Home Education: Quo vadis mater?

I don’t know exactly, is the answer to that question. Where am I going with this?

I started home educating about 8 to 9 years ago and did so because I was cornered. My son’s education was failing him so spectacularly, I had to do something. Feeling that I would never be able to get to grips with home education I read everything I could lay my hands on. I fell in love the work of Charlotte Mason and her gentle art of education with it’s Classical foundation that didn’t destroy a child’s natural love of learning, but on the contrary, cared for it so that it flourished. I also loved her love of books and insistence on good literature and no twaddle.

I heard about Dr, Maria Montessori along the way, but didn’t read much about her.  Now, as I read her work I think there’s more than just a physical likeness between the Northern English school teacher and the Italian doctor. (And you must admit, they do look alike).  They both base their educational philosophy on the solid rock of the child as a person, made in the image and likeness of God with inherent dignity and deserving of deep respect. They are both very Christ centred in their philosophy, which gives the firm foundation to the method. Neither women saw the child as a blank slate for the teacher to write on, nor a machine to be programmed; they understood the child’s personhood and soul.

I began to see that my youngest needed a more hands on, manipulatives approach to education. She learned best when she could touch it, move it around and build it herself. Book learning was proving very limited for her. She wasn’t interested in paper work and I was worried she was actually being put off learning by the method I was expecting her to use.

If she could touch it, smell it, rattle it and run after it, she was happy to learn about it. She has a rather chaotic, leapy-abouty approach to life, which can be a bit wearing at times.

So I began to look at the Montessori method and read her books, and get to grips with her philosophy.

I bought the first set of Montessori materials and found that all three of the younger children took to them immediately. I also began making some of the things Montessori recommends. Using large wooden trays to contain the work has calmed Heleyna down a little in her work. We’re working on this to try and increase her concentration span.

The change over however, feels very rocky for me. I was set up with the CM approach and fed in a classical and workbook side of things without making too many waves, but the Montessori Method is very different and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at times.

Yes, the approach works very well with my children, but the equipment is very expensive. A lot of Montessori homeschoolers make their own equipment out of wood, clay or by getting hold of wholesale supplies of beads.  But the fact is, this would take up a lot of time and energy that I don’t have.

In reading of the Casa Bambini’s what I find is children who are enabled to independent learning from quite an early age. They explore, self correct and learn using the carefully chosen and designed resources Montessori provided.  As I get sicker, this looks like the perfect solution, at least I hope so. If I can get the children to a point of using the equipment and books themselves, self motivated learners and discoverers, it will matter much less how ill I get. Most importantly I want them to know how to learn and how to discern truth.  I want them to understand that seeking truth is the most important role of education.

I am hoping I have bought all we will need for Montessori lessons, and the rest will be makable or do-withoutable.

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