Sunday, September 14, 2014

What Are We Doing?

According to the calendar it may still be summer but the weather has told us otherwise. Overall it has been a cool and fairly wet summer in Colorado and Wyoming, but a nice break from the heat.  We are settling into our fall places.  Michael is almost half way through his third month (and 3 weeks of nights)  of residency and feels reassured that he is in the right program.  We did think we would homeschool the boys again so we could all be living in one place in Wyoming but per usual our plans changed.  After spending some time observing the boys in their schools Michael felt strongly that it was not fair to take them away from an environment that they were thriving so well in.  After much discussion we came to a decision - the boys and I were going to stay with Grammy and Boompa during school days and we would be in Wyoming whenever we had holidays and weekends.  Plus it is only a 1.5 hour drive.

With both boys in school I was ready to find some kind of work that still allowed me to keep the family first.  This can be quite the challenge here in the US.  I was very fortunate and was offered the opportunity to work at the Compass Farm School that Dillon attends. I am in the classroom every day until just after lunch and I have class one day a week that includes a lot of Theory on Montessori and education in general (lets just say my brain feels like it will explode most days).  The boys are able to stop and give mom a hug or I can drop in and visit Ronan at lunch (in the Elementary building).  It is an apprenticeship position that enables me to be home when the boys are home, in Wyoming with Michael as often as possible, and work in a position that supports something I believe strongly in - Montessori Education.  Below is part of a guest blog post I did last year on the Farm School.

It feels great to have the boys thriving, Michael practicing medicine, and although I am busy the experience is wonderful.

fall baking

a return to rugby for Ronan

The boys enjoying some biking in Wyoming

Farm School
(ages 12-15)
The Farm School is based on Dr. Maria Montessori's theories regarding adolescent development and functions on a Working Village model.  The goal is to create a microcosm of a small village through 8 Occupations that the students can choose from and attend 1 for an entire semester.  The Occupations include Bike Shop, Compass Creative Reuse Center, Farm Studio, Energy and Invention, Culinary Arts, Print Shop, Water and Inquiry, and Village Theater Guild.  Each Occupation is directed by a Guide.  Within the occupations the Guides incorporate math, writing, geography, history, science, and reading through seminars.  The students are also assigned an Advisement class (similar to a home room) but this is considered their family within the Village.  At the beginning of the year the students take a trip with their Advisement group for 3 days which is known as their "Disorientation Trip".  This is a time for the students and guides to re-set and prepare for the school year with a positive attitude towards school.  The number one purpose for the students and the guides is to bring back the fun in learning as well as to feel the satisfaction and enjoyment when working within a community.

   Wednesdays are "Going Out" days which means the occupation usually schedules their field trips. The Water and Enquiry Occupation may visit local streams and collect samples or the Culinary Arts Occupation may visit a local grocery store to research supplies and cost (this Occupation is responsible for the hot lunch program for the entire school).

Following Maria Montessori's beliefs regarding the importance of adolescents becoming involved with money and goods and services in relation to contributing to their community, the Farm School's working village has a fully functioning Micro-economy.  It is the responsibility of each Occupation to provide products and/or services that are of value to the community.  There is a Student Economic Council that meets weekly to discuss the monetary concerns of the Farm and Village and accept any requests for funds from the Occupations.  It is the responsibility of the Student Economic Council to keep the Farm School's Community budget in the black and distribute necessary funds throughout the year.

The Farm School also places importance on this time of transition, when adolescents become independent contributing members of their community.  A time when they need to make their own mistakes as messy as it may seem.  For example - packing their lunches, picking out weather appropriate clothing, or keeping up with assignments.  It is also the students responsibility to inform their guides of their whereabouts on campus (they have the freedom to work throughout the campus) and if their whereabouts is unknown there will be a truancy call home.  It is important that we as parents support the Farm School and allow the students to make these mistakes now rather then when they are adults.


As we all know adolescence is a very confusing time with so much going on with the mind and physical body and as the Water and Inquiry Guide refers to it "a time of chaos".

As our adolescents go through this phase of frustration, growth, challenge, and "growing up" it is the perfect time to provide them the opportunity to see that it does not need to be a negative time in ones life, but can be fun and provide positive experiences.

During this period they often feel like minions being dictated but if we give them the opportunity and environment to be part of the decision making process, to make good choices, and to see the results of their involvement they will begin to fulfill that role of "mini adults".

At the Farm School the students are learning how to learn, how to be independent, how to problem solve, how to make the right choices, and how to be valuable members of their community.

These students are experiencing the satisfaction of being a key factor within the community, seeing that their participation is what allows it to function and be successful.

Montessori mantra  "Help me to do it by myself"


  1. This is fascinating. What occupation did Dillon select?

    1. It is amazing to see it in person. Last year Dillon was in Water and Inquiry and the YY Cafe (which is now wrapped into the Culinary Arts) and this year he is in Energy and Invention. I think he is hoping to do the Bike shop in the spring.

  2. Replies
    1. Ronan is still in Elementary so he is still in the traditional Montessori classroom. Montessori lumps ages or grades together in groups of 3. For example - 1,2, and 3rd together, 4,5, and 6 (Ronan is in 6th). The Farm School is 7,8, and 9th. Next year Dillon will transition into the High School part of the school which is 10, 11, and 12th.

  3. This is wonderful Chey, congratulations on your apprentice ship and all the success that your children are having at the school. I wish I could come visit one day, maybe I could :-). My son left montessori and started a special program called Choice in a local middle school. It's wonderful. My daughter is still in montessori in her 4th year. Anyway, I hope Golden and Wyoming are both wonderful homes for now.
    Big hugs to you.