Homeschooling in the Methow Valley - Week Four
April 14, 2020
Homeschooling life while the world is on pause (The entire world is on pause!?) is continuously changing, and we don’t know when or if things will return to some level of normal. I know we're not alone in these thoughts, so I'd like to put it out there again to (hopefully) empathize with others in our situation. Many days it feels overwhelming, and I wonder how everyone else is doing. I wonder how children are fairing when they don’t have the consistent structure of school to support them. I wonder how families who don't have safe places to live/teach/eat/stay healthy are coping, and I feel a bit helpless as to what we can do to support our world.
And then that's the extent of my wondering, because my brain glitches from thinking too much while trying to keep myself, my children, my husband, my sweet dog and baby chickens alive through this. Of course, I recognize we are completely fortunate to be able to have all we have and to work part time on our business and then part time with our kids, so the challenges have a strong contender in gratefulness. Ultimately I know I'm doing what I can, but as I'm sure many of you are also feeling, it can be awfully hard to hold all these things and feelings at once.
I am a Montessori teacher...
...which means I want to set up the environment and watch them gravitate to the materials and projects that they are interested in. Spoiler alert, this isn’t working so well. As Tammy Oesting (along with a team of other amazing Montessori educators) shares in her new Montessori Parent Coronavirus Survival Guide, "As everyone is making a pivot towards a new reality, remember to be extra kind to yourself. You are learning new things right now, and learning requires struggle, confusion, and mistakes." Thus, here I am, working with the skills I have and “staying in my lane”, because honestly anything beyond that is overwhelming.
At first I felt so defeated in my abilities to teach my children the curriculum they were given by the school. Working with my lovely husband I noticed he was so relaxed and open when teaching them different concepts; they seemed to welcome his instruction and were reasonably enthusiastic. However, when I would attempt to give a lesson from their assignments or share the amazing ideas that each of their teachers thoughtfully created they would say, “That’s not how we do it at school!” or “I don’t want to, I don’t feel like it, Maybe later, I don’t like home school!” Which I then equate to them basically saying I don’t like learning!
I was taught the foundation, "Instill in the child the love of learning and they will be free for life,” (Maria Montessori). I was instead instilling a disgust for learning, and that felt soul crushing. I thought I had done all the things: set up the environment, worked with them to create an organized system, found space where they could be focused and motivated to learn through order and independence. It’s become quite clear that checking things off the list isn’t working.
So, I went out and bought three chickens as a new education plan.
I decided I’m not going to tell them what to learn, I’m going to inspire them with baby animals and use their love of small cute critters to propel them into curiosity. I set out a couple chicken-themed books and materials on the breakfast table in the morning. And the first day it worked! They decided to put together the Montessori 123 chicken life cycle material and read chicken and bird books.
They had SO many questions about chickens, so we wrote them down and then searched for the answers. We researched the best chicken coops and watched a video of what makes chickens love their coop. It was fun, and I recognize as I write that I would have done exactly this in my classroom. But I’m not in my classroom, I’m at home, and things seem much more complicated with my own children.
Here's the girls using the chicken life cycle cards and objects.
I’m continuing to focus on our positive discipline tools...
...and practicing over and over with the girls how we respond to each other. There have been a lot of feelings: high, low, gremlin-possessed-sister-
I've mentioned this tool in a previous post, but I wanted to highlight again where we learned the foundation for all this: the positive discipline online courses from Sproutable. We went through the in-person seven week course when the girls we 3 yrs and the other 6 mo, and now Julietta and Alanna have put the entire training into micro-fun engaging videos and online content. It's available on their site in the "How to Grow Remarkable Kids" course. As we all invest in at-home time, this is a fantastic opportunity to work through their easily digestible 5 minute (or less) videos featuring real families. We feel lucky to have access to all this great material while keeping our family safe at home.
As one of my mentors Christina Marie from Artful Thinking shared with me; "Good Parenting is creating an environment for your children to make good choices.” More on that later, but ultimately this chicken adventure has played out as expected. The first day went great, and then the second day was okay. Now we’re on the third day of having chickens, a young dog, and small children, and I’m tired.
I’m going to focus on getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and getting exercise by building a garden. Next week will be another adventure, so here we are for today.
A big thank you for the work of all essential helpers: nurses, grocery workers, delivery people, doctors, etc. We are in awe of you.
-Megan and the Montessori 123 Team