Posted by: ginki0 | February 6, 2017

Montessori Maths

I love the Montessori approach to math. That and the peace education are easily my favorite aspects of Montessori philosophy. I’ve been reading John Holt lately, and it’s really impressed on me that understanding is far better than speed. I need to work on my own inner peace, on not being so anxious that my kids might not “keep up with their peers” (GASP!). What does that mean anyway? Who’s counting? Well, the school district is, and those who oppose homeschooling. So there is a pressure there, but it doesn’t belong on my kids’ shoulders. After all, one of our reasons to homeschool was less stress and less competition. Me working myself up about what the critics might say really does no good, especially if it leads me to put that stress on my kids. Yes, they need to learn, but they also need some leeway to do so at their own pace.

Enter Ninja.

Ninja has been anti-math for a while now. He has refused to do anything with the math bookcase, and will completely shut down if he thinks I’m putting pressure on him. Crossed arms, closed eyes, and turned away head- the whole shebang. And if I continue to “coerce him” (to his mind- often to my mind I’m just reasoning with him), well, then it’s time to go full fetal position on the floor.

Ninja has the advantage that I’ve been concerned with Bug’s reading and thus distracted from pushing my concern on him. He has the disadvantage that Bugs picked up maths like he picked up breathing. (He still does. It’s crazy, and I don’t understand it, but I love it.) Ninja has not been this way. Until lately.


You know how unschooling and Montessori philosophies both say that the child will enter sensitive periods and just pick up the knowledge they need to know when they need to know it? How they both say not to pressure your kid, but just present the information when the child is looking for it? (This is the hardest part for me). You know how, if you’re like me, you nod along with that but secretly wonder if you can really trust the process? Well, Ninja’s proving them right.

He’s recently begun to grudgingly watch presentations on math. I’ve gone slow and not pushed him, and today, his apathy switched to interest. Today was his second lesson on the base ten system, and he was ecstatic, which made me ecstatic. Nothing is better than seeing the light go on and witnessing the pride a kid has when they have figured something out and mastered a new skill. Yes, I said mastered. Ninja went from not understanding the base ten system at all to working with the base ten system with skill and confidence in two lessons. He can now quickly and accurately make numbers up to 2999 using his manipulatives AND confidently determine which number was larger from two choices without using materials. In two lessons. Only two. (Why 2999, you ask? Because so far we only have 2 thousand cubes, so I did not ask him to go beyond 2999 because I didn’t want to push him into more abstraction than he could handle yet).

Next to Ninja and me, Rocky was working happily on counting up to 5 and identifying the corresponding numeral, as well as tracing all of his numbers 0-9. Bugs was waiting with some impatience for his reading lesson.

Impatience. For reading. Bugs. Yeah, today was a good day.

Speaking of Bugs and reading, we’ve decided to switch from PBG to the Dwyer method. I think Bugs has been trying to memorize separately each digraph for each sound. Since there are so many different combinations, it can get pretty complicated when you aren’t seeing the overall logic of the system (yes, there is a logic to the English language; it’s just often obscure because no one teaches it!). The Dwyer method pretty clearly lays out the structure and gives the kids the tools to figure out the patterns- at least it seemed that way to me! It also is compact and can be super cheap (although my PBG stuff was also pretty cheap).


I showed Bugs how to use his brand new Dwyer box, and he seemed pretty excited working with it. He hasn’t seen the patterns yet, but he loved that each envelope focused on one particular sound, and he enjoyed seeing the different ways that sound could be written, all laid out together for him rather than broken up and disconnected. I’m hoping this will help his fluency, as he is about a year and a half behind his public school peers right now in fluency. Montessori people have told me not to worry, that it will come, but that’s easy to say and hard to do! Dwyer proponents say that the kids can go from no reading ability to chapter books in a matter of weeks once they are ready, and I’m hoping I’ll see that soon with him. After all, Ninja showed me he could make similar leaps ahead with maths!

The main thing was seeing Bugs’s and Ninja’s enthusiasm for working with the materials and therefore, their enthusiasm for learning the subjects! Ninja loved playing his phonics I spy games, which is setting him up really well for reading once it all clicks in his head. He knows all his phonics, and I have faith that once he’s ready, he’ll just take off (he does rattle off random words in the environment or in Bugs’s books, when he’s in the right mood).

I’ll just need to remember these lessons of patience and faith while escorting Rocky down the paths of learning, too!


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