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!


The Dancy Family said...

Thanks so much for taking the lead on the Montessori part. I know it has been stressful preparing, but I'm so excited & SG is too! She is counting down the days until her first day of preschool :o). See you Tuesday!

Mama in Training said...

Wow, that was exciting and stressful. I admire you for doing it. :)

Amber said...

I am so very impressed. May I ask where you set the preschool room up? Is it in your own home? And if so, is it an area that your children can't access outside of preschool time? Seeing that you purchased all of the materials do the other families pay anything to join you?

I think I really appreciated these posts because I am at the brown-paper-bag spot right now! I have been toying around the edges for the past 2 years while my eldest was in a Montessori preschool & now want to preschool my youngest in Montessori myself as well as work with the eldest in the elementary work.

But... I feel overwhelmed! There is so much to read & so many materials to buy or make & so much to learn & so much to practise. To this point I've been introducing things in a rather half-baked way & that just doesn't work. So, I know that I need to go back to the basics and READ. And alongside of that I need to begin to really understand the STRUCTURAL elements. The albums (I am so impressed that you have created your own albums) & the sequencing & all of those elements. I don't have the Gettman book & am thinking that I should buy a copy now.

But at the same time I feel panicked because Lovely is already 3 and Hug is almost 6 but still needs to work on lots of 3-6 areas... and... this is where I get overwhelmed! I want to know it all NOW which, of course, I understand is impossible.

This has ended up as a pretty wordy comment ;) Sorry about that. I'm just so impressed by how well you have tackled this mammoth task and I also appreciate your honesty :) Go Montessori mama :)