Since my oldest daughter began traditional school, I desired her to have a Montessori experience. She’s always been the type to flourish as she strives to deepen her knowledge of subject matter she deems important or interesting. With that said, traditional schooling has been difficult for her. This year was her first in middle school and she battled with lectures, memorizing facts, disconnected mathematical concepts and text which didn’t keep her attention.
Leading into school closures due to COVID-19, she was on her way to failing 2 out of 6 classes, back to hating reading and carrying the weight of failure. Being an educator myself, I felt I could support her towards her success but there was often a disconnect in the strategies that clicked for her and the methods or strategies used in class. Just as I reached the place of “I don’t know what else to do”, the Great Pause happened.
If you had a student who struggled throughout the semester, but doing the Great Pause turned the corner and began producing results that didn’t mirror their performance during traditional schooling, please don’t jump to the conclusion they cheated or someone else did the work for them. My oldest was one of the students who turned the corner. She was comfortable with asking questions when she didn’t understand and grappled with the content in her own pace. She began to build her confidence in the knowledge she had and the strategies she possessed and put them to work in her favor. With my daily commute being cut thanks to teleworking, we were able to read her assigned chapter book together Monday through Fridays. It was great bonding time, which was used to model the habits of strong readers. At the close of the grading period, she made A/B Honor Roll.
I want to capitalize on this momentum. If its okay with you, I’ll share what I have in mind to implement with my girls now that school is officially over. Inspired by my desire for my oldest to have a Montessori experience, my husband and I collaborated on this Exploration Pathway organizer. During our family meeting, we shared research about the summer slide and discussed their love to explore new things, places and ideas. I talked about the difference between this opportunity and traditional schooling.
Once the family meeting was over, I spent time with each girl, independently, to map out their exploration path for the week.
While we mapped our their paths, they shared how they wanted me to engage with the materials. For example, my oldest wanted me to gather articles and videos about police brutality and apps related to learning French. My youngest said she wanted to be able share what she learned with my sister because of a pleasant experience she had once before sharing with “Aunt Janelle”.
To add to the exploration, we’ve included intentional time to create using the Summer Challenges Choice Menus, a selection of curated STEMy type activities and tasks. These were developed for my group of girlfriends called Community Circle as we wanted to ensure our kids had intentional learning experiences during the summer.
Since my girls are starting their paths tomorrow (Monday), I better spend some time pulling together the resources they’ve asked me to have available to them. Thanks for letting me share.
Jenise, what a remarkable transformation your daughter made! Thanks for sharing this story. It’s a shame that the traditional school setting can kill childrens’ natural curiosity to learn. Hopefully there were other students who thrived at home during the pandemic, and also that schools will encourage environments that allow children to best learn.
Jenise, thank you for sharing! Our 4-year-old attends a Montessori Academy and loves it! We always do hands-on activities at home, but they’re mostly centered around math and science. As a traditional elementary teacher, I tried the traditional approach to teaching her to learn to read. Our first blending lesson ended with frustration and tears. Needless to say, this mommy will be researching how to fuse the Montessori approach to reading with the traditional approach.
I have a godson (11) who started in Montessori and then transitioned to a more traditional school setting. While exceptionally bright and an avid reader, he struggles with keeping pace and staying engaged. His “grades” often did not reflect the growth his parents and I knew he was actually experiencing. As an educator and passionate student, it saddened me to see his love of school dim and his self worth be impacted in the process. He too experienced a revitalization during the “Great Pause”. Now I’m forced to question whether going to middle school next year in the traditional school environment is the best option or if this opportunity might lead to a better way for him.
Thanks for reading Bryan! I hope your godson has the opportunity to engage in meaningful learning that interest him.
[…] Since the end of May (2020), I have tried to create a space for them to explore ideas, concepts and experiences of their choosing. In creating this space, they have their individual paths carved out each week, developed independent of one another in which I discussed here. […]