A Montessori Approach to Classical Education at Home
By Edward & Nancy Walsh
Every homeschool mother struggles to find the best method and program for homeschooling her children. Classical curriculum? Montessori method? The authors experienced this as well, and they share their journey which led them to Natural Structure:
"We knew Dorothy Sayers was right, as was Dr. Montessori. We were faced with a dilemma. How could these apparently incompatible works be combined? Dorothy Sayers’ curriculum is often interpreted as very structured and regimented. Dr. Montessori’s method relies on flexibility, free choice of work with subtle guidance and limits, and proceeding at the child’s pace. They seemed on the surface to be almost diametrically opposed. Convinced that there was a solution to this problem, and looking carefully below the surface of both, we began to realize that some critical elements were shared. Both rely heavily, classical education in the division of the Trivium and Dr. Montessori in the sequence of work, on the natural development and interests of the child. Both also claim as one result the ability to learn on one’s own. Looking at them from this perspective we realized that they could indeed be combined, and in fact complemented each other perfectly. Dorothy Sayers’ outline provided the overall framework, while Dr. Montessori’s method provided the day-to-day detail. In reality this is simply an extension of the Montessori method which, when closely examined, reveals a pattern of free choice within limits. Dorothy Sayers provided us with the content and Dr. Montessori with the method of our curriculum."
About the Authors
Edward and Nancy Walsh live in **********, Alabama with their three children — Elizabeth, Edward, and Daniel. Dr. Walsh is an Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Alabama. Nancy is a full-time homeschooling mom who holds a degree in Computer Science with minors in physics and mathematics. She taught in both classroom and tutorial settings in private professional school and corporate training environments for several years. Both are members of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. They administer a small Church school, St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, which ministers to homeschoolers interested in Montessori and Natural Structure.
Not an in-depth study of Montessori's philosophy and theory, but rather a good introductory condensation which saves those new to either the approach or homeschooling a good deal of reading and research.
Review by Maureen Wittmann, Catholic Home Educator Magazine
"Maria Montessori was a Catholic who sought to not only to educate children, but to nurture their souls. She even wrote a book on explaining the Mass to children. Yet most Montessori schools that dot our landscape are secular. This book takes us back to Montessori's Catholic roots. What I find very special about this book is not only the thoroughness of teaching Montessori's method of education to the parent, but that it uses classical disciplines. A classical education recognizes the different stages in which children learn. The Grammar Stage (ages eight to eleven) builds a foundation by memorizing facts. The Dialectic Stage, sometimes referred to as the Logic Stage (ages twelve to fourteen) develops analytical skills in students. Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (ages fourteen to sixteen) pulls the first two stages together and reaches students the art of articulation. Natural Structure shows parents how to implement Montessori's methods in the home within the context of a classical education. Montessori education is a very hands-on method, utilizing many different types of child-size manipulatives. For the parent, this can be an immense task and it requires a certain level of discipline and organization. Natural Structure helps by providing color photographs of room setup and lesson layouts. Most Montessori schools that I am familiar with, only teach through the sixth grade. Natural Structure, on the other hand, provides lesson plans through twelfth grade. For anyone considering using this approach to education in their home, I would highly recommend this book, as it is thorough and very practical in its advice."