Created by and for homeschooling families
Q. Who or What is "Montessori"
A. Maria Montessori, MD was the first woman to receive an MD degree in Italy. She has insprired people the world over, for
100 years in 2007, to base education on ovservations of children and the discovery of their needs, rather than on a curriculum.
For more information on Dr. Montessori see: Montessori
Q. What is "Montessori Method" of education?
A. The Montessori method of education is best described as an "Aid to Life" rather than a specific curriculum of educational
objectives. For some answers to Frequently Asked Questions on this subject, that may help in establishing a Montessori-type
learning environment in the home, see: FAQ
AGE 3-6: Q. Can I use Montessori idease at home with my child?
A. Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development and education at home. Look at your home through your
child's eyes. Children need a sense of belonging and of being needed. They get it by participating fully in the routines of
everyday life. "Help me do it by myself" is the life theme of the preschooler. Can you find ways for your child to participate in
meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the
surest way to build your child's self-esteem.
In the Montessori 3-6 class the environment is filled with cultural, artistic, scientific activities . There is no junk food, no
television, no computer. Books, toys, and other educational materials are carefully chosen and of the best quality. The child is
never forced to attend a lesson or do a piece of work. The teacher is trained to model kindness and consideration, to observe
the child and follow her interests in suggesting work, to give careful, individual lessons, and to refrain from interrupting when
the child is concentrating on an activity. Much of this can be created in the home.
ALL AGES Q. What about socialization?
A. The word socialization, contrary to the opinion of some, does not mean spending the weekdays competing with 25 human
beings one's own age. In a natural community children spend their daily lives with old people, babies, and everyone in
between. They do not compete, but learn to search out the needs of others and to help them live and learn. This mixed age
group and habit of teaching and helping others, and being helped and taught by people younger or older than oneself, is a part
of Montessori classes at all ages and is easy to fit into the Montessori homeschooling plan.
AGE 6-18: Q. What Montessori ideas can I use for school age children?
A. Here are a few of many:
(1) The child is learning all of the time, from the environment and from the adults in the environment. It is better to put energy
into enriching the environment and becoming good models than in teaching the child.
(2) Children learn what they love. Anything forced will probably be detested, or forgotten.
(3) A child must know why he has to learn a required subject.
(4) State educational requirements can be reduced to one page per year and the child needs help in learning to schedule time,
develop enjoyable methods, and become responsible for meeting deadlines. This work usually takes no more than two or
three hours a day.
(5) Follow the child. Aside from requirements, if the child's choice are respected and facilitated she will learn at a level that
can amaze parents.
A MONTESSORI HOMESCHOOL STORY
Written at the request of the organizers of the California Home-Education Conference, for homeschoolers interested in using
Montessori philosophy and practice at home:
Michael attended a Montessori school from age 2.5-5, and one semester at a Montessori elementary class. From then on, at his
choice, he was homeschooled. His educational materials consisted, for the most part, products from the family Michael Olaf
Montessori company which he reviewed for the catalogue, weekly visits to the library to research the interest of the moment,
daily music practice, and exploration in nature. There was no TV in the home.
He was allowed unlimited time whenever possible—days, nights, weekends—to explore and chose his own path. Many
experiences and study directions were offered by his parents, and periodically by other mentors and teachers, but his choices
and his passions were always respected.
The parents both worked full time (mother in her home office) and spent very little time "educating" Michael. During the
elementary years, they helped him make weekly work/study plans which included roughly grade level math and English
suggestions, but was otherwise made up of his own choices in many areas such as music, literature, mythology, history,
astronomy and the arts. There was no TV, and no video or computer games in the home as distractions and time wasters. He
loved exploring and learning, and having his own interests respected.
Over the years Michael studied Suzuki piano and violin and attended the local music academy at Humboldt State University
for several hours every Saturday. For some years he attended a "homeschooling school" for one or two days a week. This
provided sports, group activities, and a very interesting social life often found in homeschooling communities. His best friends
were not just those people of his own age, but his young students, friends of his older sisters and parents, people of all ages.
At age fifteen Michael passed the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam) and received an official high school
certificate. Then he was allowed to take classes at Humboldt State University. Looking always for the best teachers, rather than
specific subjects, he earned 35 units at HSU, in drama, math, physics, and music.
During the summer of his fifteenth year Michael went to the Calgary Conservatory in Canada and became a certified Suzuki
piano teacher and began teaching — both adults and children.
For one year Michael attended a new local academic and arts high school but found that this traditional method of education
broke up academic subjects into choppy, boring segments which he found frustrating, and interfered with his own research and
reading, music and academic progress. Although a wonderful school it was based on competition and an adult directed
curriculum which is not necessary for a self-directed motivated student. The following year, having returned to
"homeschooling" he taught a jazz ensemble for this school.
TESTS: Michael was not "educated for tests", nor did he take any tests during his school years except in classes at Humboldt
State University, and a California assessment test at the end of 6th grade. Instead he learned to enjoy learning and to work hard
and do his best. When it came time to apply for college he took practice ACT and SAT tests, scoring very low, and then
worked steadily for 2-3 months to learn what was needed to raise his scores to a consistently high level. He was admitted to
Brown University. His sophomore year at Brown he was a TA for the music department, a role previously held only by music
For years Michael earned his own money teaching music and playing with professional groups, and learned to budget it for
tithe, savings, and food, clothing and other necessities. He has toured or traveled in the Northwest USA, Cuba, South America,
Europe, Africa, and Asia. He graduated in three years from Brown University, interned for an environmental NGO in India,
and now is studying law at the University of Oregon where he works as a tutor for first year students.
We believe that education should be cooperative instead of competitive. It should feed curiosity and create joy and compassion
toward others. It works best when a child feels the intrinsic rewards of mastering subject matter, overcoming obstacles and
finding his own answers to questions rather than the extrinsic rewards of praise, grades, or threats of failure. It should teach
practical and social skills such as helping others, and teach one how to balance work and play and be healthy. If we can help
children develop these goals we are giving them experiences that can lead to a productive and happy life.
Over the last fifteen years we have learned a lot by homeschooling, and from other homeschooling families and from
Montessori teachers and parents. The Michael Olaf Montessori catalogues have been constantly rewritten to reflect this
learning and they are considered to be excellent overviews of Montessori philosophy and practice for use in many situations,
and a source of materials for homes and schools, for children from birth through age 12 and beyond.
We constantly questioned ourselves as parents "Are we doing the right thing?" "Are we ruining our child's life" as there really
is no recipe for how to homeschool successfully. In the end we followed our gut feelings, we observed our only family and
experience, and other homeschoolers carefully and "followed the child."
Jim & Susan Stephenson
VALUABLE RELATED SITES:
Michael Olaf's Montessori E-book and PDF catalogue
(age birth to 12 years):
Montessori Educational Products:
Practical Montessori - Renaissance Parenting
The International Montessori Index
The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE)