When I first discovered about the Montessori farm I mentioned to a couple of our playgroup friends and we went to look around then when we told the rest of the group a lot of families were interested in going too so we decided to set up a couple of trial days so that the kids could experience a 'lesson' and the parents could see what goes on and learn more about the philosophy. So Saturday was the first trial day, Ebi-kun was there along with M-chan (1.5yrs) her brother N-kun (7.5yrs) and A-chan (2.8yrs). For those that don't know, Montessori classrooms are set up with mixed ages but are usually 0-3, 3-6, 6-9 etc. so we had no idea what would happen having such a mixed range of kids in the class but they all worked well, the older ones helped the little ones, the little ones mimicked the older ones.
We started off in the farm area, the boys discovered some beetles and spent quite some time catching them and looking for more and then everyone got together to pick blueberries, the farm is all organic so there was no worrying when the kids had to try some.
Then we moved to the house where the classroom is set up. All the kids found work suitable for them to work with, N-kun spent a good 30 minutes working on the map of Europe, he almost gave a up a couple of times but Ebi-kun helped him out a bit and he refocused and finished by himself. He also worked with the knobbled cylinders as I watched him, I realised that he was challenging himself, he had taken all the pieces out and he was trying to guess which hole each piece went in without trying in in the hole - just by looking, he would get 3 or 4 right then make a mistake so then he would take all the pieces out and start over, he continued like this until he had finished.
M-chan had what I can only explain as waves of concentration, which I think all the children have but was more obvious with her, probably due to her age. She worked with these cylinders for quite some time, putting them in and out and lining them up and doing it all again, she also loved pouring dried beans and playing with the water in the sink, pouring from one cup to another. In between work she would check out what the others were doing and wandered in and out of the class.
A-chan also worked well until she spotted mommy or daddy so they took to peeking round the corner so it wouldn't disturb her, she worked on the puzzles, metal insets, knobbled cylinders and with Ebi-kun with the colour tablets and she often went to check that little M-chan was OK. At first it took her a while to concentrate, she was too interested in what everyone else was doing, perfectly natural by the end she was focussing for a much longer length of time. M-chan has the metal insets here, I think she just wanted them out because she had seen the other kids with them, she also took to walking around with one of the number rods :o)
All the kids took it turns helping Yasuyo in the kitchen, they prepared the salad and made pizza and then they all helped to set the table, we all ate together in the study room. One of the points of this class is for it to be an all English environment, we had to remind the kids (and the dads) a few times to begin with to only use English but by lunch English was the predominant language, I think once the kids get used to coming they will associate the place with English.
The kids ate their lunch quickly and all disappeared off, I could hear some noises from the classroom so I went to see what they were up to, they had all got work off the shelves and were sat at the table working except for N-kun who was inspecting his beetles. Ebi-kun told me that they were all ok and I could go! This is one of the points that makes be believe in the Montessori materials, they are beautifully made and the children are drawn to them. Ebi-kun was familiar with a lot of the equipment, I was wondering how he would take to being in a classroom, he was great. I had explained that I would probably have to spend more time with the other children because they didn't know how to use the equipment and so he just got on with it, working well. He helped the other children and showed A-chan how to use a couple of things and Yasuyo had some equipment out that we don't have so he tried them out.
Due to it being so hot we didn't go back out to the farm after lunch which is what would happen normally, instead we did some colour mixing and singing. Everyone enjoyed the day, M-chan was a bit grumpy by the end but 5 hours is a long time for a little one and I think maybe a change of scenery would have helped for the last half hour, at least the weather will have cooled down a bit by next time.
When we got home, Ebi-kun said he wished that we could go there everyday, I wish we could too!