Farmschooling – Montessori Middle School Part 1

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Maria Montessori AdolescentsI’m reading Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard again and this time I’m focusing on the adolescent / middle school aspects of Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education.  What I see in the homeschool world is many moms who are very excited about Montessori for their younger children.  However, finding middle school Montessori enthusiasts is rare.  In fact, I don’t know any other homeschoolers that are using Maria Montessori’s concepts for Middle School.  And that is a shame.  Montessori was brilliant and her pedagogy has withstood the test of time.  So, for those that are homeschooling and have children who are approaching middle school, I thought I would share what I’m learning and reading about Montessori middle schools … I’m calling this concept “farmschooling”.  This will be a long article with lots of detailed information, so I’m going to break it into several posts.  This is Part one and it will focus on the characteristics of this Third Plane of Development for adolescence.  It will certainly help you understand your teen better, at least it has helped me!  

Since not many folks are homeschooling with a Montessori slant, I thought I would explain some things we are doing and connect it with Montessori’s vision of an Erdkinder (middle school or adolescent envionment).  But I need to lay a bit of a foundation first before I jump straight into the teaching aspect.  In this post, I will be quoting from Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard.  (Note we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program.  Any money received via this relationship is used for our homeschool!  PS. I’ve made a grand total of $0.00 from affiliate marketing… but the FTC says I have to tell you that IF you buy it, I will make 4% of the sale as commission.)In some areas I will paraphrase and in other areas I will quote verbatim.  Suffice it to say, I think if you don’t have this book, you need to get it, especially if you are teaching 0-12 aged children.  It’s an easy reading book that really sums up Maria Montessori’s philosophy well.  When I was still the chairman of the board of our local Montessori school, we had multiple copies of this book on our bookshelf and we would literally hand them out to new families attending the school.  

Maria Montessori developed a theoretical framework of education for children from birth to adult.  She regarded the adolescent stage as a period of great vulnerability… she went so far as to liken it to the 0-3 stage.  Here’s why:  The infant is in a totally vulnerable state and requires careful attention and devotion on the part of adults, it is a new being, a child.  In this second period (adolescence), great weakness is apparent, and again, very special consideration must be given, a new creation is taking place but this time it is an adult.  Just like in the early stage where a child is in self-construction mode, so are adolescents.  During this stage they are introverted and self-conscious…. yet at the same time, they have a huge drive to join society as an adult member.  Therefore they show a keen interest in the social organization of the world around them, where they are trying to make sense of people’s behavior, in both the present and past. 

Maria Montessori Four Planes of DevelopmentIn the first plane of development (0 – 3) children are sensorial explorers, in the second plane (6 – 12) they are reasoning explorers, now in the third plane (12 – 18) they become human explorers… focusing on figuring out society and where they fit in.  Montessori believed that adolescents needed calm and solitude if they are to make sense of their self and the world.  She continued stating they are filled with doubts, hesitations, emotions and discouragement … being very sensitive, embarrass easily and lack confidence.  They have a great need for strengthening of self-confidence.  In addition, they have difficulty concentrating and are easily distracted.  

At the same time, adolescents are impressive intellectually.  They want to discuss big abstract ideas and reason through to conclusions, based on evidence.  They are interested in discussing moral and spiritual issues, the purpose of life and the meaning of death.  They like to debate what the author of a book is really saying, or an artist truly intended through his painting, or a composer expressing through their music.  They want to explore what others are thinking and feeling and are perceptive about their strengths and weaknesses.   

Montessori had a deep faith in the benefits of academic knowledge and intellectual study in spite of the adolescent’s diminished capacity to concentrate and we will explore how she proposed teaching adolescents in the next post.  Here is Part 2

Until next time….




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Trish Corlew

Founder and Author at Live and Learn Farm
Trish has been married to her best friend, David, for 16 years and they have three sons (aged 13, 12 and 9). Trish is from the coast of North Carolina, but they now live in rural West Tennessee on a 40+ acre farm. She has been homeschooling since 2009 and her homeschool style leans towards a Montessori approach with a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. They also own a small business that Trish runs from home. Trish’s family is Messianic and they love studying the Scriptures, learning Hebrew and growing in their faith and walk daily. In her spare time, Trish loves to write, work in their garden and can regularly be found trying to learn something new, modeling that learning is indeed a life-long endeavor!


  1. I look forward to your next post about this!

    We’ve homeschooled now through high school with a Montessori slant (my oldest will be a senior). After a certain age I didn’t find a lot out there to guide me. When I would struggle with providing a Montessori-ish environment for my olders in middle and high school and scour the web for ideas and examples I would eventually see that they were getting all of the aspects I saw in Montessori schools for olders. I did this at least once a year for a while, lol. I finally truly felt peace about our approach within a Montessori-inspired homeschool environment for olders. They are a part of the academic decision-making, help with scheduling, we discuss their learning styles and preferences, and we are very involved in 4-H. They are actively involved in cooking, housekeeping, and planning.

    Thanks for doing this series 🙂

    • Oh, I am so glad to know someone who has walked this path before me!!!! Thank you Beth for commenting! I honestly have felt sort of like you described… a pioneer, alone, feeling my way in the dark!! Whew! I now have a resource I can run to to ask your ideas opinions on things!!! Have you seen my middle son’s new business and blog? It is here on our site under middle school. Gage is 11 and he has just started this business and is blogging about. Let me know what you think! Thanks again for popping in! Don’t be surprised to get lots of questions 🙂

      • I love his business idea and post! A business is especially a good idea for those who are urban and don’t have the ability to raise animals in the Erdkinder style of learning and animal/farm management.

        My youngest is more entrepeneural (sp?) then the olders. They don’t seem interested in that :(. I am considering opening up an etsy account for them (or for youngest) to sell dog leashes made from jeans and tote bags made from feed bags. Those proceeds would go straight back to help fund our 4-H things. They haven’t jumped on it though (sigh), so we just keep doing fundraising instead.

        I think that as the children get older Montessori inspired homeschools will look more and more different from each other than when they are little. If you are following the children’s interests the horizon is broader at that point and they will be involved in very different studies.

        Right now we’re getting deeper into Livestock Judging and are about to start 4-H’s Vet Tech training so they can be vet assistants when they graduate from high school. This will give them a good “in” for vet school or even better part-time jobs during college. Both of those areas totally turn off some of their friends, lol, who have total opposite interests – and that’s okay! 🙂

        • What I am learning is we have to follow them even more in middle school than we did in elementary! If it is NOT their passion or desire for a particular biz, they will not engage, will not pour their hearts and souls into it and will not receive the vast benefits of the deep educational aspects from a love of the topic… My oldest is in the same situation and we are still trying to figure this out ourselves! But, I know I am not going to push one on him that he is not excited about 🙂 All the rest is still up for discussion! LOL!

  2. Thank you SO much for this article, I can’t wait to read the rest. I have been looking for a solution for my kids for the last number of years.They have been Montessori schooled since they were babies and then we moved to Southern California where there are no options for them to continue their Montessori education at the higher levels.
    I have been thinking about homeschooling them and until I found your post had no direction on what to do for them. Thank you again and I will be back 🙂

    • Well Hey Sinead! I’m so glad you found us! There are not many of us out here Montessori homeschooling the higher grades. But those are doing it are loving it! We cannot imagine going back to school now! I look forward to getting to know you! Let me know if I can help!! ~Trish


  1. […] school and high school. I’ve dubbed it Farmschooling – Montessori Middle School.  In part 1 we discussed what is going on in the teenage mind and how unsure of themselves they really are. […]

  2. […] it is also part of their Montessori practical life studies. Maria Montessori suggested an Erdkinder environment for children in upper level grades.  We have created our version of an Erdkinder here at Live and […]

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