A bit of Montessori-inspired learning.
I believe that children are learning at all times. I believe that you cannot stop a child from learning. I believe that I have been my children’s teacher since the moment that they were born, and will continue to be so until the day that I die. I believe that a child’s play is his work, and conversely, that his work is his play. I do not subscribe to any teaching/learning philosophy in particular, but rather, I take bits of a few philosophies and piece them together to come up with my version of what it is to homeschool a three-year old and an eighteen-month old.
On a daily basis, my children are exposed to a variety of learning opportunities that are inherent to our day. When we prepare meals, they help by measuring, mixing, following a recipe, and food preparation (i.e., cutting, washing, etc.). When I fold laundry, they help sort the clothes, match the socks, and put their clothes back onto hangers or into the drawers of their dresser. They like to help me clean our home — vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, and any cleaning activity that involves a spray bottle and a rag is fun for them. All of these activities occur within the four walls of our home, provide learning opportunities, and, furthermore, they are important life skills for my boys. They may be simple housekeeping skills, to be sure, but I believe that they are skills that young men should develop. I also believe that although the “fun” of cleaning may wear off someday, perhaps my children will come to understand the fundamental importance of work as a contribution to a greater good that can bring a sense of personal satisfaction as well, and therefore, they will value it and seek it out in life. These are big aspirations on my part that can be further complicated by a motley of educational philosophies, but what it looks like in our home is quite simple and straight-forward. I involve my children in my “Mama work,” and it is their decision to help me or to go play with their toys. Most days, when given the choice, they like to be with me and help me “do my work.”
All of that being said, once our home-keeping is finished, I often will offer my children a Montessori-inspired lesson. This does not happen everyday, but a few times a week I try to engage them in a lesson that is challenging to their minds as well as fun. To be honest, I enjoy searching for new ideas and gathering the materials for these works. Furthermore, and very rewarding to me, is to be able to introduce my children to a new concept (or solidify an old one), while observing them ponder it with furrowed brows and questions – both verbal and non-verbal. I have found that both of my boys respond enthusiastically to these works, which is why I continue to offer them as lessons.
It may seem like a lot of preparation on my part to offer these works, and it can be. I find, however, that if I strive to offer only a few, it is manageable. Furthermore, I find that some of our best lessons are born spontaneously from a different lesson, and that is exactly what happened today.
Today, I wanted to create a “love bird” for Valentine’s day with the boys. Initially, no one showed any interest; they wanted to play with their garbage trucks. I have found, however, that sometimes, once I begin a project, their curiosity leads to participation. Plus, I really wanted to make this love bird, so I told them that they could play with their trucks, but that I was going to craft this bird. So, they watch me draw its silhouette, and get out a big bag of feathers along with the glue stick. By now, they have forgotten about their trash game, these feathers are (bird)calling to them!
Sorry ’bout that pun folks. Ahem.
Anyways, we make the love bird together, and afterward, as we are cleaning up, Aidan and I start talking about the feathers and how they are “light.” Then, I hand him my full water bottle and say, “this is heavy” while he is holding it. (He likes carrying heavy things, we always say how strong he is while he is carrying said heavy object.) And then suddenly, we are gathering items from around the playroom, classifying them as “light” or “heavy.” He finds a jar of pencils – “heavy.” I take one pencil out – “light.” “See how many ‘lights’ can make one ‘heavy?’” I say to him. He responds by counting the pencils in the jar. Then, he subtracts one pencil from the jar at a time and recounts them, telling me how many are left each time he takes one away. Over and over, until there are zero left on the table. Next, he is into the living room, looking for more “heavy” stuff, while I go to the closet, pull out a poster board, and make a chart – “light” and “heavy.” I hear a thud – he is taking books off of the bookshelf and carrying them into the playroom – “heavy.”
It was fun, spontaneous, educational, and Montessori-inspired.
Yeah, sorry ’bout that pun too! I seem to be a bit punchy this evening – four years of sleep deprivation will do that to ya, you know. And, I betcha you do know.
Here’s wishing you and your children a week of learning – any old way it happens, so long as it happens.