So how does a pregnant homeschooling mother of five get a day off? She has to take a 3 hour glucose test and go to an OB appointment an hour away, of course!
Oh, sure, you have to pay for the luxury of four hours of reading by drinking that really awful cola-tasting stuff and being stuck five times with a needle, and the lab chairs aren't real comfortable, but no pain, no gain right?
(Just to reassure anyone who's wondering... the only reason I had to do this 3 hour test is because technically I had gestational diabetes with the twins. Never mind that with the twins the nurses completely screwed up my fasting directions... ahem. In any case, there's absolutely no reason to believe that I have gestational diabetes with this pregnancy, but my OB made me skip the regular 1 hour glucose test and go right to the 3 hour. For the second time this pregnancy. My first test -- way back at the end of February -- came back fine, too.)
And what did I read while I was waiting? Well, aside from a little writing in my notebook and some perusing of the lab's magazines, I mostly read Montessori in the Classroom by Paula Polk Lillard. Actually, I should say I reread it, because this is probably my fourth time through.
Montessori in the Classroom is one of my favorite books on Montessori education. It includes diary entries -- divided into the categories of "class life", "language", "math", "special children", and "personal development -- made by Lillard while teaching a Montessori kindergarten of four and five year olds in an independent private school (not a Montessori school). Because it shows Montessori education in action over time, and because Lillard is pretty honest about her own emotions -- when she's worn out trying to maintain consistent discipline, for instance, or when she's worried that a child isn't "getting it" and wondering if she should step in -- I think it gives a better picture of how Montessori might work in real life. It's easy, when you're, say, a homeschooling mother whose only previous introduction to Montessori was a 30 minute tour of a daycare whose major feature was a pergola covered in grapes that splatted on the patio beneath when they were ripe... it's easy to idealize Montessori when all you read is how wonderful it is, how calm children become when they are educated in a Montessori fashion, how loving, peaceful, and harmonious, how orderly... that in fact you might come to see it as a sort of magic bullet. If I set up my shelves just so with all these beautiful wooden objects, and if I put out a tray with a couple of pitchers on it... my children will instantly become little angels who serve themselves juice and work out the quadratic formula using colored blocks.
Of course, this may in fact happen. But what the popular books don't mention is how much work it may take on the part of the teacher.
Rereading the book after attempting a Montessori-inspired education in our own home, I've picked up on different things. For instance, one of the most difficult aspects of this method of education is, in my opinion, knowing when to step in and direct, and when to leave a child alone. When Lillard echoes this dilemma in her diary entries, it's comforting. But since Lillard is more experienced and confident in the Montessori method than I am, she provides a useful yardstick -- or maybe the word "example" would be better -- to judge my intervention by. This time through I found her section on "special children" particularly enlightening in that sense; in this section she writes about the difficulties that a very intelligent but learning disabled five year old has in the Montessori environment (since the book was written, he would now be labeled ADD, I'm sure). She finds that he needs much more guidance to remember the routines involved in using the materials, as well as much more direction to get started and carry through with work. I'm not sure how I missed this the first time around, but it made me realize one of the reasons why my original "leave everyone alone" approach didn't work so well.
Another bonus of the book is its descriptions of the materials in use and its appendices listing the materials included in the classroom for each subject.
When I first read this book, I had an 8.5 year old, a 6 year old, and a 2 year old. I must confess to therefore not really paying as much attention to the practical potential of the book. But now that I have a four year old, I think I will probably be going back through the book for a fifth time and taking notes.