Monday, December 29, 2014

Relationships in Learning

The Importance of Relationships in Learning: Mentors and Supports

This is our 4th year of homeschooling.  It has been very interesting to see how others educate their children.  I have met some other homeschoolers who use Montessori's method of pedagogy on social media sights like Facebook.  Because in a Montessori homeschool situation few of us have the space in our homes to set up a full classroom not to mention the money to buy every material that would be in a classroom many people fade out of Montessori by upper elementary.  Most of the social media groups for Montessori are new Mothers who have the best intentions but are forced to fade out of the method once they see the cost of albums and materials.
I have met some very resourceful Mom's on social media, very clever ladies who make bead materials and get their husbands and fathers to make beautiful cabinets and sensorial material. I have seen some excellent homemade materials for items like  the Stamp Game, bead materials and the Checker Board materials.  The cost of a entire bead cabinet, geometry and fraction materials force a lot of families out of doing Montessori and following the scope a sequence is very hard with out the materials that cost so much. It is unfortunate as many of these ladies who can't afford to buy the materials are wonderful educators and parents who bring so much to the table of learning on social media.  I am constantly in awe of how resourceful and inventive families are.
Many of the upper grade's of Montessori materials are hard for parents to teach with as they must have more experience with accredited consultants/teachers who can show them the lesson and families must own albums of instruction to do the upper elementary work such as algebra, geometry and cubing.  It is very hard to read an album on math for a lesson on binomial cubing and teach it with out some instruction by a actual Montessori educator who has been trained to teach a lesson with it.   I know many educators who have Montessori training who can't teach these upper math lessons of squaring, cubing roots, mainly because you have to practice these lesson to retain the steps and many times in a classroom for upper elementary the students just aren't there yet, and those lesson get foggy for the educators.  How many 6th graders can do trinomial and binomial cubing?  Even the best albums with the clearest lesson instructions are difficult when you are trying to learn them.  Of course  turning around with out mastery and teaching them isn't any easier.

Mentors become very important when you the teacher are learning.  Finding someone to consult with and mentor you in your journey is crucial to your own development as an educator.

Most of the time networking with other Mom's has been a great experience.  People are for the most part respectful and supportive and encouraging.  Finding the homeschooling group's parents who are doing the upper elementary lesson is very difficult.  I have created my own social media group to draw out some of these parents but keep running into families who are not there yet as their children are preschooler or just starting off.  It has been frustrating to pour hours into creating a group sight, offering up information and resources for free and getting scolded by parents for posting something that does pertain to an infants needs.  Support and encouragement is crucial for educators.  It saddens me when people can take all you have to give, but not give back with even a kind word of thanks.
I am finding as we progress that the the upper elementary homeschoolers are far and few between. I have found a supportive small group of Montessori homeschoolers who have encouraged me and supported me but given my son's special needs and the fact that he may not progress academically past these upper elementary lesson, I feel very alone on our journey.  Finding a mentor is so important, just as finding a group is.

 I met a wonderful educator when I was working at a Montessori school who has helped me along the way.  She is AMI trained and teaches upper elementary and I use her as a consultant/tutor.   She is super busy with work and family but always finds time to encourage and support me.  Thank you Liza.  I love you and appreciate what you have brought to our lives with your skills and education.

Another group I belong to is Self Design Global and this group of parents and educators holds bi-weekly virtual meetings where we all share, encourage and support each other.  Self Design is a unschooling movement and it has not provided me with Montessori help but it is invaluable to me in other ways such as in the relationship element of how we learn and seeing learning where ever it happens.  The learning consultants of SD are a precious resource to me and cultivating relationships in these circles has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my adult life.
We all feel the need to connect and belong to a group.  Even when groups exclude and expel us we yearn to belong to some collective whole.  Homeschooling has it's draw backs in that you are alone.  Raising a special learner who struggles with relationships has shown me that I too struggle with communication and often feel excluded even in groups I administrate. We are alone in our personal journeys of homeschooling and that is hard to accept.  In these groups of social media one hopes to find people who will support and encourage them.  I have tried to encourage and support people, share resources and information.  I haven't done it to show off but to cultivate a circle of encouragement and support.

This relationship piece of the education puzzle where you allow other people into your world is tricky.  I hope this blog clears the lens for people to see how my relationships and intentions in creating social media groups can be a wonderful thing and how important it is to support one another along the journey.  It is important to share, give back and not exclude people who are different than you.  I have tried to do this with my group pages with strangers and friends.
Recently one of my groups reacted harshly to my post of reminding the group of why the group was created. I did not express myself well and people felt excluded from my comment which was said in my discouraged moments of feeling alone and no longer connecting in my own group.  I am sorry for the misunderstanding of the intention of my post. I don't know what other people felt by it but it did not elicit positive feed back and I felt misunderstood and worry that the group has gotten so big that relationship component of why I started it has been loss and the group has become something new.  I have seen several social media groups grow to large and something is lost when a group goes from a tight community of encouragement to strangers who lash out at each other  in silly disaggreeements because they have no personal connections and the relationship element  of the group is gone.

We are made human by our relationship with others.   I don't know how to make people play nice and respect each other.  I think as people dive deeper into to Montessori and Waldorf Methods they may see that respect and grace are keys to a life well lived and worth living.  That these methods are more than the materials and lesson plans but are about a lifestyle of cultivating altruism and respect for all people.

Although this recent lesson has been painful I am reminded to be thankful and appreciative of my support system and the people who encourage me along the they way.  I have met some wonderful homeschooler Mom's on social media and am grateful for their support and friendship.  I choose to focus on the good ones and accept the vulnerability that administrating a social media group puts me in.  It is going to expose me to some messy moments and difficult people who often have no idea they are being difficult, but all in all those harsh moments are outweighed by the good ones where I feel connected and heard and appreciated.

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