This is an introduction to a Montessori Middle School, or Erdkinder as Maria Montessori called it. It is the essence of what we are trying to accomplish with our farm homeschool (we call it farmschooling). You will see why we have the boys creating their own businesses, growing our own food, and managing the marketing of their businesses. Each of our children will be blogging about their specific businesses. I hope you will join us for these adventures! Please remember all of our boys are 13 or younger, so grace and courtesy is appreciated. Just as an FYI, I will be moderating all comments, emails, and communication.
Montessori’s Vision of the Erdkinder (Farm School)
Maria Montessori first proposed her ideas for the reform of secondary education in a series of lectures given at the University of Amsterdam in January 1920. They were later published during the 1930s as part of her work From Childhood to Adolescence. Dr. Montessori’s model of secondary education is based on her understanding of the developmental needs and learning tendencies of early adolescents. In addition to conceiving many of the reforms incorporated into today’s most innovative programs for early adolescents, Montessori added a unique idea: she recommended a residential school located in a country setting. Montessori believed that by living independently of their families for a few years in a small rural community, young people could be trained in both the history of technology and civilization, while learning the practical habits, values, and skills needed to assume the role of an adult in today’s society.
Envisioning a school where children would grow their own food and live close to nature, she called her program the Erdkinder, which translates from the Dutch as “the children of the Earth” or “children of the land.” Dr. Maria Montessori proposed living and working on a residential farm school as the best possible educational setting for young adolescents (twelve- to fifteen-year-olds) as they transitioned physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and morally to adulthood. Montessori believed the demands of puberty warranted a holiday from traditional lecture-based instruction. Instead of confining students to classrooms, she proposed a program that would help them accomplish two key developmental tasks: becoming psychologically and economically independent. Only then, she argued, would young adolescents escape from the pettiness of traditional schooling and engage seriously in the realities of life in society.
Montessori envisioned the Erdkinder as a small community of teenagers and adults located in a rural setting. Here teachers and students would live and work together throughout the year, growing much of their own food and manufacturing many of the things they would need for life in the country, thereby developing a deep sense of their connection to the land and the nature and value of work. She envisioned students, under adult upervision, managing a hostel or hotel for visiting parents. The students would sell farm goods and other products in their own store. These farm management and store economics would form the basis of meaningful academic studies. The Erdkinder curriculum would encourage self-expression through music, art, public speaking, and theater. Students would also study languages, mathematics, science, history of civilizations, cultures, and technological innovations. The Erdkinder would possess a “museum of machinery,” where students could assemble, use, and repair their own farm equipment.
For many years the idea of a residential farm school was explored, but considered impractical. Montessori Secondary schools are now found in urban and suburban settings in the United States, with enrollments ranging from fewer than ten students to public school programs with more than 250 students. The cost of organizing a residential Erdkinder program has been considered far too high for any one school to attempt; instead, Montessori Middle School programs attempt to incorporate as many Erdkinder components as possible. The Montessori community looked on with considerable interest in 2001 when David Kahn, Director of the North American Montessori Teacher’s Association (NAMTA), opened the Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, Ohio in conjunction with the Hershey Montessori School. Serving students from ages twelve to fifteen, the Montessori Farm School is a lovely facility and an exciting project that has attracted widespread attention, including a substantial article in the London Times.
Many leaders in Secondary Montessori education believe that the future will lie primarily with nonresidential programs. The opening of the Farm School, and others like it that may follow, provides an opportunity to test one of Dr. Montessori’s hypotheses. She proposed that the residential community, with its artificially created social laboratory, will prove to be of most value in the completion of the development of mature, well adjusted young adults. A piece prepared by David Kahn describing the Montessori Farm School in greater depth follows… the entire article can be found here.
This article is from the Montessori Foundation