Recently one of my readers emailed me to ask about socialization in the homeschool setting. Specifically, she wondered how homeschooling could bring about the same benefits as a Montessori multi-age classroom. Rightly so, she realized that the multi-age classroom is a hallmark of Montessori, and it can’t always be duplicated in the home. Even in a home with several children (usually of different ages) there are not always the right age combinations or temperaments to make learning/mentoring between the children possible.
If I had to choose the biggest thing that my kids are missing out on by not actually being in a Montessori school, it would definitely have to be the interaction that Montessori kids have in a typical classroom – especially between different age groups. There are many benefits to that; I know because I saw it myself as a teacher.
Some of you homeschoolers may feel that your children’s interaction is very similar to that found in a Montessori classroom. That is awesome! It takes a lot of work to reach that place, where kids go to each other for help and older ones really mentor the younger ones. So far, it seems that sibling rivalry (even when kids get along fairly well) doesn’t make a sibling the most appealing choice for work partner or mentor. Hopefully that might improve as my kids get older.
My kids do learn from each other, even though it is not quite in the same way as it would be in a multi-age classroom. And, they are more open (and have more chances) to learn from friends, family, and people in the community than a child that is in school all day.
With a 3-year age gap, my kids may never complete a project on the Roman Empire together, but they still can work together on different things. Older kids can always read to younger ones, regardless of the age gap. Art projects often span many age ranges, as do outdoor projects like gardening and bug collecting.
I can clearly see that homeschooling has many benefits, including more one-on-one with the teacher, more flexibility to follow the child’s interests, and none of the downside of the social aspects – like bullying, negative peer pressure, etc. which do take place in Montessori although hopefully less than in traditional schools.
So, I’ve accepted that the Montessori method isn’t going to look exactly the same at home as it did in school, but I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want to say that one experience is better than the other, just different. When you put your child in a school, you say “no” to some of the benefits of homeschooling. When you homeschool, you say “no” to some of the benefits of a school environment (especially a Montessori one).