By Shannon Watson, Montessori Mom
Let me start by saying that I’m not one of those parents who thought that homeschooling was the only way for children to get a good education. And no, I don’t have any more patience than the next mom! But as parents, we all want what’s best for our children, right? When my then-third grade daughter begged me to homeschool her in 2009, she needed it. We considered all of the pros and cons together and decided to make the leap. After watching their sister hang out in pajamas while they went to school, her two brothers asked if they could opt in for Year Two. And, when the fourth sibling was old enough for school, we had been homeschooling long enough that public school was something she read about in books like Junie B. Jones — and that was it.
When we moved to Florida in early 2016, we started the two middle children with FLVS Flex: still homeschooling, but with some accountability to someone besides Mom. Last year, the youngest became eligible for the FLVS Flex Elementary program and completed her fifth grade coursework there.
Summer 2018: Pivot!
Don’t life’s big changes all seem to happen at once?
Kid #1, age 20: starts 2-year volunteer service commitment, ending in June 2020.
Kid #2, age 18 (the original homeschooler): departs for Germany to spend her senior year on a State Department scholarship. For the first time since 2009, she’s enrolled in a traditional school…in a language she barely knows. Gutsy!
At that point, the plans for Kids #3 and #4 were To Be Determined.
Kid #3 had taken a few high school classes through FLVS, but I kept getting the feeling that if he was going to be empowered to chase his dreams of working at NASA or SpaceX, that wasn’t going to happen at home with me. Why? There’s something to be said for positive peer pressure — that sense of “Hey, everyone else in the room is working on this assignment; I guess I’d better get it done too.”
Kid #4 had been asking to try school; she had spent one day at our local elementary school back in Illinois and was Not Impressed, and we weren’t thrilled with our zoned options here. I had heard that there were Montessori schools in the area, but I (mistakenly) thought that they were all private schools that we definitely couldn’t afford.
In mid-July, I was talking with a friend from church after she enthusiastically posted to Facebook that her kids had just been accepted into IMO and IMHS.
Wait. It’s public. As in, no cost? Yes.
It’s Montessori…which means that it’s a lot closer to the way we had approached homeschooling than a traditional public school? That too.
They even have a high school program?! A brand-new one, where the students get to pioneer the learning environment, including unique opportunities like Innovation Incubator and helping to design the future high school building.
My extrovert-in-a-house-of-introverts Kid #4 was ALL IN. Sign her up, buy her a lunch box, she’s ready to go!
I pitched the idea to Kid #3. To my shock (and delight), he said he thought it sounded like a good idea that he was willing to try. Within a day, he was in; a few nail-biting days later, we got the news that Kid #4 had also been offered a spot.
So, in a period of just over 3 weeks, I went from being a homeschooling mom of 4 to a Montessori mom of 2 (plus 2 semi-adults ☺).
So, how did it go? Was it all butterflies and rainbows?
No, and definitely not at first.
But big changes rarely come easily. And, we all went into it knowing that it was going to be a HUGE shift going from homeschooling into a Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 3 or 3:30, mid-August through May routine. Even though we found out that our approach to homeschooling had actually been fairly in line with the principles of Montessori, the kids still had to adjust to the new environment:
- 40+ students in a combined 4th through 6th grade classroom (with two lead teachers and an aide).
- Car line
- Actual class periods for high school
- Standardized testing (though fortunately, IMO/IMHS doesn’t spend hours and days and weeks teaching to a test; so far, my kids have only taken the tests used for diagnostics and might “minimally participate” in the rest)
Here’s the most telling piece of evidence, though: neither one of them is asking to be homeschooled next year (so far!). I think that has a lot to do with amazing activities like Drama Club for Kid #4 and Strategic Gaming Club for Kid #3, one morning a month spent at the Oakland Nature Preserve for the Upper Elementary students, and a gorgeous new school building on a campus with plenty of nature that they actually get to enjoy at recess, lunch, and throughout the day.
I can’t imagine a better environment than IMO/IMHS for homeschooled students who are transitioning into a more traditional school setting in Central Florida.