I remember visiting my first Montessori classroom in New York City. I was awed at the beauty and order found in the environment set up perfectly for small hands and small bodies. Everything was just right, just like Baby Bear's porridge!
There was a startling difference between this environment and the traditional preschools we visited. Everything was different, carefully planned out and the children in it were doing things I had traditionally thought only older children could do. Four year olds were writing, preparing food with knives (ooooh) and doing 2 digit division (they were probably already 5).
I was intrigued.
I wondered why everyone wasn't doing this and I set about learning everything about it.
My children both went to Montessori schools. I did my AMI Montessori primary training. (AMI stands for the Association Montessori International which is the organization Maria Montessori founded in Amsterdam.) AMI training is theory based and the curriculum is passed down to the teacher in training by aural transmission. The lesson is demonstrated to the student who then replicates the lesson on paper and hands it in for approval by a master trainer.
I then went to the Washington Montessori Institute in Baltimore (when my son was 4) to do a full year of Elementary Montessori training and to earn my Masters of Education.
My son wasn't happy at school for a number of reasons, including that he is a Kinesthetic learner who is extremely social. He seeks at lot of stimulation and feedback from his environment. He was very disruptive to his classmates. Taking him to school became excruciating for my husband. He screamed for forty minutes and it was awful for his teachers. We took him out. He had been at that school since he was 14 months and at that point I was still convinced I wanted a Montessori education for both of my children.
Homeschooling was the result. I initially turned two beautiful rooms in our house into Montessori classrooms. I scoured thrift stores for the perfect pitcher for pouring, or the perfect tray to display practical life lessons. I bought materials and practiced presentations at night. The only problem was that my children didn't want lessons or to go into the classrooms. It is different when you are a teacher and are giving small group lessons. Having Mom giving you a lesson one on one is a little different.
I had to stand back and look at the big picture. I persevered for a bit and finally decided to use Montessori as my rudder and to make sure over the years they have 90% of everything in my albums. At the same time I decided to pick and choose what I like out of the myriad of available curricula out there to fulfill my children's educational needs. I suppose you would call it an eclectic approach.
Nowadays, I find that I present Montessori lessons often in response to a real time activity as opposed to in a particular order. I want them to make many associations between what they are doing and what they are learning. If Tristan is watching a documentary on climbing Mt Everest, I will quickly follow with the lessons on fold mountains, movement of tectonic plates and glaciers.
We do a lot of field trips, Shakespeare plays, Destination Imagination, co-ops, archaeological digs that keep the children learning in fabulous, stimulating group situations. They have a wonderful social network of all different aged children that get together and make up games/sleepover and enjoy each others company. We have strong family bonds with other home schooled families and we take trips together and share the joy of watching our children grow in a healthy, happy atmosphere.
It has been an extremely joyful journey we have been on and in hindsight I am grateful our children provided us with a reason to try homeschooling. They have given me a wonderful gift.