Friday, August 29, 2008

New Addition to the Montessori Info Sidebar

Xia at Grillos y Canarios recently posted about these videos. Tami Elliot of Northstar Montessori Preschool visually demonstrates how to present various Montessori activities, and I have literally just spent the past couple of hours going though her videos - they are a wonderful resource for Montessori homeschoolers (thanks!). I've added a link to Tami's videos in the Montessori Resources sidebar on the left.

The Best Online Montessori Album

I mentioned this website in an earlier post, and I have it listed on my Montessori Info sidebar to the left, but I just wanted to take a second to point out what I consider to be the best online Montessori album: The AMI Primary Guide. It's extremely comprehensive, it includes some photos and diagrams, and it is an incredible resource for Montessori homeschoolers.

For some reason (maybe because it's called a "guide" instead of an "album"), even after hours of online research, I had a lot of trouble finding this site (in fact, I never did find it - my husband did!). I don't see it listed on many other bloggers' websites, so I thought I would draw your attention to it in case you weren't aware of it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How We Will Structure Our Days

Here is a quick overview of how we plan to schedule our days:

9:00 - Hang up coat, take off shoes/put on slippers, Purell/wash hands

9:05 – Circle Time (Parent-led): Say Pledge of Allegiance, sing National Anthem, sing 2-3 educational songs, review day/month/season/calendar, intentional Circle Time activity, pray

9:30 – Independent Work

10:00 - Snack is available

11:00 – Enrichment: On Mondays we will do an Arts & Crafts project; on Tuesdays, we will have a Music activity; on Wednesdays, we will have PE

11:30 – Clean-up and Jobs (feeding fish, sweeping, pushing a carpet sweeper on rug, etc.)

11:45 – Circle Time (Parent-led): Bible story/verse, Bible song

12:00 – School day ends

I'd love to hear any comments you might have!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How Our Preschool Is Going to Work

Here's how we've decided to set things up:

For starters, in addition to the two mothers I initially called, I spoke to one other mom who is a web developer, and she too joined in. With school set to start next Tuesday, Sept. 2, this is what we look like:

One 4-year-old boy [Band teacher's son]
One almost-4-year-old girl [My daughter]
One 3-year-old girl [Kindergarten teacher's daughter]
One just-turned-3-year old boy [Web developer's son]
One 2-year-old girl [Band teacher's daughter]
One almost-2-year-old girl [My daughter]
One 1-year-old boy [Web developer's son]
One 7-month-old girl [Kindergarten teacher's daughter]
One 5-month-old girl [My daughter]
One on the way! [Band teacher's son or daughter, due Feb. 2009]

The students will be split up into two areas: A Montessori area for the three- and four-year-olds, and a play area for the younger kids.

The former-kindergarten-teacher mother will lead Circle Time every day and Arts & Crafts one day a week, the former-band-teacher mother will lead Music one day a week and PE one day a week, I will lead Montessori time, and the web-developer mother will assist on the Montessori side.

I will describe how we plan to structure our days in a future post.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Our Montessori Backstory, Part Three (Conclusion)

And finally, the thrilling conclusion of our continuing series...(In case you missed them, here are Part One and Part Two.)

"How hard could it be..."

Those words were ringing in my ears..."How hard could it be?"

Well, HARD! First of all, although Montessori is not trademark-able and any school can call itself a Montessori school, finding information on how to teach (i.e., "present") the materials was not easy! I read many books, including Elizabeth Hainstock's Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years and The School Years and David Gettman's Basic Montessori. The Hainstock books were good - I came away from them thinking, "I can do this - no sweat," but the Gettman book was enough to have me breathing out of a brown paper bag again.

And although those books were a good starting point, I had more materials than I had information for. After searching and searching online for and through Montessori teaching "albums," as they're called, I finally called in the cavalry: my husband. He is a researcher-extraordinaire, and (literally) within 15 seconds, he had found this site. Now we were getting somewhere!

I created my own Montessori teaching albums, and then I started freaking out again. Every night I would sit down with my albums and my materials and practice presenting them, and then the room would start spinning (My husband has been very supportive through all of this - there has been MUCH hand-holding). Montessori materials, although deceptively simple-looking at first, are layers and layers deep (Maria Montessori was a genius - she's totally on my list of three people living or dead that I would invite to dinner). Everything builds on everything else, and I felt really overwhelmed with the order in which I was to present everything (our preschool will have different students at different ages and different stages of development - more on that in a future post).

Fortunately, I also had discovered a wonderful Montessori blogging community that reaches out and tries to demystify Maria Montessori's methods somewhat (thank you!). I came across this post, and it was the Aha! moment I needed. Stephanie over at Montessori Free Fall mentioned that, "Math activities shouldn't be introduced until period three..." Period three, period three...what was she talking about and how did she know that!!? I delved deeper into her blog, and - OF COURSE! - it was the Gettman book! That dreadful book that had me breaking out in hives had an overview of the order in which to present everything!! I had read that at some point and then completely forgotten about it! Once I had the materials, the album, and the order, I started to calm down. A little bit.

Finally, I started thinking about it like this: It's just preschool. I mean, seriously, if we start this preschool and it's a complete failure, then I've failed - at preschool. Many kids don't even go to preschool! So although I completely respect and admire Maria Montessori and want to honor the brilliance of her teaching methods, I'm going to try to relax a little and know in my heart that our students will come away from this effort knowing a lot more than they did going in.

School starts a week from tomorrow, and I'm thrilled, nervous, terrified, and every emotion imaginable. I hope you'll stay tuned to see how the story unfolds!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Our Montessori Backstory, Part Two

Part Two in our continuing series...

I hemmed and hawed and prayed and wrung my hands before finally picking up the phone and calling a friend who had a preschool-aged child but no preschool plans that I knew of. I explained that although we loved our daughter's school and teachers, there were some aspects of it that we weren't thrilled with, and that I was considering starting a home-based Montessori preschool. Imagine my delighted surprise when, before I could even get out the persuasive script I had written in my head, she said, "I'm in."

"REALLY?!" I said.

I couldn't believe it. I made a similar call to another friend, and again I was pleasantly surprised when she loved the idea. She said she would discuss it with her husband and get back to me, and then I didn't hear from her for about a week. I started second-guessing myself, thinking that this was a dumb idea and that I should just forget about it and re-enroll our daughter in school when my friend called and said she was in, too.

"REALLY?" I said.

And then things got really interesting. My first friend reminded me that (in her previous life, pre-kids) she had been a kindergarten teacher and could lead circle time. My second friend reminded me that (in her previous life, pre-kids) she had been a band teacher and could teach music lessons. So that just left me to lead the Montessori lessons.

How hard could it be? I thought. My husband's attitude was, "They're preschoolers - all you have to do is stay one step ahead of them." We ordered a full classroom of Montessori materials, and a week later, a deliveryman left 379 pounds of stuff in our living room. Let the hyperventilating begin!

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of "Our Montessori Backstory"...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our Montessori Backstory, Part One

In September of 2007, when our oldest daughter was just about to turn 3, we enrolled her in a small, private Montessori school about 9 miles from our house. My husband is a former Montessorian, and he and I both really admire Maria Montessori's teaching methods and had decided to educate our kids the Montessori way.

At first, everything was great. Our youngest daughter at the time had just turned one, and she enjoyed the ride back and forth to drop off and pick up big sis. We really liked our daughter's teachers, she liked them, and they liked her. The things she was learning were amazing, and I would say we were definitely happy customers.

Over time, though, some issues cropped up that were hard to ignore. First of all, after a while it became clear that our daughter's classmates were rubbing off on her, and not in a positive way (I love the mixed-age aspect of Montessori, but some things that may sound acceptable coming from a six-year-old do not sound the same coming from a three-year-old). Second, the commute was starting to take its toll. Nine miles may not sound like a lot (it certainly didn't to me), but around here, with traffic and zig-zag streets and no direct route anywhere, the nine miles took a solid thirty minutes. As our younger daughter got older, I felt worse and worse about strapping her in a car seat for two hours a day just to get her older sister to and from school. Third was God, or should I say the lack of God. Although our daughter goes to Sunday School at our church, we wanted the Bible to be more than just one hour of her week, and we felt like we were really missing out on an opportunity to teach her about God daily. And those were just a few of my concerns as re-enrollment rolled around.

Through our church, I know a LOT of families who homeschool, but that didn't seem like an option when we were dedicated to going through preschool the Montessori way. Toward the end of the school year, I was in my daughter's classroom to observe all of the wonderful things she did there during the day, and I started looking around. Finally it occurred to me: I could do this myself! DUH! Her school had to buy Montessori materials from someone - perhaps those same people would sell materials to me!

I did some research, and for a mere fraction of what we were paying to enroll her in school, I could buy an entire preschool's worth of Montessori materials. I mentioned the idea to my husband, who took it one step further - why don't you ask some other mothers you know if they'd want to do it with you?

Stay tuned for Part Two of "Our Montessori Backstory..."