NOTES ON HOMEWORK IN THE MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM
By Walnut Farm Elementary Teacher Mary Donovan
I can’t believe we are already beginning the new semester! The first semester was filled with so much growth and happiness. I begin 2018 grateful for the Walnut Farm Community and for the authentic Montessori environment that we have at school.
One of my favorite things about Montessori is how it seems to instill a joy of learning into each student. In the classroom, children are curious and engaged. They have spontaneous conversations about topics that we study. Each child has a favorite work in the classroom. Students’ eyes light up when they finally receive a certain math lesson they have been waiting for. It is inspiring to be a part of the learning process!
One of my resolutions for this year is how I can help connect these a-ha moments more thoroughly from school to home. Traditional homework usually consists of worksheets and “busy work.” However, studies from the Center for Public Education have shown that there is no evidence that traditional homework increases student achievement in the lower elementary years. In Montessori environments, we consider homework to be more fundamentally connected to the child’s Work at Home. Here are some alternative ideas for Montessori-minded homework that you can do with your child to lead to meaningful learning:
1. Bond as a family! Go on family outings, such as visiting museums and parks together. Play games together, such as puzzles, card games and board games. Do a family art project!
2. Have conversations at home that intentionally expand upon what we’re learning at school. In our weekly emails, we make an effort to give you a glimpse into some specific content areas in which we are working. For example, this week we began learning about Australia and Antarctica. We also began a study of the human body. In science, we talked about Earthquakes. If you have books on any of these topics you can read them after school. You can also help them conduct science experiments or help them research something they have been curious about.
3. Help your child follow an interest, like learning a new language or instrument. Homework might include practicing this new art form.
4. Create time for open-ended reading and writing! Encourage your child to keep a journal and allow them to choose when to write in it and for how long. You can also provide opportunities for silent reading at home.
5. Go on a nature walk! Allow children to bring a magnifying glass and closely observe things they see such as moss, fungus, bugs and plants. Provide them with a nature log, they can write down any questions that they have to research later.
6. Cook together! This can be a great time to bring up discussion about fractions and measurements.
7. If your child has a favorite work at school, feel free to ask me about it! It is possible that you can replicate it at home with materials you already have. For example, the science experiments are a popular work at school! You can discuss the hypothesis and help them make meaningful observations.
8. Encourage your child to help around the house, by setting the table, cleaning up, and including routines that take care of the home environment together. At school, children have daily responsibilities that support the good of the whole classroom.
9. It is ok for them to be bored! Even though it is great to have activities planned with your child, it is also ok for them to have unstructured free time. Allow them to fill their own time with imaginative play or to pursue any interests they have.
Please keep in touch with your child’s teacher, and let us know about the important work your child is doing at home. The relationship between home and school goes both ways, and a healthy exchange about home and school can benefit your child in both environments.