Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Montessori Day

This is a snapshot of a day in our Montessori home:

One day last week we cleared the table and I said, "I need you to do a work plan."

Sean filled out a sheet that I have pre-made with the subjects and blank lines for him to fill in what he is going to do in that subject. For instance: Science-- and he would fill in something like Elements Work.

I went on about my work in the kitchen, and he went outside with a magnifying glass. I went outside to check on something and saw that he was experimenting with it the magnifying glass. He was using the sunlight to burn a piece of wood, then he chose leaf, and then a dandelion. All of these materials reacted differently. (No fires were started, and I admit I said something like, "Be careful. Don't start a fire.")

When he was ready to move on from that work, he came back in and got to work on the next thing on his list. He is writing a book, and listed the characteristics of his main character. Once he was satisfied, he moved on to history. He read more about the ancient Chinese civilization, something we started on last week. When he was ready, he summarized what he had read.

I believe he practiced piano that day, and later on I took him to his first Parkour class.

My only involvement: a request for a work plan, listening to him summarize his history information, and driving him to the Parkour class.

This is a typical day for us. I try to stay out of his way as much as possible, and only give lessons when it's time to introduce something new. This is almost always language, because we are working on writing essays, and imaginative stories. Otherwise, I let him do his own thing. I put out books and materials that I hope will spark him to explore them, and I allow him to do some research on the computer. Of course he talks to me throughout the day about what he is discovering, or he asks questions about what I think about a particular bit of information.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let the Kids Figure It Out

As a homeschooler, I believe it is important to find opportunities for my child to be around other children on a regular basis. I know there are some homeschooling families who do not believe this is important, and actually believe the opposite to be true. They don't want their children to spend very much time with children outside of their own families.

As a Montessori homeschooler, I want as many opportunities as possible for my child to interact and practice being in social situations. His time in private and public Montessori schools gave him skills to navigate the community of a classroom. Being peaceful is part of the Montessori curriculum, and in order to do that we must practice.

We visited with friends for a little bit of social interaction a few weeks ago. The kids played peacefully inside and outside while the moms talked. Everything seemed just fine.

Time was up and we had to be somewhere. Once we arrived at our evening event I received a text message. The mother of one of the children was concerned. She stated that my child had said a spate of very negative, and some hurtful, things to the other children. Of course she wasn't there to hear these things, so her child had told her these things after we had gone.

Instead of immediately going into interrogation mode, I decided that once I had a chance to talk with my son I would ask about how things had gone that afternoon. What did you guys do? What did you think of so-and-so ( a kid he had only met once before) and so on. I tried to artfully address each accusation without coming right out and asking, "Did you say this?"

Once I got a pretty good feel for how the day went, I decided I wasn't so sure he had said any of those things. He seemed to have a good time. I dug a little deeper and asked a few more questions. He seemed to have a good time playing outside, but admitted he didn't care for the video games that were available. He liked seeing one kid again whom he had met only once before, and I could tell by his demeanor and tone that he would like to spend time with him again.

I wasn't quite sure what to do next.

My main concern was making sure that if he did say the things he was accused of that he realized how hurtful they were, and that it was not OK.

But part of me wondered why in the world I was even dealing with it. Not that I think my child should be allowed to behave badly, but because I didn't understand why the kids wouldn't have dealt with it on their own, at the time.

It turns out that he denies saying them, and so instead of dealing with him saying hurtful things, it has turned into something entirely different. He's been accused of things he didn't do.

I feel very frustrated by this. What are we doing to our children? It seems like parents are so involved in their children's lives that the children can't handle their own business. By jumping in, we are taking away their opportunities to practice working things out on their own when a problem arises.

When I was a kid, and when my older two were kids, this was not the case. I remember  having heated fights and arguments with my friends when I was a kid, and then we found a way to work it out. The stakes were too high not to work it out. If you didn't work it out, who in the world were you going to play with?

I watched from the window as my oldest son, who at the time was about 5 or 6 years old, stand up to some older kids who came into our yard and started bullying my daughter, who was about 4. He flat out told them they had to leave, and were not going to talk to his sister that way. I was standing by in case I needed to intervene, but I let him handle it on his own. Those kids left and didn't come back.

I grew up learning to deal with my own quarrels with other kids. On the playground, in the classroom, at church, or in our own backyard, the kid arguments and issues were theirs to deal with. My mom only interfered when it was clearly dangerous or she was fed up with the noise of an argument.

I tend to take that same attitude. I don't think this is my fight. If Sean had said those things the child has accused him of it would mean that we need to have a serious talk about how to speak to our friends.

He denied using the words he is accused of using. We've had a couple of conversations now about this, and I've asked him how he wants to handle being accused of something he didn't do. One thing is very clear, he plans to handle it on his own.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Approaching the next plane of development

Sean is transitioning to another developmental stage. I think he's embracing his tweenness. I don't think that is a word, but it is real.

So with that will come a different way of learning, I'm sure. I'll have to start reading more about the adolescent mind and how to engage him in work. So far, he still seems to be very engaged and eager to learn.

He's definitely more involved with friends. He spends a lot of time talking to them on the phone, and chatting with them on Skype.

I'm bracing myself for the teen years. Thank goodness I still have a couple of years to get ready. As I talk with other moms of boys his age, they are all either going through rough patches, or are downright off kilter. One mother said her boy has outbursts of anger and rage, hitting and yelling. I know that child, and it's difficult for me to imagine him that way.

My first boy reached puberty and became the most mellow and amazing young man. Except for getting completely bored out of his mind with middle school, he was the easiest person to be around.

Last year Sean had some anger issues, but those have all gone away this year. I attribute this change to homeschooling. He's where he needs to be, and learning what he needs to learn, and having great experiences.

Here's hoping that the transition in the next year or two will be a smooth one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Radiolab and the Dinosaur Extinction Hypothesis

I follow a blog called Montessori Muddle. This blog is one that I'll be looking at a lot more in the near future. It showcases what's happening in the Montessori middle and high school.

I jumped on my blog today to browse around my list of blogs I follow and saw a post on Montessori Muddle with a link to this program:

Their link was for the podcast, but we decided to click on over to the video. It was great, and made me wish we had gone up to Seattle to see it. I didn't even know it was happening.

It's definitely worth a listen if you've got Upper El, middle or high school students.

Thank you for sharing it Montessori Muddle!!