It is no secret that I have been heavily influence by Maria Montessori. Her view of children and their capabilities is inspiring. She was a scientist first and by simply observing the children she was in contact with, she figured out how to guide them so that they could succeed.
There are of course problems with any philosophy or method. Montessori never intended home use of her work. She was very clear about student/directress ratios and age ranges. She made many of her materials herself and was very controlling of her ideas. Her primary work was accomplished with the 3-6 age crowd mainly because the older ones were in school already. Unfortunately, she never really expanded too much into the older ages. There is a little bit on Early Elementary and pretty much nothing after that.
In a home environment, I have struggled with how to implement some of her ideas as the kids get older. Group work is so integral to the Elementary Montessori Classroom that it is almost impossible to mimic it in a home environment.
So, here I am, exploring more philosophies and ideas and trying to find a good fit for my oldest. One where he is challenged appropriately but is also leading his own learning. I recently saw this quote in an issue of Wild and Free (a free bundle to download):
"Cherish in your children the love of investigation"
I love this quote and it inspired me to look more into Charlotte Mason and her philosophies. I feel like I have a lot more to learn but I wanted to share a bit about how she compares with Montessori and what specifically we are going to try to incorporate into our work.
Mason lived from 1842-1923. This seems to be a turning point in a lot of educational philosophies. She is a huge influence in Christian homeschooling circles.
She believed that "education is an atmosphere." This is where you will find the greatest disparity between philosophies. She was very much against changing the environment to fit a child. She felt that a child should not be isolated to a "child friendly" environment. That means no small chairs or tables or kid sized things that you would find from Froebel or Montessori.
She also believed that "education is a discipline. " That education was stronger than natural inclinations.
Mason stated that "education is a life" and that because the mind feeds on ideas- children should have access to a large amount of curriculum and resources.
She agreed with Montessori in the realm of external motivators. Both believed that they have no place in learning and are detrimental. You can find modern research confirming this in the book Nurture Shock.
In terms of early childhood, Mason believed that kids should be outside exploring their environment and that was more important than any other type of learning. You can see a movement back towards this in some of the Forest Kindergartens popping up.
I am a huge proponent of getting kids outside but I also know from experience that when given the opportunity- they will surprise you. Montessori put out materials that appealed to children for a reason. Access to a moveable alphabet may spur on your little one to learn how to spell before she can read. Numerals and counters will have them reciting addition and subtraction problems before you know it. Montessori believed that young children needed to be in a concrete world able to explore with their senses. Concrete always comes before abstract.
Montessori wanted to cultivate a spirit of learning more than a mechanical skill or mechanism. Mason believed that under the right conditions "studies serve for delight" and that "the consciousness of daily progression is exhilarating to both teacher and child"
I am growing to love both of these philosophies and am grateful for the chance to pick and choose from them.
Here's a list that I would like to incorporate into our home for early elementary:
Notebooks for Nature, Math, Explorations
A Century Book (For history, it is a book with pages marked for every hundred years from 4,000 BCE to current time)
Narration of Literary Works
Recitation, both secular poetry and biblical
For your Homeschool Self