Wednesday, 8 July 2015

With or without Montessori

When Finn was a baby, I enjoyed thinking about how I would set up his Montessori learning space in the future, what kind of activities he would enjoy and whether we would have a reserved time each day for Montessori works. I admired bloggers who managed to set aside 3 hours each day for Montessori, in a beautiful prepared environment, with high quality materials and planned presentations for each child. I never imagined not doing Montessori as it seemed the best educational philosophy, encompassing everything a child needs to grow healthily in mind and body. I could only hope I would be able to pull it off!
As Finn grew up, I offered him the number rods, spindle box, sandpaper letters, moveable alphabet, objects to play I spy and spell, and more. These were specifically to support numeracy and literacy.
He has rarely used them. He has (almost) never used any of those independently, and when I suggest he does, he refuses.
Yet he can count, he can spell and read simple words. I stopped suggesting he uses materials *I* find interesting a while ago, and instead just let him be. I observe him mentally working but still not touching the materials. I frequently hear things like "s-l-u-g. slug" while muttering to himself in bed, or "c-a-s. castle. Mummy how do you spell castle?" The other day he did use the moveable alphabet after he had decided, out of the blue at 10 pm, to spell the word Norway in French (his favourite country). He did a great job. So yes, he has used it, for what must be the first time in six months. He just doesn't seem to have a need for it.
He doesn't use sandpaper letters but he will happily and spontaneously trace whole book titles and ask me for the correct way to do it. He notices how some fonts differ, and I have come to see the benefit of being exposed to many ways of writing early on: a much more rich and interesting experience! I feel he chooses to live in the real world when what I originally offered him was limiting, classroom-type pedagogical materials.
For a few months he has been spontaneously creating his own "author study" by exploring his Roald Dahl audio book collection. First he couldn't go a day without listening to The BFG. He would ask so many questions about unknown words. Always listening intently, fully focused, sitting still for more than an hour. Then he got to Fantastic Mr Fox, again staying with it until he had extracted all useful information from it. Now he is onto The Enormous Crocodile, which he listens to at home, and asks me to read to him as well. I estimate he must have heard the story 20 times in the last 3 weeks, at the very least. I feel this exposes him to a very rich vocabulary. I can definitely observe a sensitive period for language, and Roald Dahl is meeting his needs. If he was going to school/preschool, I doubt he would be exposed to books with such complicated plots and varied, unusual words at his age (3.5 years old), while having enough quiet time to study them deeply.

As for numeracy, his dad and I agree that he doesn't seem to need any specific support. We are not disappointed that he shows no interest in the number rods, intrigued rather, because he shows us everyday that yes, he can count. He can do simple addition and subtraction. He has a good understanding of quantities. He recognises numerals. Most comes from everyday living. Baking, shopping, sharing food, measuring, weighing, building with unit blocks, conversations... He knows what he needs to know right now, which is how it should be.
With or without Montessori.


  1. Have a look at this Elsa, I haven't followed the interactive story through yet. You could enter the competition even if you don't think the story is suitable.

    1. Thank you, I will have a look!

  2. Yes, I often notice this with Elise. Sometimes I think that my understanding of the Montessori method is most beneficial to ME because it supports my observation of Elise and helps me understand what she's doing. Not sure if that makes sense! It's like what you said about tracing the letters in a book title - it's something that Finn is just doing naturally, but you take notice because it's a skill that you learned about in your Montessori training - maybe it would have otherwise passed you by... We only have a few actual Montessori materials in our home - they get lots of use, but not exactly as expected! ;)

    1. You are absolutely right. Montessori is especially beneficial to me, but I also wonder sometimes if all of it is good to know. Sometimes I wish I didn't analyse everything as much as I do, see everything through this "Montessori lens". I struggle with the Montessori idea that if a child if not interested in a piece of material, then the teacher/guide is responsible because they offered something that is either too easy or too hard, failing to offer an appropriate work. According to this idea, I'm wrong all the time! Some days I feel this responsibility is too much for me, or not the kind of learning relationship I want to have with him.


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