
  • Something to record work done. How will work done be recorded? So I know what to plan next time? Montessori Trails page on work plans and work journals in a Montessori setting
    • For younger children, this is my own record - I can just check off a presentation or an exercise as being presented. I am planting seeds that will sprout later - giving keys for them to utilize in their own explorations and discoveries; sometimes they will repeat something, other times not - so I don't record things like "repeated, mastery, etc.". I am a homeschool parent, not a school teacher. And my current students who come to me from their own families "master" at home, not with me. If I were in a situation to worry about mastery, I would observe and have conversations to see if the concept is mastered - and have a second checkmark for that, Seriously? Keep it simple.
    • For older children - elementary children and some kindergarteners, we have a work plan/journal to look at in planning our next steps. In kindergarten and first grade, that can be as simple as moving cards of chosen work from one basket to another
  • That's it. KEEP IT SIMPLE. You are a homeschool parent, with a household and other family members to take care of - and yourself to take care! Montessori is about exploration and discovery - not about being the smartest kid in the universe! ;) 
Some early work plan/journal samples.
Legoboy's First Work Plan/Journal
Used at age 5-6 

Next, I need to put those tools together! The following photos show primary level first; then elementary. 

You'll notice I am only planning for MY presentations. At primary, the child's work is the child's choice within the parameters you have laid out. At elementary, the work plan (conversation) with the child is where the child notes what he is going to do about his particular interests and I the adult can note any outings we will be taking, any supplies to have on hand, etc. The child should be involved in this planning too!!!

THUS - the child's day might inlude a new presentation (0-5 depending on the age and the need) and their own self-selected follow-up work, which might correspond with your presentation and might not. You still have family time, free time, outings, etc. as well. 

Primary Montessori Homeschool Planning

Intervals - for starting with a child at 2 and a half years old, you can figure about 6 months for each interval. Starting with an older child? Begin with those earlier intervals but your child will move more quickly through them. Allow them to move at their speed, it is YOUR preparations that will be stepped up a bit. Beginning with an elementary child? Start with the elementary work, not the primary!

Need to organize material purchases and material-making? That is where the intervals also come in handy - focus on THIS 6-month time period. If your child gets ahead in something, then you only have that one area to look ahead in!

The first interval is only 2 pages - and decent size font at that! 

Plug into a chart - could be a weekday-based one or just a grid, with everything in order - check it off as you go. Or don't plug into a chart and just use the "first interval" (or your current interval section) and select a few activities to show your child this week - you can quickly look it over to pull out another idea if your child is expressing an interest in a particular area. 

Starting out with a 2.5 year old, this is what our chart might look like.
note I crossed off weekday indications.
It isn't about which day you do something - it is about the child's readiness.
We would do walking on the line, some language and some preliminary exercises of practical life on day 1.
Otherwise, I just pick activites in each thread and move forward;
review as needed; when ready, move on to the next stage - mastery only when clearly necessary.
These could be dated if you need that record; or just checkmark or highlight. 

draw a line to separate the threads.
Each day pick 1-5 items to focus on (some things are quick)
or each week pick a few items to focus on. Move forward from there. 

Elementary Montessori Homeschool Planning

Elementary - this can get a bit trickier because there are more "threads" that overlap one another. 

I still only plan weekly and sometimes daily for my own particular presentations for particular timing; looking ahead to the month or a few months to be sure I have materials on hand; with some days of preparing the materials right before giving the presentation or even WHILE giving the presentation! 

Children at this age can see the entire scope/sequence or just provide them the suggested scope/sequence by year. In this way, they can see what is coming up, request something or otherwise prepare for it. 

The elementary child has their own work plan and work journal, which can include more information. My son's routinely includes researching some aspect of an ancient civilization for example; and as a family we strive for routine astronomical observations and studies. These aren't planned as much as we learn about something and my son puts it on HIS chart. 

I have done a plan book at times - lay out every thread in its separate physical thread - anything that wouldn't come until after that thread is closed can be filled in after the end of the activites in that thread. So Decimal Fractions chapter comes after the Fractions chapter - I don't have an individual row for each of those. This can mean we are on separate pages in the plan book I am using, but it does allow individual pacing. One way to get around the multiple pages? cut along the lines that separate each row and paper clip loose pages together - so when I open it up, I am only on the current placement in each thread. This works for ONE child in the home; or a small number of children that you are giving the same general presentations to, with their own individual follow-up. 

And I have re-organized the elementary scope/sequence to show one year at a time - it's a large chart, but could be a useful image for the children. 

Scope and Sequence in chart form (each subject in a column,
3 pages each (some are more blank than others since threads differ in length)
Art and Music are more free-form, so are not included in this image. 
My son's plan for a while - with the threads written horizontally.
Highlight as we finished - could date them if we needed such a record.
Not all things are highlighted, though Legoboy is done;
because I couldn't keep up with it!
I needed to write it out for my own mental preparation
but then I preferred the checklist approach most of the time. 
The threads do peter out - not all are the same length.
But this gives the children time for their *own* studies:
reading, building, DOING. 

So you can see - KEEP IT SIMPLE. Use a checklist for your own presentations if that works; the children shouldn't have a checklist, but should be given the key presentations, ask questions and find ways to answer their own questions. Lots of real life experiences, outings, and lots and lots of DOING.

How do all of these plans pan out?
See this page for some samples of A Day in the Life of a Montessori Homeschool.

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