Homeschooling Middle Schoolers with Montessori

Welcome back to another school year! My kids will be in 6th, 9th and 12th grades this year. Last year I didn't do too much blogging because we focused a lot on the basics (reading, writing, and math). We actually followed a writing curriculum and it worked well. Since we followed lots of curriculum, we weren't doing many unique things for school, so I didn't have much to say.

This year, with the new school year approaching, I felt the need to change things up a bit and am moving more towards a Montessori approach to education. We've already finished week one and it is working great! We will probably keep working with this approach until Thanksgiving at least, and then I will re-evaluate.

If you are familiar with Montessori, then you know it's a philosophy that is typically used for elementary aged students. If you are familiar with this blog, then you know I admire certain aspects of many education philosophies (Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unschooling), but stick with an eclectic approach I call Highhill Education.

My initial goals for this year are to make my 6th and 9th graders much more independent and excited about learning. We have always done a variety of book and hands-on activities for school. Some of which have worked great and others which needed to be rethought. Anyway, anytime I mention school, my younger two kids roll their eyes and get ready to fight anything I have planned. The bottom line is that school just cramps their style by taking a large chunk of time out of whatever it is they would have been doing. In other words, they start complaining. Since they haven't spent much time in traditional school, they have nothing to compare homeschooling to and just don't realize how good they have it.

My youngest would spend all of her time sewing, painting her nails, designing clothes, reading and doing crafts. My son would spend all of his time riding his bike to his friend's house to hang-out, swimming and playing video games. I don't have an issue with their activities, what I have an issue with is what they aren't doing. That's why this approach is currently working well. Let me explain.

To start the year, I gave the kids a long list of items they could choose to study. Some things on the list include:

If Hitler was so bad, how did he get a whole country of people to follow him?
What did Steve Jobs do before starting Apple?
Learn to program in Python
How are math and origami related?
Study the Life of Fred Geometry book
Why is poetry so difficult to understand?
How do producers create special effects for movies?
How did jazz music evolve?
What is the Picot-Sykes Line?
Install a water bottle holder on a bike
Repair the sprinkler system
Refinish the kitchen chairs
How are rising oceans effecting coastal cities?
Plan a weekend family vacation within a three hour driving distance

Hopefully you get the idea? My husband and I told them they need to pick a minimum of one thing and maximum of three things to investigate. Each of these topics are meant to keep them going for a few days to months. We also said they should be prepared to discuss their projects and findings and shouldn't look into something for an hour or so and give us a quick answer. These questions/topics are meant to inspire, so we asked them to select something that interests them. I'm hoping that the lines between when school starts and stops will become blurry and that they will be so interested in what they select, that they will work on it during much of their non-school time as well.

I already mentioned that we finished week one, but I didn't mention that they have been constantly working on the projects they selected. I will describe them in the next few posts. What I'm worried about and haven't figured out yet is how to get them to do a variety of activities without much prompting. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Anyways, I'm happy with their progress thus far, but the lack of variety is what is likely to cause us to shift gears again in November. I will keep you updated.

Welcome back. I hope your school year is off to a great start.

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