It’s often difficult to use labels, but if pressed, I would say that in my school I use a combination of Montessori and unschooling philosophies. I love the Montessori philosophy and the Montessori materials, and I believe the philosophy is closely related to the unschooling themes presented in the article above. My experience with Montessori schools, however, rarely matched with the teachings of Montessori, especially regarding following the child’s interests regarding their own learning. I often saw children forced to do lessons or work that was not of interest to them. And, in a Montessori classroom, it’s difficult to follow a child’s interests when there are 28 children in a classroom, and space for materials is limited. It’s hard to pinpoint why this happens, and I think there are actually many contributing factors. Even though there are no tests, grades, or homework assignments, many parents still insist that their children work on, and make significant progress in specific lessons, mostly reading and math. Under this pressure from parents and administrators who fight to keep the parents happy and the children enrolled, teachers basically have to violate the teachings of Montessori, and instead of letting the child direct his own learning, his tasks are dictated by the teacher and the child is forced to learn. Sadly, the joy of learning slowly fades away. Whatever label I put on my teaching method, the most important component is the child’s learning. Whether it’s through use of Montessori materials, playing outside all day, or taking a trip to the zoo, allow the child to follow her interests and enjoy learning in her own ways.

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