Tuesday, 6 April 2010

When less is more

Since my last post about the lightbulb that clicked after reading a fantastic post about Montessori wisdom, I have been refining my ideas, and working a lot in the direction of simplifying.  I cannot said enough how good it feels.  I don't feel as overwhelmed by everything I have to get ready, learn and do.

THis morning, while searching for some information online, I found this article which discuss strategies for starting a new school.  It is directed at somebody who opens a school, therefore a teacher, and not for homeschooling parents.  But I think a lot of it does apply to anybody that wants to start using the Montessori pedagogy, whether it is in a schooling facility or at home.

The article draws many conclusions about people that start their own school, and highlights many mistakes that are commonly made when starting out.  2 were standing out IMO.  The first one being not presenting the material at the rght time, and missing out on the right timing to fully capitalize on an learning experience.  This seems to either be du to a lack of understanding of the method itself, or due to not having the core material on hand before starting out.

The other mistake is choosing quantity over quality.  People seems to think that the classroom needs to be full of material of any kinds, instead of having fewer but the right kind.  And I seriously think this might lead to the first mistake  I mentionned.  If you have too much, but not the basics, you get easily lost in everything else...  And you have to get the basics ready before anything else.  It must all be there and ready to be used to be able to follow the child in his development.  The rest, can come later.

The author makes a list of what she thinks is the bare basics that is hard to make material, for each area of study.  If I compare this list with what I wrote in my previous post, as far as sensorial material, it is basically the same. Language as well.  The math list is even shorter, but the author insist on being able to make most of the material by hand.

If you are interested in the topic, I strongly suggest to read this article, it was a very interesting read.

I personnaly think there are many advantages going to simple way:

1. knowing the material better.  If you have less, you master it more...it is easier to know all the extensions, the variations...This for me is a BIG advantage.

2. less materialism stress on the kids:  the material is all there, without being overwhelming, and they can really work it through, find new ways to use it, and thus be creative, and master all the variations.  They master the material, and they don't just skim through.  I think this is a great life lesson as well.  When you have something, you don't need more, you use it as much as you can

3. Easier to start from, makes it easier to plan.  Not as much to get, to read to understand...not as overwhelming, you know where you are heading and what you have to do.

4. money.  At the end of it all, if you need less, you buy less.  Yes, quality matters, but I think there are ressources where you can find material that is quality enough for a homeschool point of view at reasonable prices.  And having less means less time to make the material, so for anyone that is handy, it is doable.

5. and with all that you still reach the point of using the method.  Dr. Montessori did it that way after all...and some of her material was made with simple material at hand at the time where it was made.

I am currently following Karen Tyler's class.  Every month, she is giving us an entire album for us to read through and get familiar with.  We are currently working the sensorial aspect of the method.  We only have a couple of presentations so far to read, but there are so many variations of every presentation, that really, this can keep busy a child for a while IMO.  I now understand how in the first Casa dei Bambini, only practical life and sensorial materials were present at first, and yet the kids didn't get bored. Languge and maths are still to come...

I think with that, we will be busy for a while.

I have a few ideas bookmarked for special occasions, or just because we feel like it, and I am getting some of this material ready for when the time comes.  But I am clearly seeing the bigger picture here, and it makes it easier to get to from point A to B.

One thing I am finding hard to "get" is the  the rhythm of it all.  And I am not talking about the rhythm of the day.  This is something I strongly believe in, and out time testing the Waldorf philosophy has make this even stronger for us.  This is one thing we have adopted from Steiner.  I mean the annual rhythm, the sequence of the year, the line to follow that kinds makes it all a whole.  DS is currently in a Montessori school part time.  We receive every month the monthly report card of what they did and learned.  I can see a thread, a trend in how the year goes by.  This month, they were talking about dinosaurs and the beggining of the earth, and what it planned for next month is the evolution from there.  They have work to rhytm of the music, dancing, walking on rhythm, and how a metronome works, but that after learning the basic notes, and how music "works".  You can see a planing behind all this, when the children are not choosing what to work on by themselves, something else is going on and THAT is planned.  And this is the part that makes me feel like I am not ready yet to homeschool.

I have been looking at the New child Montessori curriculum, and I am wondering if that wouldn't give me a head start at least in the right direction.  Maybe I wouldn't feel so unprepared, and unorganized as I sometimes feel right now.

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