Incorporating Other Homeschooling Methods into Your Montessori Homeschool
Welcome to Lesson 9 of the Montessori Homeschooling 101 Series!
Our conversation today revolves around incorporating other homeschooling methods!
A quick note to the pure, devoted Montessorians out there: move along, this post is not for you. You are still welcome here, but you don't need this post!
I've never been a "pure" Montessorian. This may be obvious after getting to know me a little better. I've never been "formally" trained (except for online classes and reading and studying over 20 Montessori books, included Maria Montessori's own writings...) I also homeschool and do not have my children in a Montessori school.
So, I went in to Montessori homeschooling with an open mind, but at the same time, I was determined to do my best to implement Montessori philosophies into my home and homeschooling.
Along my homeschooling journey, I have adopted many other philosophies and methods while bringing all I've done under the scrutiny of Scripture as a Bible-believing Christian.
Here are some of the philosophies/methods we have explored in our homeschool: Bible-Based Unit Study, Literature-Based Unit Study, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, and, of course, Montessori! I will briefly explain how we implemented each method above, then I will show how we still used Montessori principles alongside that "other" method.
Bible-Based Unit Study + Montessori
I started our homeschooling journey with a more traditional Bible-based preschool curriculum. After realizing that was not going to work for my young toddler, I found Montessori and our lives were changed.
Unfortunately, I didn't find much in the way of Christian Montessori activities, but I was an enthusiastic new mom, so I got to work creating resources for my daughter. It was in this time that the Sensory Bible Devotional Cards were birthed.*
I also created shelf work to tie into each Bible story we were learning that covered many subject areas: practical life, language, science, math, geography, etc. - basing our work off of parts of the Bible story. We still do this!
So how do I make our Bible studies Montessori-aligned?
We read the Bible at the table in the morning, complete our devotional card for the day, have a discussion, and enjoy a hands-on mini activity. This sparks great conversation, prayer, and really focuses our day right from the start on God. The rest of the shelf exploration is done during our learning time, and I just make sure when I present each lesson I tie it into the Bible story so my children can see how it relates.
*The first 18 of the Sensory Bible Devotional Cards are included in the Full Montessori Homeschool Preschool Curriculum - Year 1. All of them can be found in my Bible Club Membership for a low monthly fee, and there is a free option for 2 new sets a month.
Noah's Ark Unit Study
Literature-Based Unit Study + Montessori
Early on in our homeschooling, we were introduced to the Five in a Row curriculum by some friends. We fell so in love with this curriculum and way of learning that we haven't ever given it up completely as we've explored other methods. I seem to always have a Five in a Row unit study going on, whether it's the main focus of our learning or a side thing.
These are picture book-based unit studies that incorporate all subjects except the core math and reading/spelling/grammar that are grade-specific. The lessons are mostly discussion-based and can be found in the manuals. You read the same picture book for five days in a row and pick and choose activities that relate to the story that would also resonate with your children. There are many, many options in the teacher manuals for lessons, but the idea is you can do as much or as little as you want. The curriculum suggests you choose one subject per day and do 1-2 lessons from the manual under that subject heading. The curriculum can be very gentle but also very in-depth, depending on how you choose to use it.
So how do I make Five in a Row Montessori-aligned?
This is the fun part! You can take the ideas found in the manual and scour the internet for free resources to make into shelf work: three part cards, spelling activities, art trays, sorting, classifying, science experiments, puzzle maps, tracing the Bible verse, using math manipulatives, etc. Little Learning Lane is a fabulous blog by a homeschooling mom who uses Five in a Row and Montessori concepts beautifully. I encourage you to check it out if this sounds like something you and your children would love!
The most "Montessori" part of the Five in a Row curriculum is the ability to follow your child's interests and explore the lessons that resonate with your child, leaving out the lessons that don't apply for this season of life. Not everything "Montessori" needs a printable component!
Classical + Montessori Homeschooling
I told you I've tried a lot of methods... and Classical homeschooling is one that is at the top of my list for many reasons, but I quickly found out that it needed some Montessori application to be effective in our home!
We joined a Classical Conversations community when my oldest had just turned 4, like the week before we started! We had just moved back to Florida, and my friend was the director. I didn't know anything about it other than that it was "great" and others were happy with the program. I was desperate for connection, friends, and community, and so was my super-social daughter, so we jumped into the unknown! That year, we added another baby to our crew (which brought us to 3 girls), and we had one of our best homeschool years!
We continued in Classical Conversations another 3 years, even through the COVID pandemic, and I was (and still am) blown away by the program. I really loved it, and if you are interested, I would encourage you to visit a community to check it out!
Basically, Classical Conversations is a community-based homeschooling program that comes with curriculum. It follows the Trivium stages of learning: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, and separates learners into three programs based on their stage within the trivium: the Foundations Program is the grammar stage (ages 4-12), the Essentials Program is the rhetoric stage (ages 9-12), and the Challenge Program is the dialectic stage (ages 12-18).
We only have experience with the Foundations Program, which is for ages 4-12. For 24 weeks, we meet once a week for three hours. We do Memory Work, Presentations, a Science experiment, Fine Arts (either drawing, art replicated after famous artists, classical music, or tin whistle, switching every 6 weeks), and review. We memorize facts across 8 subject areas: Bible, Latin, English, Math, History, Timeline, Science, and Geography. The Tutor helps the students solidify these facts through repetition, games, and songs.
At home for Foundations, families are responsible for practicing the Memory Work, but there are no tests or shaming for not memorizing. After that, you are free to expand on the memory work, science, and art (or not). I, of course, loved to expand by reading related living books, doing extra art and science projects, and supplementing with as many Montessori works as possible.
So how do we make Classical homeschooling align with Montessori homeschooling?
We create shelf work, encourage interest-led exploration and projects (like delving further into the artist studied), and make sure to incorporate puzzle maps, 3-part cards, and free choice for further exploration of the concepts each week. This can be super simple or more elaborate, depending on your child's interest in the material.
Charlotte Mason + Montessori Homeschooling
If anyone were to ask me what the Montessori Philosophy of education lacked, I would probably say two things:
1. A Grounding in Biblical Foundations - i.e. connecting God and His Word to all that is presented to a child.
2. Reading Aloud.
However, both of these points are actually supported by Montessori if you look at the root of the Montessori Philosophy. Dr. Montessori emphatically urged us to look at the child and not at the adult to glean wisdom as to how to teach these children whom belong to the kingdom of Heaven.
In The Secret of Childhood, Montessori states:
"In the vivid description of the Gospel, it would seem that we must help the Christ hidden in every poor man, in every prisoner, in every sufferer. But if we paraphrased the marvelous scene and applied it to the child, we should find that Christ goes to help all men in the form of the child."
Secondly, reading aloud is encouraged in every Montessori environment, from age 0 to adulthood.
That being said, these are two of the most important pieces in my homeschool: an education rooted in the Bible and reading aloud.
Here is where Charlotte Mason shines! A Charlotte Mason education is primarily literature-rich, varied, and focused on the beauty of God's creation. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason, check out Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online, for starters.
So how do we combine Charlotte Mason and Montessori homeschooling?
I start the day with Morning Time!
You can call it a "Morning Basket," "Morning Meeting," or "Morning Time." You can really call it whatever you want.
We do our Bible devotionals. We may sing a hymn or folk song. We do a Picture Study once a week. We listen to classical music. We do short, focused lessons in our morning time and vary them according to type, so we don't get burned out. I take a few subjects and read aloud short snippets from various books for my children. They tell me back what they remember (they "narrate" or give a "narration"), we do some memory work (Bible verses, sometimes Classical Conversations Memory Work, sometimes little pieces of information from our reading or studies)
Charlotte Mason helps us keep beauty in our homeschool a priority.
After Morning Time, the children are excused to complete their shelf work where I can give individual and group lessons to my children of varying ages.
Unschooling + Montessori Homeschooling
I will be honest that I do not know much about Unschooling, but I do know that unschoolers made the idea of "strewing" popular, and I have used this tactic in our Montessori-inspired homeschool.
Strewing is the intentional act of leaving out a work that you may want your child to complete but has, up until then, shown no interest in it or even resistance to the work. You could leave out a partially-completed Hundred Board or a Pink Series Word-Building exercise where you started spelling out words with the movable alphabet. You could take some work off of your shelves and put it in the center of the room on a mat.
This "invitation" has almost 100% of the time worked with my girls in our homeschool. I just have to be very careful to let the work invite the child and not be the one to do it. Especially if there has been some resistance!
We also have lots of free time to play and explore in our homeschool.
I try to keep the formal lessons and Work Period confined to the first half of the day. Sometimes we are diligent and done in 2 hours, and other times we are working from 7am to noon - including morning time, reading aloud on the couch, and a Montessori work cycle, with house chores, self care, and at least two meals as part of our work cycle.
After lunch and rest, the girls have the afternoon to play freely. It is rare we schedule anything in the afternoon other than taking play elsewhere - like to a park, the beach, or a nature area. I love giving them free time to just play, and playing in nature is even better!
I have found as my oldest approached seven years old, the free play also turned into time to explore her interests. Everyone always talked about their kids having time to work on passion projects and things they loved to do in the afternoons, but I think since I started so young, I didn't realize that those things would come as the child matured. Free play is great, and working on passions didn't start happening until age seven for her. My oldest loves art projects, building things out of recycled materials, finger knitting, making bracelets, choreographing dances, and still loves to play with her younger sisters.
I hope this post helps you see that even though some people have built "boxes" full of neat and tidy philosophies and methods, you don't have to use them just as they were made.
You may want to take their boxes and reuse them, reshape them, to make your own structure of learning. In fact, I encourage you to do just that. God gave you your unique children, and no philosophy or method will be perfect for every single one of us. Don't worry about offending anyone. They are your kids for a reason! Enjoy them!
If you're looking for more lessons in the Montessori Homeschooling 101 series, here are the links:
- Lesson 1: Finding a Space to Do Montessori Lessons
- Lesson 2: Where to Buy Montessori Materials & DIY Alternatives
- Lesson 3: Setting Up Your First Month of Montessori Lessons
- Lesson 4: The Montessori Work Rug
- Lesson 5: The Montessori Work Cycle
- Lesson 6: The Montessori 3 Period Lesson
- Lesson 7: Freedom within Limits in a Montessori Homeschool
- Lesson 8: How to Follow Your Child
- Lesson 9: Incorporating Other Homeschooling Methods
- Lesson 10: Giving Yourself the Freedom to Leave Things Out
- Lesson 11: Working with Multiple Ages