I get a lot of crap from various people in my life for wanting to homeschool my kids. Most people don’t mind that the quality of educations might be higher, but they’re concerned that my children will come out socially retarded. Let’s nevermind the fact that although in some ways I felt that way in school, it was mostly because once I was no longer being homeschooled, they put me a grade above my age level in public school and that really did nothing to endear me to my classmates. In the real world, this has never once been an issue, and I’ve always had a number of friends that have spanned much larger age brackets. I hate the public school system in this country with a passion, mostly because it’s not designed to teach kids to enjoy learning, but rather to train them to sit still in a factory worker setting. Since factories are products of a bygone era, and we outsource almost all of our production labor to other countries now, there aren’t many jobs where this kind of compliance is needed anymore. There are various office jobs which require a moderate amount of the same kind of obedience, but most of those are falling by the way-side as well, and they would prefer to see some kind of college degree, which to them demonstrates that you can finish something and follow directions. Education for the sake of being learned is losing it’s appeal across the board.
In any case, more than anything, I want to spend time with my children during the day. I want to watch them learn and grow and progress, and I work from home, so I get to do some of that while I’m working and they’re playing, but I would much rather take a more active role in their schooling. They’re both really bright kids, and I would like to see them learning things as they’re ready, rather than as the school system thinks they should be ready. I also really prefer to see them understanding the concrete ideas behind concepts, rather than just regurgitating the concepts. My daughter is 4, and she can do addition. My son is 5, and he’s doing multiplication. They’re both grasping the reading concept and my son is also learning to spell. After working in a Montessori preschool, I no longer find this phenomenal, but rather that kids can learn how things work much earlier than we’ve always believed, but it has to be in a very concrete way, and we teach starting in elementary school, in the abstract, with symbols.
For a small kid to understand numbers, he has to see the physical products of numbers. I have beads that indicate one unit, one ten, one hundred, and one thousand. You can buy a set like this for about $50. You can also make your own bead sets with about $15 worth of materials, or you can find pennies. Use pennies with your kids so they can count the number of cents. You can teach them addition, subtraction, multiplications, division and later decimals with this system. Use individual pennies as units. Glue a stack of 10 pennies together to show one ten. Glue 10 stacks of 10 pennies together in a row to show one hundred and glue 10 rows of one hundred together to show one thousand. It helps if each time you extend by a ten, you extend by a dimension so the one hundred looks like 10 stacks side by side and the one thousand looks like a cube of 10x10x10 pennies. Yes, I realize one thousand is $10 worth of pennies, but I’m sure if you search long enough through your car and your couch cushions, you can find this many. it’s a great way to get rid of the pennies that have been sitting in your change jar for so long. Anyway, the theory is to show your kids the concrete figure of what is represented, and then help them associate it to the arabic numerals we use as symbols for those numbers. Make flash cards of the numbers of units, the numbers of tens, hundreds and thousands that you make and help them mix and match the numbers to gain a comprehension of base-ten math. Kids who have been schooled using this method through their adolescent years, are capable of figuring amazing amounts of numbers in their heads because of how they’ve trained themselves to think.
Teaching reading is a similar process. I have a set of alphabet boxes that depict each letter and the sounds that accompany it when it stands alone. There are boxes you can get for the diphthongs and other phonograms, but it’s easiest to start with the basics. In any case, you don’t have to buy the expensive materials. Save up different kinds of magazines for awhile, collect some small toys that are good representations, and go on a treasure hunt with your kids to find some small naturally occurring things too: Use this stuff to make collages for each letter that you can hang up in your schooling area in your home. As they start processing the different sounds that each letter makes, when they can’t remember one, direct them to the collage that they made. The toughest one is going to be x. It’s ok if you want to save that one for last, once you think they’ve mastered the others. Then you can show it appearing in different parts of the word: X-ray, xylophone, but also box, ox and axe.
Before you can teach your kids to write effectively, they need a certain amount of hand-eye coordination. Since most preschool and early school age children love coloring, you can help them develop this hand eye coordination with stencils of simple shapes and colored pencils on paper. Help them to trace the template of the shape. Once they’ve gotten a pretty good handle on that, find some worksheets with the letters laid out in dotted lines that they can write over and then practice repeatedly down the sheet. There are workbooks at most bookstores that have practice sheets in them, or you can make your own worksheets at this excellent tool: Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker.
The hallmark of a Montessori education is the ability to problem solve effectively. This means being capable of doing things without help from others. In Montessori, we call this area, “Practical Life.” Make your sinks more accessible by putting little stepping stools in front of all of them. Use whatever you have lying around to help your kids learn how to button, snap, zip, lace, buckle and tie for themselves. Keep shorter versions of your broom and a dust pan and broom around so they can clean up their own messes. Another very important facet of this part of your education is teaching them manners. Encourage your kids to say “please” and “thank you” whenever someone else does something for them. Remind them to push in their chairs and wipe up their own spills. Teach them to bring their used dishes to the sink or dishwasher. If it becomes a habit when they’re small, it will continue throughout their lives.
DISCLAIMER:The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.