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We were three months away from our 1 year anniversary of homeschooling. It was November 2012. Dinomite was 5. Bulldozer was 4. Princess was 3. The journey was going okay, but there were some definite struggles. Princess was fighting me tooth and nail about everything. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do assignments or that they were too difficult. Cognitive testing had proven she was brilliant with a 124 overall IQ. It was that I was the teacher, and that relationship was threatening to her. (Princess has Reactive Attachment Disorder, caused by trauma she experienced before being adopted into our family.)
I could not reach Bulldozer. My husband couldn’t reach him either. Sure he knew all of his shapes, colors, letters, and numbers at the age of two, but that was because he craved visual stimulation and learning those ideas satisfied that craving. It took all the energy we had to help him through lessons and assignments each day. His behaviors and tendencies made everything so difficult. He was behind both of his siblings when learning. Bulldozer couldn’t sit and listen to a story. Writing tasks were impossible. He couldn’t even write his name. His fine motor skills were so delayed.
Dinomite was doing well, but his anxieties would get the best of him. Any distractions from his brother and sister would throw him off task. We spent so much time helping him calm himself, refocus, and have confidence in his abilities.
I should have known. Before we started our homeschooling journey, Dinomite and Bulldozer had attended a private special needs preschool. Dinomite, autistic, was in an integrated classroom. He did well his first year there, only attending two-half days a week with a wonderful teacher. The second year the teacher changed three times between September and December. He attended school 5-half days a week, and would scream for over an hour upon returning home because he was so overstimulated without the ability to communicate his feelings. Bulldozer, also autistic, was in a special needs classroom at the same school. He was more advanced than other children in the class in many areas, yet more delayed than some in other areas. He was three and could barely put together three word phrases. His teachers commented that he didn’t smile or laugh while there, instead his face was blank. This was not the Bulldozer I knew at all. He begged and begged not to go to school EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I thought it would stop after he adjusted, but we were now into November and it was just getting worse. So, I pulled the boys and we started homeschooling in February of 2012. My husband and I had always been against homeschooling, before we had children. But to this day, I still remember receiving the distinct impression that I needed to start preparing myself to homeschool our children, when Bulldozer was still a baby. Little did I know how difficult the task would be.
So here were were, 3 months shy of homeschooling for a year, and I was desperate to find a way to teach my children that would work for everyone, not just temporarily but forever. I began to pray about this alone, and with my husband. As I reflected back on learning activities that had gone well, I realized they all had one thing in common. They were Montessori-inspired activities.
My husband and I knew VERY little about Montessori at that time. We decided to utilize our local library and read as many books about the subject as we could. We read How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way, Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child, Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years and a few others. To this day, these books still remain some of my very favorites. With every book I read, I felt more and more sure this was the route we should take with our children. But, I wanted confirmation. I wanted to be 100% sure. So, my husband and I prayed about it. It was then that we KNEW this was how we were to teach our children. The answer was so strong. To this day I still haven’t forgotten it.
I won’t say that incorporating Montessori into our learning was an easy task. I was constantly studying, learning, and trying to perfect my activities, lessons, and presentations. (I am still doing this.) But it was, and still is, worth it. My children LOVE it! They took right to it. The struggles we had been having disappeared. Our homeschooling journey became enjoyable.
However there are always bumps and hurdles along the way, if not related to learning, then related to our home life. Our youngest child, Sunshine, came along through adoption, and literally turned our lives upside down. Now we know that she has autism, Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, and a mood disorder. But then, we did not know these things. Parenting was HARD. Nothing I seemed to do worked. Once again I found myself pleading in prayer for guidance and direction. I find it no coincidence that I had just ordered the books: Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three and Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood. As I began to read the first book my mind became enlightened with ideas that I should try with our Sunshine. I’d discuss the ideas with my husband and we would pray for guidance. Every time we’d learn about a new aspect of Montessori in the home, and prayed about it, we received confirmation that it was right for our family. So we tried the ideas. Wouldn’t you know? They worked, when nothing else had.
Within the last year, I felt the desire to help my special needs children with their language skills. All of them are verbal, but they have much to learn when it comes to social graces, communicating with others etc. Again I found myself kneeling in prayer asking for direction. This was when I was inspired to contact Deb from Living Montessori Now, about her book Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy. It was in fact exactly what I was looking for. You can read my review about it here. Ever since reading the book, I have tried to incorporate grace & courtesy lessons into learning and everyday life.
I could go on and on with true stories about my pleas for help with my children through prayer, and how I have been answered with a Montessori principle. It occurs so often that my husband and I find it comical now. But even so, we’ve learned that for our family the Montessori Method is spiritually based for our family, not because the activities are designed around scripture themes, but because Montessori was our answer to many many many prayers. We believe that Maria Montessori was an inspired woman who was able to observe and create a method that will work for all children, including those she started with in asylums at the beginning of her education career. When we begin to plan for a unit study, we start with prayer, asking for inspiration to know what Montessori materials and activities our children need at the time. If we need to create a printable, we pray that we’ll be able to make it Montessori-inspired so that our children can use it effectively.
It is very easy to become consumed by all things Montessori. In some cases one may feel that they’re neglecting other spiritual responsibilities. Yet we forget, that one of our biggest spiritual responsibilities is teaching our children. If we are inspired to use the Montessori Method when doing so, then the method itself becomes spiritual, not as an idol, but as inspiration from God. When prompted by God to incorporate Montessori into our home, we are to obey.
I encourage you to pray about how Montessori fits into your life and the life of your children. It may not be right for everyone, but for those who do receive confirmation that it is, I challenge you to write down the promptings and inspiration you have received. Reread them. Remember them. In times when Montessori seems too difficult, or too overwhelming, remember the feelings you had when you prayed about it.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” Hebrews: 10: 35