Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Elementary Language albums - our experience and comparisons

I've been asked my opinion about language albums a lot lately, but it doesn't really fit at Montessori Nuggets, since it is more personal experience than anything else.

We originally started our at-home Montessori journey with just Montessori books and online resources available at the time (not much - but what was available was given through the hearts of the people providing it!). We (I!) had a great deal of confusion. It is amazing how long someone can be in a Montessori classroom (as an assistant, aide, sub) and not really "get it" until it is time to put it into action. I thought I "got it" on so much, until I read the books and the internet and jumped in - and WHOA. Was it an experience! Fun! But also frustrating in many ways.

Language has probably been one of the most frustrating. You can read about our Adventures in Writing here. My largest issue for elementary albums is that they be continuous - the unnatural breaks just don't cut for me or for the child. With that said, going from primary even into lower elementary, the available options didn't correspond.

Grammar was the probably the biggest gray-hair causer of them all. Some things are presented across the board, with differences for planes of development; but it was like the blind leading the blind. I could not for the life of me figure out what/how was presented when/with-which-materials; when were the grammar boxes done; why were the colors mis-matched and the numbers totally off??????? The contents didn't match the sentences! Despite having The Montessori Elementary Material in front of me, I just didn't allow the answers in front of me to sink in. It was too much, at once, while in the thick of working with the children.

AND I was trying to adapt what I'd experienced in the schools into a homeschool experience with fewer materials.

It was chaos.

I tried to create order from the chaos, but in so doing, I had been trying to pull together everyone's modifications with my own observations/experiences, and the mixture spurred a chemical reaction:

We bombed it. I totally killed grammar for my tutoring kids.

I wish I had had an album in my hands. I wished it then, but couldn't afford any. I finally got my hands on some samples and was thrown off even more. It just wasn't coming together.

Now, I look back and think, "I'm glad I did not have an album in my hands at the time."


Because I look at the albums that were available then, compared with what I know now - and having had primary and elementary training... and I'm not satisfied with those earlier available albums, paid for or free. Not in the slightest. They aren't much better than what I was providing at that time; and many times conflicted so badly no wonder I was thrown off by the samples I'd seen!

Now. I am happy to say that others could still use them and find joy in them. But it would not have been there for me, in our situation. Sad to say.

There is HOPE!

If I were in that past situation today!? Or if you're in the situation I was in then (starting Montessori with only a toddler with infant/toddler experience; then a slew of 2-13 year olds to care for and tutor)!? There are OPTIONS! 

There are a variety of resources available now, or more affordable now, than there were years ago. But I would recommend starting out, to get an album - with the whole kit-and-caboodle of scope and sequence.

My two favorite available albums:
These are complete, or almost so; well-organized; and cover ages 6-12 so there is an organic development of a sequence for the child, rather than unnatural breaks during a smooth plane of development. Keys of the World provides the corresponding primary level language album. 

Both are very similar - how do they differ?
  • One is free; the other is what I received in training and available to you with online support.
  • Free: leaves out thorough descriptions of what to do with the grammar boxes
  • Keys: includes the grammar boxes in thorough detail
  • Free: includes more explicit work with punctuation
  • Keys: assumes it was introduced at primary; and has an informal write-up of how to informally address this area of writing
  • Free: seems shorter
  • There may be other differences, but these are the most key areas. 
If I could just combine those highlights right there, everything else correlates and is PERFECT! 

What do we use at home for language arts? Just the Keys of the Universe album (I did read over the punctuation in the FreeMontessori album - but I already do it all so naturally based on the informal write-up in the Keys album). My son reads a LOT so we build on what he's read; and play lots of math and language games. He does a lot of research as well so he has learned naturally about the index, glossary, table of contents, footnotes, bibliographies, and more; as well as how to re-create those things in proper context. It's not perfect yet, but he is only 7! 

If I could go back into the past and tell myself something:
Hint: You CAN provide the grammar boxes starting in primary - generally this child is a "language guru"; or has utilized ALL the primary level language materials, as well as mostly covered the rest of the materials and is hungry for additional language. This child is an avid reader and is likely (but not always) writing quite a bit - or at least composing/re-creating stories and making plays on words and phrases and plot-lines. They are already playing with language a LOT. Hence I've seen these boxes used in primary; not often, but it does happen. 

More information on the grammar boxes will be provided on Montessori Nuggets - if you're not already signed up as a follower or for a daily e-mail, I invite you to join us! 

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