Tuesday 17 May 2011

Mixing Montessori and Yochien

I often get asked how we would keep up with Montessori and do yochien at the same time, when Ebi-kun first started, at the time I had no idea how things would go but now he has just started his second year at yochien I feel better equipped to give an answer.

We still have the shelves set up in the guest room with the Monetssori equipment but we don't spend a specific amount of time in there like we did before. These days, when I notice Ebi-kun has picked up on something new or shows an interest in something I will find the specific equipment he needs and give him a presentation. Like recently he wanted to know how to do multiplication so I got the beads out and showed him or he has shown an interest in fractions so we use a Kumon set so he can practice with them. I will also gather things for a project about a subject he is interested in say bats or knights or whatever has sparked his imagination. Whenever possible I will use the Montessori method and equipment with these projects. This last year we were lucky enough to go to the Montessori Farm once a month which was a great way to keep his interest in the equipment plus Yasuyo has some equipment that I don't.

Each term Ebi-kun's bus time changes, at the moment he is on the late bus which means he leaves just before 9.00am and comes home at 3.30pm, this gives us some time in the morning to read but not a lot else and by the time he gets back he is usually too tired to do any work and I don't push it, I want him to enjoy learning. We manage to do more when he is on the early bus. Wednesday he has a half day so I often think of something to do on a Wednesday afternoon or make some suggestions and see what it is he is interested in.

We have the house set up in a very Montessori environment, he can take out whatever he needs when he needs it, whether it be crafting, painting or making a snack. He helps out with the laundry and empties the dishwasher in the morning and will give me a hand watering the plants. Shelves are low so that he reach everything and so fostering independence. We keep TV watching to a minimum and tend to record favourite shows so that he doesn't end up watching any old crap just because there is nothing better on. His favourite shows are Curious George and Art Attack and any discovery program involving dinosaurs! We don't watch any of those violent beat-the-crap out of each other shows, no power rangers, ultra-man and the such like. This is due to research that I did for my thesis at university, there is a lot of research that shows that children can't tell the difference between reality and fiction until they at least 8 years old. When asked initially it may seem like a five year old understands the difference but it turns out that when you dig a bit deeper they actually can't separate the two which is why I don't believe that such shows are suitable for a 5 year old.

I do feel a bit sad that he isn't in a Montessori yochien but he enjoys it, they encourage creativity, reading and writing and they are preparing him for the change over to school, all things that I can't teach him, he has started doing homework this year too. They give them a lot of independence at his yochien, this year he has a younger kid to look after and they have to make the end of day announcement over the tannoy system. They also grow veggies and look after plants and animals.

So, although we don't do a daily 3 hour period we still incorporate Montessori theory into our every day life. We actively encourage his learning and creativity, I follow his lead and help him learn and discover whatever has caught his attention. Of course school is the next step, and I don't know which way our lives will go once he gets to school, I don't know a great deal about the school system here so it will be a steep learning curve for both of us, but I hope that what he has learned so far will give him a good foundation to build on. To answer the question 'Do you think Ebi-kun will get bored at school?' I don't think so, especially as he will be learning in his other language, I do think that they English classes will be a waste of time but we will cross that bridge when we get t it.

This parenting thing is a tricky one, there is no way of knowing whether the path you have taken will be the right one, is the style and method of parenting you choose to follow a good one? It's not like you can have a second go or start again from scratch if you balls it up! I suppose you could keep having more kids and try out a new method on each one lol. Hopefully we are on the right path, maybe you should come back and ask me again in 15 years time!

If you are interested in learning more about Montessori then I recommend How To Raise and Amazing Child as a good starting book, it will give you a good idea on how to set up the home and ways to help your child. If you want to know more in depth about the Montessori way then you must read Maria Montessori's The Absorbent Mind, once you have read that you will probably want to read her other books too. Finally, if you are looking for scientific evidence that the Montessori method works then The Science behind The Genius is the book you want, it is rather heavy going but has some great information in it.

And just some random facts to throw in, all of these people had a Montessori education.... Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the Google guys), Jeffrey Bezos founder of Amazon, Anne Frank, Sean P Diddy, Prince William and Prince Harry, Julia Child, Jacqui Onassis, George Clooney, Jimmy Wales founder of Wikipedia, Helen Hunt and Ebi-kun.


  1. Thank you so much for the list of books! I'l start there. The Yochien he goes to sounds wonderful. I don't know of any schools in my area where the kids get to grow veggies and take care of younger kids. *sigh* But I'll do my best to add activities in the time we have together. Thank you again for sharing your ideas.

  2. That you for this post. I too have to balance my Montessori instincts with our chosen school. I hope that the combination works to strengthen my boys education & growth but it's really hard to know what we will reflect on with hindsight.

    It sounds like Eb-kun is happy & that's the best gauge!



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