Montessori or Moore: The Homeschool Quandry

Montessori or Moore: The Homeschool Quandry

That I would homeschool my son was a no-brainer decision for me, a former school teacher who grew early on in my career to despise the tragic limitations educational institutions place upon our children’s minds and gifts. That I would let Benjamin mostly lead the way in his learning (mixing the Charlotte Mason and unschooling philosophies) has been a relatively recent decision.

However, when I was teaching Kindergarten I observed a couple of Montessori classrooms in action. I couldn’t have been more impressed. I witnessed three-year-olds naming states, four-year-olds forming words with sandpaper letters, and five-year-olds multiplying. I subsequently spent close to $300 on three different Montessori early childhood items, which are now sitting in a closet upstairs, just waiting for Benjamin to turn three.

As he has. But herein lies the quandry: a few months ago, I read a book by Dr. Raymond Moore, known as “The Grandfather of Homeschooling.” In it, he states that several Ivy League University studies have shown that children do best academically…

…if they are not introduced to formal academics until at least age eight. One study concluded that children under TWELVE years of age should not be formally schooled.

Okay, so on the one hand I’ve got $300 of early childhood Montessori materials, based on the successful experiences of Maria Montessori with poor Italian children. And on the other hand I’ve got Dr. Moore telling me that children’s brains aren’t fully ready to learn formal mathematics and reading until they are at least eight years old.

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Is one of them wrong?

I’ve thought about this question a lot lately, and here are my conclusions, based on the facts as well as my own experience as a teacher:

1. Every child is different.

Montessori or Moore: The Homeschool Quandry

Some kids are ready for different skills earlier than others. Even in the same homeschooling family, you can find one child who started reading independently at age five, and another who didn’t crack the code until age twelve.

2. Children’s play is their work.

Will someone please tell me why we want to rob our young ones of their childhood by forcing them to sit in desks and do paper-and-pencil tasks all day long? Even some European countries don’t have mandatory education for children younger than age seven. One of the things in Moore’s book that absolutely floored me was the fact–never told to either prospective or actual teachers, by the way–that children who just begin learning arithmetic or reading after age ten are completely caught up with their schooled peers in just a year or two.

Stated differently, a child who begins reading drill instruction at age five spends seven grueling years getting up to a seventh grade reading level, whereas a child who doesn’t start learning to read until age ten spends only two years mastering the skill.

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3. The Montessori Method is geared toward a young child’s brain.

The materials as well as instruction style of a competent Montessori teacher incorporates freedom; movement; and tactile, concrete experiences. No child is forced to practice a “work” that they are not ready for, and the “works” have a strong sense of game-playing about them. Yes, the Montessori Method teaches academics, but they are far from formal.

In other words, no, in my studied opinion, one of them is not wrong.

So what does all this mean as far as homeschooling my son? I’ve made four decisions:

  1. I will begin to introduce the Montessori materials I have, and see if he takes an interest.
  2. If he’s not interested, I will not force the issue, and wait six months and try again.
  3. We (Jerry and I) will continue to read to him many times daily, and take advantage of teachable moments.
  4. I will let Benjamin enjoy his childhood to the fullest, and let my Mommy intuition and cues from Benjamin alert me as to when he’s ready for the abstracts of academics.