The Misconceptions of Homeschooling and Montessori teaching methods
As I sat at my assigned desk in the classroom after a year of sitting at the table with my mother, I couldn’t help but feel as though there was a difference between me and my classmates. Even years later, I always felt that my one year of homeschooling affected how I looked at education and possibly even how I socialized. This feeling I had isn’t completely misconceived. Research even suggests that varied approaches to education can lead to some developmental disparities in students.
Although I do have my own homeschooling experience, it is important to point out that my homeschooling experience diverged from the idea that usually comes to mind. Instead of being taught in my house, I lived on a boat with my family for a year sailing down the East Coast of America to the Bahamas. Therefore, unlike the majority of home-educated students, I did not attend clubs or organizations, the common groups homeschooled children participate to receive the socializing part of their education.
Homeschooling, on the other hand, has numerous structures depending on the specific program chosen or if the family decides to create a curriculum of their own. A few examples of programs are Abeka, Christian Liberty Academy, and Sonlight. My curriculum was Calvert Education, with this program, a prepackaged set of materials like books and writing supplies are sent to the family.
As of spring 2016, there are 2.3 million students in the United States that are homeschooled, and the number continues to climb, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Less traditional forms of education are becoming more mainstream, with the popularity of Montessori schools also increasing since the 1970s. There are an estimated 300 new public Montessori schools since 2000. The homeschooling and the Montessori approach are both considered alternative options to traditional education and have a reputation of affecting a students’ ability to socialize.
Reviews by Dr. Richard Medlin from Stetson University on a number of studies of homeschooled students and adults dating back to the early 2000s suggest that children who are homeschooled have adequate to exceptional interpersonal skills. These studies included interviews and surveys of homeschooled students, public school students, and their parents. Middle school children appeared above the norm for social skills in areas including empathy and cooperation. Although it’s important to note that this experiment assessed fifth and sixth graders, it may not accurately represent the total population of homeschooled students.
I believe this research accurately represented how I felt I acted after my year of homeschooling. There seemed to be a pattern in the awards I won at my middle school, which were awards for cooperation. Even throughout high school, I felt as though my strongest traits were my ability to empathize and collaborate.
The quality of homeschooled individuals’ socializing skills stays steady throughout life, according to Medlin’s study. The only time it may waver is in college where self confidence seems to decline a small amount. However, homeschooled individuals appear to be intellectually curious and open-minded to new experiences. Even past college, the study found that homeschooled adults appear to function as well as anyone with a different educational background. But it is important to emphasize the fact that these results are based off of only a few studies.
Brian Ray, founder and president of the National Home Education Research Institute, found that home-educated adults have a tendency to be more independent and entrepreneurial. “Often times by age 12 or so many are doing independent study and exploring things on their own,” he said, meaning homeschooled students have a self-directed education. Naturally, this can lead to independent adults because they have grown up that way. Ray also states that it is common in homeschool circles to encourage entrepreneurship.
While my parents did not provide any opinion or push relating to entrepreneurship, the independence for learning what I wanted was certainly cultivated during our year of travelling. I taught myself how to write stories and pursued workshops and opportunities outside of school to improve my craft. I believe homeschooling allowed me to realize I can take charge of my own interests or at least gave me a small confidence boost in that I can pursue what interests me.
On the other hand, the Montessori method is a type of schooling that has three main components different from a public school. First is that the classrooms are comprised of students of different ages, allowing them to learn from others that are not the same age as them. Second, it is structured in a way that the time to work is not broken up by class periods, instead they are uninterrupted. Lastly, the students are given a guided choice on the work activities they will engage in. Montessori schools tend to have their learning materials placed in an aesthetic arrangement rather than the usual institutional appearance of a traditional school.
The Montessori method separates the curriculum into two sections: cultural and development of skills. The cultural subjects consist of subjects like biology, history, and geography, while the development of skills are topics like mathematics, arts and crafts, and reading. This fosters an experience-driven education rather than absorbing facts, according to the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca’s website.
The Montessori approach also includes socialization in its curriculum. Laura Gottfried, principal of the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca, said that working collaboratively as well as learning to relate to other people is built into the Montessori curriculum. This leads the students to grow up to be “way more able to negotiate conflict than regular adults.”
Classrooms are comprised of students of different ages, which lets the older students act as a role model for the younger ones. Gottfried also said that children are taught to take responsibility for their actions starting at age three, allowing them to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Once they are aware of these qualities, the next step is to pair them with another child who has the opposite abilities. As a result, students learn from one another and learn how to interact.
The Montessori approach generates adults who are justice-minded and articulate and they are also able to look at authority as approachable. At the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca, this trait of working out an agreement is highlighted in their mission to create a more peaceful world.
Maia Shenker, an 18-year-old undergraduate at Eckerd College, was a Montessori student from preschool to second grade. She found her time as a Montessori student to be positive in terms of learning to socialize. “No one was telling you to hush,” she said. “It made me open to engaging with other people.” Even now she feels as if her confidence continues to carry into adulthood.
After a review of these two alternative types of education, it is clear that students with these backgrounds are perfectly able to socialize and, in some cases, are able to do so more confidently than students who come from traditional schools. So perhaps my suspicions of a connection between my ability to socialize and my education are correct.
Kristen Gregg is a first-year journalism student who pretty much lived her own version of Disney Channel’s hit series The Suite Life on Deck. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.