Sarah introduces her South African Montessori Homeschool class
Hi, I'm Sarah. I am a traditionally trained teacher for Infants to Grade 3, however I have taught up to Grade 4 and have a special interest in special needs education and non-traditional teaching. I've also worked for many years as a nanny and tutor. When I was a baby, my mom studied Montessori teaching through correspondence from London, which was the only way for her to study Montessori at that time. She is also a physiotherapist with a special interest in long term rehabilitation and paediatrics. Montessori teaching fitted in really well with her approach to physio and she ran a Montessori school when I was a child so I have always been exposed to the method. I am not formally Montessori trained myself.
I am currently homeschooling my own 2 children (aged 5 and 8) and I tutor a 9yr old and I am nanny to a nearly 3 year old. So I am teaching 4! I try and incorporate Montessori into all my lessons, even if there is no specific material to be used for that lesson, the approach is important.
I have recently been re-arranging my classroom as I felt it had been ignored a bit and the children were getting frustrated. My husband had his computer table in there - which he wasnt using at all - and was storing a lot of stuff and it was overshadowing the space and making it feel less like their space. So we moved a lot of it out. I also re-arranged the shelves to try and make it appear more open and gave my eldest her own desk to work at so she isn't bothered by her brother spreading out over the big table. We have only been in this house for a year so it will still need a few more changes before it is as close to perfect as possible.
I am very blessed in that my mum owned a Montessori school and kept a great deal of her material as well as buying us materials as birthday and Christmas presents over the years.
My favourite thing about my classroom is that I actually have some space to use. Not everyone is as lucky to have extra space. On the shelves, I always love the metal inserts. I could sit and use those for ages, I just wish my children got as excited about them as I do! Biggest disadvantage about the classroom is that it is dark and can be cold. I wish there was more natural light but unless we do major renovations and put in windows, we won't be getting that any time soon.
We are using Cambridge guidelines for English at the moment. I am not confident in teaching literature, poetry and story writing, so I would rather have a guide to work from and try and approach it in a way that suits us all. For science we are using Elementary Science. Again, this is as a guide. It works in themes so I can then plan for the younger 2 to do science explorations around that. This past week we were studying reptiles. I had the 3yr (and the 5 and 8yr olds too eventually!) old tearing paper into small pieces and using them to make a chameleon picture. We used gummed paper so she had to stick out her tongue to wet the paper to stick it. 5yr old found some books on reptiles and we spoke about why they change colour and 8yr old wrote did research on chameleons, iguana and rattlesnakes and wrote a few lines about each. In this way I try and incorporate them all into a lesson at their own level. We also play a lot of games in the car whilst going to and from work / activities. Our current favourite is "What Am I?" and we stick to a theme. So lately it has been reptiles. Sound games; I spy; mental maths etc.
We visit the library weekly and always end up with a stack of books to take home. We also go back later in the week without the youngest for my 8yr old to do research and my 5yr old gets some extra reading time with me.
What makes my classroom different; well, I guess it would have to be not so much the actual classroom, but that my children have adapted to learning through life since we are not always at home in our classroom so they need to be able to settle down and work where-ever they are and they have being exposed to a wide variety of people (my mum now has a very busy rehab physio practice so my children meet many differently-abled poeple) so they have a different outlook on life. We are also really lucky in that my mum shares all her knowledge with us and my children are learning with some of the exact materials I used as a child!
And in between all this I am also a full time housewife,I'm trying to manage a badly neglected (by previous owners) acre of garden and turn it into a productive food garden, look after the chickens and plan for lessons for the child I tutor, all whilst remaining sane!
A look at a couple of my shelves:
My grammar shelf is a bit bare. My eldest has moved on from the basics and I don't have anything to put out for 5yr old yet. I am still deciding what work to set out to make it into a writing shelf. Both of my children need encouragement to write even though both love reading and being read to.
Up close of language materials. The clear box is my home made moveable alphabet which can travel and not mess!
Geometric solids, geometric cabinet and some practical life,science, art, maths that doesn't fit elsewhere
Science - a bit bare for now. This is another favourite shelf. Even though it doesn't show very much, what I have here is a light box with a microscope. It is my old microscope from when I was a child and it needs an independent light source. The lightbox my dad made many years ago. My children are always finding some or other treasure to look at using the lightbox or the microscope. Usually I have a magnifying glass here too. Treasures are collected on the shelf and sometimes drawn into science books but I don't require this unless it is science study. I also have a selection of prepared slides that they enjoy looking at.
Below are some images of the box I take to work with me every day. In it is a selection of activities. I use the 'Before Five In A Row' guide from about 3-years old as it uses a lovely selection of books as well as beginning to incorporate Montessori lessons. I try and create activities around the theme of the book as this little one loves her books. I also encourage a lot of exploring with art so we have a LARGE messy cloth (an old turquoise sheet) that gets put down first. Every day I set out activities for her and usually rotate them after a week or 2, depending on her interest. She loves her box and every day tells me how she wants to 'go do work now' and then settles down to choose an activity or 2. I have little pink trays for some practical life activities such as spooning or scooping or scrubbing. We do a lot of practical life during daily living. This past week we have been working a lot on puzzles and threading and choosing appropriate clothes. In the box I also keep work cycle activities for my 5yr old. There are handwriting practise sheets (simple ones because 3yr old always wants 'my turn now' and I don't want to discourage her too much); pink and blue box pictures to practise word building with the magnetic letters on the fridge; button sewing; word building games and so on.
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