Thursday, 12 January 2012

Multi-age household and the importance of real life experiences

First off, thank you for your kind words and support following my last post. I am happy to have taken the decision to keep on going, I certainly hope you'll stay along with me!

I was mentioning in my last post, how my ways with X are also tainting the way I do with E and M.   I just wanted to go a little deeper on that.

A few days after leaving for the holidays, I fell onto this blog post, that I wanted to share with you.  I think it describes, better then I ever could, the difference between using the Montessori method and the Montessori philosophy at home.  As you have all figured out at this point I am sure, I am all for the latter, which was not my first opinion on the topic.  I started out using the Montessori method, only to realize that this was not how it was meant to be for us.  But to go from point A to point B took me time: time to see for myself, to learn to understand.  And I think the reason while I don't feel the Montessori method can really be applied at home is the exact reason E and M are being pushed away from it:  the multi age group.

Hard core Montessorian will tell you that the multi age group is paramount in the Montessori method.  IN regards to our family, I have come to understand that they are right.  (with that being said, I see loads of Montessori blogger using the Montessori method at home and being totally successful at it.  Different family, different experience...)
Now that I have many children, and that the age range is quite important between them (all of my 3 children are in a different Montessori age span), I can see how my last 2 are looking up to my oldest.  Their actions, and their interest are very much modulated by his.  And I know that in a Montessori classroom, success lies on this too: the oldest are demonstrating the way to go to the youngest, and they are also arousing their curiosity, pushing them to go further in a particular material.

Contrarily to the common belief, children are very interested in becoming better.  They want to be precise, they want to be capable and they are willing to go out of their way  to replicate the best they can what adults do.  Looking up to an older person is essential to pick up the subtleties necessary to achieve the desired perfection, and what model is more interesting to follow then a beloved big brother?

After weeks of searching an answer, I have finally understood why the use of tray has died here.  The beginning of the end for trays started at the moment I introduced real life activities to X, feeling that he was getting out of the 3-6 period, and more into the 6-9 one.  M has been flat out refusing anything of what I thought was Montessori at first, only to understand that it was the trays.  Trays have no link to a particular living experience, which is what *my* children seem to crave.  She has been enticed by the "real life part" of X's activity, only to want some for her.  And of course, it didn't take time for E to follow along.

cleaning up after the holidays.   E worked with the vacuum cleaner for probably more then 45 minutes.  He inspected it to make sense of it, tried it on various surfaces, to finally imitate us almost to perfection while cleaning under the couch.
 Sorry about the basket mess behind E, we are renovating the living room...finally!

And this is where I am extrapolating.  But there is one principle that I have never stopped using and that will keep guiding my steps into this path: follow the child.


I am still working on the look of the blog.  Please accept my apologies while it keeps changing back and forth. Thanks for your understanding.


  1. Oh I totally agree, even though I am new to all this myself, as the mother of just one child, an (almost) 22 month old.
    I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how she seems to learn lots from just living alongside me. Real-life lessons are far more profound.

  2. I am so pleased you have decided to stick with the blog. I have loved and agreed with every post. No matter your journey I want to take it with you. I love the term 'Hard core Montessorian'. Someone once told me I wan't very Montessori at all. Thanks for another great post.

  3. Have you considered adding email subscribers? I love to subscribe to my favourite blogs this way.

  4. It's nice to hear from other Montessorians who feel similarly, and especially who have had the opportunity to find out, through experience, what works for their family and unique children. I really enjoyed reading your perspective, and love the photos of your E with the vacuum cleaner - that's my idea of Practical Life! :)

    Glad to have found your site, too. It sounds like you're working on some design changes, but for now I like how clean and uncluttered it is, and I'm looking forward to poking around a bit more this weekend - it looks like you have some wonderful resources!

  5. Rach: I will certainly go and read that post of yours! Anything on the topic is highly interesting to me right now.
    FWIW, I think living alongside is underrated right now. I think we do not see the value of it, and we are not conscious of what they truly learn by just being there and looking.

    Kylie: Eeek! I'm surprised that you received such a comment, and at the same time not really. I think there is a lot of hard core Montessorian who sees wht we do as being nothing like Montessori. And they are probably right, as we are not in a house of children, don't have many children, and do follow the method. But I think there is more to it that just that, and that is where we lose many Montessorian. I often wonder what M. Montessori would say at this point of time. How she would see homeschooling. But since we'll never know, we can only guess. And in the meantime, Montessori or not, I like the way we have chosen to take care of our children, and by seeing them, I think they agree.
    I'll check out the email subscriber thing.

    Melissa:Welcome and thank you for being here!
    Practical life at it's best indeed. We are long forgotten about trays and such for Practical life, and that is the area in which my children are the more "competent" in the house.
    Thanks for your comments about the blog. It should not change much at the exception of a banner of some sort. I like minimalism, clean and uncluttered...

  6. I love to see your little one busy away with the practical life works. Eva has a few shelves with "tray" works and books (she LOVES picture books and story books) and then she also has PL works throughout the house but still I feel constantly challenged to keep up with keeping the environment fresh and engaging for her. We got a hand brush with clip on dust pan for the floor and sure enough she latched right onto it. I knew that would happen but also got it for us adults. After a couple/few weeks though I had to take it away because she started to associate it with a hair brush and was playing with it in that way. I'll reintroduce it again later. Recently I've had my eyes on getting a floor sweeper. After a few hours of research I ended up liking this one best: I didn't start off wanting one that was child sized, I mainly wanted to keep up with her messes from mealtime around her table. The more I looked though the more this one made sense. I've used them in the classroom setting before and children love them so why not offer it to her to see if she's ready for it. Not sure when we'll get one of these but it's so fun to incorporate her PL needs into our adult needs.