However, my journey to home education and then unschooling was built on a foundation of exploring alternative education. Montessori certainly holds a place in my heart for being the way that I truly learned that learning doesn’t have to look like traditional schooling (and can be even better!)
When you get down to the bones of what makes up the Montessori method, one of the thoughts at the core of it is following the child. Consequently, my thoughts and developing trust in children started with this notion and blossomed into the strong beliefs that I have today which have lead to us unschooling (a somewhat radical notion to most!)
Because I believe in freedom for children to learn what, when, and how they want to; I don’t personally agree with forcing children to use Montessori materials or even necessarily expecting them use them in the way they were intended. I think they’re incredible learning tools and love that they are meaningful and purposeful but I personally think that’s only beneficial if it’s also meaningful to the child involved in every way.
My son (5) suits Montessori well and seeks out hands on learning in concrete ways with control of error. However, he’s also keen to use the binomial cube as a garage and ramp for his toy cars – and I’m just as happy with both forms of expression.
Magnetic movable alphabet on magnetic whiteboard (from Montessori Child Shop)
Another core part of Montessori learning that really seeps through to our unschooling life is the emphasis on encouraging independence. This has a profoundly positive impact on our lives and means that they have more control and choice with respect to all aspects of their life (i.e. learning, play, practical life, etc).
Unschooling in my opinion is about trusting and respecting children so the emphasis within the Montessori method to give children real tools and experiences is significant to me too.
For us, this means using Montessori (and Montessori-inspired) principles and materials as one of the countless options at our fingertips to explore and make meaning of the world around us. It means not worrying about or imposing the expected age ranges or enforcing the ideal outcomes. We simply learn naturally sometimes using these wonderful tools and methodology (observation for one) when and how the interest strikes.
For us, Montessori and unschooling looks like having an environment that encourages independence and has order and beauty… but no expectations or rules of how it will be used. For example, we don’t have an assigned area (table/mat) – take it outside or in bed if you want to.
Here, it looks like Montessori tools next to an eclectic blend of resources because that’s what works for my kids and how they learn. It looks like steps all over the house so they can access what they need. It looks like art and creative materials out and available at all times (aside from poster paint and permanent markers because I live in a rental and have a 3 year old).
It means there’s no themes (other than shelves displaying current interests) or trays with busy work unless it serves a real purpose and is meaningful to my children. It means we don’t necessarily use materials in their expected order and we sometimes don’t use them for areas of learning at all.
I think the key difference when incorporating Montessori (or any learning method, tools or inspiration) into an unschool life is that it’s the child’s choice and is meaningful to them.
I’d truly love to hear how Montessori or unschooling or both (or unschooling with another method) works in your home! Share below or over in the Lovable Learning community!