The Montessori Approach For Learning Difficulties

This is my story and our experience in finding the Montessori Method and how it worked so well.

Where do I start with this? The idea of using the Montessori approach and curriculum for a remedial and special needs environment was born in 2013 when I started to homeschool my daughter.

She had been struggling for four years at three different schools and was about to be pushed through with a condoned pass when my husband and I reigned in the horses. Everything that was supposed to be helping was actually hurting. She had two parts to her day, the mornings at school where she was getting group teaching, falling behind and seeing her teacher roll her eyes at her way too often. The second part was the afternoons which were packed with extra-lessons, one-on-one teaching and therapies.

This was getting too much. When we sat down to talk seriously about what was going on I asked a question that would change our lives. “Which part was the waste of time?”

A week later, she was out of school and at home and I was figuring it out. I was already well into my forth year of research on education and learning difficulties. I had decided not to do formal studies because what would I chose. I needed everything, not just one lane of knowledge.

The approach that tied everything together was Maria Montessori’s work. I started there.

The practical materials were not only clear but they were developing their motor skills. Moving physical objects around gave the work a space it could take up and a weight that was felt and not just seen. Simple sums started making sense because the colour coding of the beads supported visual discrimination. The materials were deliberate in their design.

I was struck by how well scaffolded it is, children are never rushed through the learning. This was the biggest issue we were having, the class moved on and the children who were battling got left behind. The goal is learning, not passing the exam, and this took all of the pressure off so that we could focus on the next step without always looking up to figure out how far behind we were.

My daughter ended up repeating two grades. Once before we started the school, and again just before high school. In fact the second time was not a repeat, because we don’t rinse-and-repeat children, she just continued on with her work until she was ready. She now has a University Exemption Matric pass, quite far from her Grade 3 teacher who told me I should put her in a home when she got older.

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