I’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.
In 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….