Monday, March 29, 2010


When enrolling their child in a Montessori school, many new parents ask the question, "How much homework will my child receive?"  Teachers sometimes find it difficult to explain the answer to new parents who are still somewhat unsure of the philosophy.  Tim Seldin provides an excellent summary answer for teachers and parents in his article You Can't Hurry Love: Homework the Montessori Way.

"School is only one part of a child's day. Children work hard in school, just as their parents do at the office. All of the usual arguments that parents and mainstream teachers use to justify homework miss the point. Homework does not teach children responsibility, time management skills, self-discipline, or more of what they should be learning during the day. What it teaches is how to put up with a job that they dislike. Many teachers seem to think that they can help their students become better educated by requiring them to do tasks that few would ever do voluntarily. Gifted teachers get the job done in a normal school day by inspiring a sense of interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm among their students."

Ok, so that doesn't directly answer the question, "Does my child receive homework in Montessori?"  The answer depends on the age of the child and the school's individual philosophy.  In my school, as soon as a child is blending three letter words fluently, he or she is invited to take a phonetic reader home to practice and enjoy with the family.  There is no assigned number of pages to be read, children can just read at their own pace.  When I taught Montessori in the 6-9 classroom, I assigned a hands-on project every Monday and the students would present their completed homework on Friday. 
Some examples of projects I assigned for the lower elementary students:
  • Write a play.  Ask a few friends to perform the play.
  • Write a letter to a friend.  Read it to the class on Friday, then mail it out.
  • Learn five words in another language and be prepared to teach the class on Friday.
  • Make notes about A Day in the Life of _____.  Ask your parent and teacher to take pictures of you to add to your notes.
  • Use the Montessori bells to compose a song.  Present the song to the class on Friday.
These assignments are intended to encourage "out of the box" thinking and to get families involved in their child's learning.  Some assignments called for these children to use materials from other classrooms, or to get involved with the care of younger students. 

Tim Seldin goes on to say, "After school, children should have time to follow their own interests and play with family and friends.  Homework can easily become a power struggle between children and adults. And the sad thing is that there is no need if schools instill a love of learning, rather than a sense of obligation and fear. Whenever children voluntarily decide to learn something, they tend to engage in their work with a passion and attention that few students will ever invest in tasks that have been assigned. Our goal is to inspire joyful thinking, not compliance."

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