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, April 30, 2012

Making a Large Bead Frame

Do you have a Melissa and Doug abacus lying around? Ready to get just a TINY bit creative? :)
This one doesn't take much AT ALL!

The glue doesn't tend to be terribly strong on abacus, so you can wiggle out one leg removing it from the metal rods and the wood rod across the top.

Now. Remove the 4th and the 8th metal rods (counting from the top).

Now, rearrange the colors so you have (from the top): green, blue, red, (space), green, blue, red, (space), green. Re-attach the side leg.

Ok, you're going to be short on colors! So you get out some paint (washable child safe paint is NOT ideal here), and you paint 10 of those natural colored beads green. They can hang on the metal rod, with space in between, to dry. Polyurethane if you want (I never did on ours and it's fine, but I think I would have preferred the texture of the polyurethaned ones - plain paint feels different from the rest of the beads).

You'll also want to paint the sides with white gray and black, but I've not done that on this one; I tend to use colored paper taped on for presentations and remove it for other times (another story).

You can see our painted ones on the bottom;
polyurethane would have been nice. 

Leftover yellow and natural color beads? Give them to your younger children for stringing practice; or any of your children for jewelry or other just fun crafty project of their liking.

It's not a Montessori abacus - it's a large bead frame!

Want a small bead frame? Just wrap up the lower 3 bars, so you have only up to the thousands showing. For homeschool purposes, the large bead frame is much more adaptable - so if you have to choose just ONE size, make or purchase the large bead frame because it will extend from primary into elementary.

In AMI albums, the small and large bead frames can be used in primary; the large bead frame is used in elementary (even if used in primary); but the small bead frame does not need to be in place in elementary, since all the same work can be done on the large bead frame and the children are older and capable ;)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What if the world stops turning????

In our home, I've been known to say, "It's not like it's the end of the world!"

I've also always made a point of saying, "When the earth faces the sun" or "turns toward the sun" or "the earth has turned away from the sun" - rather than referring to the sun doing the movement.

I've just always wanted to be very accurate with my speech.

So one day, my just turned 6 year old son, comes to me a little while after some now-forgotten incident that prompted me to say, "It's not like it's the end of the world!" and asks, "What if it is the end of the world? It will stop turning! What will happen then!?" He was curious and thinking - now at the elementary age (second plane of development) of not just accepting everything on factual statement, but wanted to understand WHY and WHAT IF and HOW?

So, out of order from all elementary geography presentations, I said, "Ah! I have a chart for you!" This was his first official chart presentation, though he'd seen me painting them previous to this time.

We talked about it a bit. "What do you see here?"
"If this is the earth, where is this side facing?" (pointing to the flames)

  • How do those flames feel? (hot) And where is the heat coming from? (the sun)
  • I see something else! (icicles!) How do those icicles feel? (cold! because the sun can't give that side of the earth any heat!)
  • I wonder if life could exist on this earth if it didn't turn and have times of heat and times of cold? (his response: I wouldn't want to live THERE!)
Now in the time since then he's had the "usual sequence" and we've come back to this chart in the proper scheme of things. 

It means something different for him than the children who only just saw it this year (in proper order); but every child took away what they needed, and brought to the conversation at their level, contributing to the growth of understanding in all the children. 

No, I would not show this to a child in the first plane of development - it might instill fear of the unknown and the what-ifs because their minds work in the concrete, right-now, here in the moment. We do not want to instill fear into a child, but trust, at this age. In the second plane, the child has a strong foundation and can contemplate the what-ifs in a realistic manner without inappropriate fear. 

It was ok that my son saw and discussed this chart out of order; our presentation did not follow the typical album page, because he'd not had the typical pre-requisites. Just because he'd not had the pre-requisites did not mean he was not ready! He was ready in a different way; and at the proper time, he was ready in another way. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Learn from our Children

I have been slowly reading through a short book that a friend asked me to read: The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner

It is interesting - just provides a slightly different perspective on life issues.

One chapter though stood out - perhaps because I know of a few parents who need to KNOW this, and most Montessori parents already deeply, truly know: We have a lot to learn from our children. Not just because of them, not just for their sakes - directly from them.
Many adults make the mistake of thinking that because someone is younger than they are, they can't possibly learn something from them. This both an egotistical and insecure point of view in my mind. ...I have met many young people, even children, who were more mature and better-thinkers than some adults I know.    ~~~Thomas M. Sterner

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Botany Study at Co-Op

Our co-op finally got started on official dissections this week! Yay!

Before Easter, the children were using a rubbery/plasticy scalpel to dissect soaked beans. Since I only have the children once a week, I want to establish some ground rules and practice them a little bit at a time.

So this week, we pulled out the dissection kit and away we went.

First thing was just feeling the mat - what a sensorial experience all by itself!

We first reviewed what we already knew, just talking through things like dicotyledon and monocotyledon, how many leaves each one originally sprouts, how the plant grows. Then we looked the branch, stem, leaf with veins as an overview. We'll get into the details in the next couple of classes.

Photos of our work:
one sample of a dissection
follow-up drawing

the impressionistic chart of
plants expressing water

one girl's rendition of the chart

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Elementary Course Giveaway

Visit Montessori Nuggets - Elementary Montessori Course Giveaway for several chances to win $40 off the Elementary Montessori course offered at Keys of the Universe.

Remember to leave a comment on THAT post for each entry :)

 So what are the elementary Montessori children going to study? At primary, the keys of the world were given to the young child; the second plane child at elementary is given the keys to the universe. “The universe is an imposing reality and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life for all things are part of the universe and are all connected with each other to form one whole unity.”[1]

The universe is our curriculum!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Handwriting Sample

Here is an image of a handwriting sample. This was done by a boy at age 7 1/4 or so - elementary Montessori, homeschool. He was "delayed" in the usual Montessori sequence in writing (see my other post on this one!), though he'd started at 3 1/2 years with capital block letters (of his own accord). However, my (biased, motherly) opinion is that he has beautiful handwriting.

This is NOT his best handwriting; it is an information list of some random words that I just recently found in a folder of mine (I think he had given it to me for something, but the purpose slips my mind). **Updated: he informs me this was part of an online spelling game I'd let him play - these are the words the game was giving him and he had wanted me to see the type of words he was spelling.

I am slightly embarrassed to show the following samples of my own handwriting at a similar age - public school all the way through. The artwork with my name would have been early 3rd grade (8 1/2 - regular classroom); the journal would have been April of 2nd grade (I was in a split class of 2nd/3rd grade; I was writing in cursive by then, and LOVED it, so I don't know what the deal is with the print in this journal). I can't seem to find a cursive sample until middle school work. Odd, because as I said, I loved writing in cursive. I also seem to recall being the top speller in my classes - yet I have some obvious mis-spelled words. But, then, I wasn't a Montessori child!

In my partial defense, when we moved to a new town for 3rd grade, the other kids weren't writing in cursive so "encouraged" me (negative peer pressure anyone!?) to print - you can see the kind of curvy letters in my name that show I was really wanting to write in cursive.

Some points an offline friend noticed:

  • Note the use of lines on my paper; versus no lines on his; yet the alignment is similar (therefore he did better because he didn't have a line!).
  • If I recall, he was not using proper writing posture to write these words; I was sitting at a desk sized to my body, I was likely using proper posture. Therefore he is still has the advantage; and how much better if he'd used proper writing posture! He always used proper grip.
  • writing grasp: I know his is fine; I recall having a soft indent in my ring finger between the nail and the knuckle because of how I wrote (I had this writing grasp into my 20s when I took Montessori training!)
  • He is not yet writing long stories, journal entries, even long sentences - unless he is *extremely* interested (copying poignant Scripture passages; selections from the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" - copywork - he's not *thinking of *what to say while writing long things; when he *thinks, he keeps it *short.). That's ok - it all works out - and it means he is more careful with his handwriting itself. 
  • In short, his writing has a meaning and a beauty. Mine had meaning; but it was "simplistic" - when my son writes, it has a deep, rich meaning.  

CAVEAT: This is not directly about cursive versus print - only about neatness, style, content, beauty, being able to express oneself.

In the end, I'll take the Montessori education any day, hands-down!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Exercises of Practical Life - Elementary

What do we do in elementary practical life in our home?

There is no concise list. The idea is to provide practical life exercises needed for the children's specific needs. Ideally, they've left primary with basic skills in cleaning, basic food preparation (including cooking with a toaster oven or similar), polishing, care of self, care of clothing, work cycle completion.

Teaching practical life skills seems to come more naturally at this age because historically children have begun to learn these things at this age. We chose to teach certain skills at primary because there is a joy in just doing the activity in and of itself. Now those things are integrated and the child's mind and hands are free to move on to focus on things that are now of deep interest. By the adolescent years, they should have enough tools to work through the emotional changes with grace and health.

Now, in elementary, they are on to bigger things than at primary. In our home over the past two years, we have slowly incorporated the following lessons; I do not pretend this list is complete!
  • continuing ALL skills from primary
  • answering the phone
  • taking a brief message
  • placing a phone call
  • using the sewing machine
  • following a very, very basic sewing pattern
  • continuing with cross-stitch, crochet (trying to add knitting)
  • weaving
  • indoor gardening - will add worm composting soon (edited: it took us a while to get the worms set up! almost 3 years!!!)
  • woodworking (Home Depot, at home, at Papa's) - sanding, patterning
  • using a video camera with still and moving images
  • changing light bulbs
  • charging batteries of various kinds (phone, computer, rechargable batteries)
  • reading a map (inside buildings, road maps)
  • using fusible web to make some clothing and stuffed animal repairs
  • household repairs as they come up (just include the children in everything)
  • selecting merchandise at the store for supplies for our home businesses
  • grocery shopping lists
  • basic budgeting - household
  • basic budgeting - personal expenses
  • pet care (as much as possible at others' homes)
  • emergency situations (when/how to call 911, what to do if someone collapses)
  • very basic first aid care
  • how to handle various social situations
  • interviewing at the museum
The list goes on. :) 

Editing to add: In reality, practical life is all around us; as much as possible to include our children in the real day-to-day events and occurrences in our lives, providing them skills through the lives that we adults lead, we won't need "trays" anywhere near as often as places such a Pinterest seem to suggest. Keep it real - keep it straight-forward. If it's not straight-forward, how can YOU improve yourself and/or the task at hand to make it straight-forward and include your child(ren)?

Just food for thought! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Primary Albums - Elementary Albums - TOO MANY ALBUMS!

Elementary looks different than primary - but there is a continuation and there are connections even where we don't see it at first (most of this information is found in the theory papers as well as the introductions to sections within albums).

I am one to find connections and build upon them. It helps my brain and my sanity. Instead of 5 albums at primary and a separate 8 at elementary; elementary actually does build on primary.

First let's look at each album from primary to elementary:

Theory builds into Theory. That's the easy one ;)

Mathematics: depending on the child and the albums used, some overlap or some gaps - but mostly it continues on into elementary Mathematics. The overlap is in content, but the style of the presentaiton is different.

Sensorial branches out: Geometry is now its own area, as is Geography; as is Music.

Language: appears to be overlap - that's because some of the basic presentations are similar, but address just slightly different aspects and provide different information (if you have primary and elementary, most grammar presentations can be given to both ages at the same time, just directing certain information to the older children). Some children may need "remedial" work (this is not a bad thing!). For all intents and purposes, the core of primary builds into elementary Language.

Note: Language in primary with the AMI-style also incorporates Geography, Biology, Music, Geometry, and Sensorial. 

Exercises of Practical Life: also becomes Geography in elementary.

The only area we really add in elementary is History. While children could have time-telling and timelines of their lives in primary (especially surrounding birthday celebrations), and we tell stories about last month, last year, before you were born, etc; and they have the cultural activities within language and sensorial, the fact remains that it takes a certain skill in abstraction to TRULY contemplate history. So we wait until elementary to formally introduce it.

There we have it. It is connected after all :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Child-created Materials

Here is an example of what I mean about the children creating their own materials - we adults do NOT need to kill ourselves making everything FOR the child - especially the elementary child.

power switch
(crop image for "safety lock")

Earlier this week, I allowed my son to use our new video camera to experiment with - take some nature pictures and the like - he's been working on a nature book and we were at Grandma and Papa's home, with 60 acres of land at his disposal. I thought he could take some pictures of some things he'd seen on the property. He didn't get far on the nature book because of the new technology in his hands. He's really been working at perfecting his photography skills (the video camera takes stills too), getting interesting angles, working on lighting and such.

Today, we're not officially back to doing school again - but our Montessori way has allowed learning to take place anytime. We've also not entirely cleaned up from our trip away from home; and the old scroll saw (it's dead; it had been in my car trunk before we left; then placed in our living room while we were gone) is still sitting in our living room.

My son decided to make a "Parts of the Saw" booklet for our co-op class. And away he went.

He will organize the photos (with me) in a file, with the titles (he will type it in) and we'll print them out and make a booklet. I am with him, guiding him, but it is he who is looking at the object, noticing the details, deciding what is important, discussing with me any areas of disagreement, coming up with a definition or using resources (yes, I count as a resource) for finding a definition; organizational skills; leadership (he will present the work to the younger children so that he catches his own errors or just finds something that could be explained with more detail or less detail). This is HIS experience, HIS learning, HIS growth.

And I'm right here with him, enjoying the journey, but respecting his space to explore and discover for himself.

He's only missing the blade ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Elementary Montessori Homeschool Information

There is a great blogger-Montessori-mom-teacher posting a series of elementary posts.

Visit Living Montessori Now - Elementary Posts for a great consolidation of elementary level resources.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mathematics Sample

I love Montessori kids ;)

My nephew is 11 months younger than my son (1st grade in public school but way ahead of his peers) and keeps telling me, in reference to my son, "He's GOOD!" (at math). My nephew keeps asking him questions like what is 400 plus 900? (because in my nephew's mind those are HUGE numbers) Of course my son knows it's just 4 of something plus 9 of something, so it's just as easy as 4+9 - but he gives his cousin both answers when applicable (13-hundreds and 1-thousand-3-hundred). It astounds my nephew every time! So my son showed him the pattern and he's picking up on it. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Montessori Music - Piano Lessons

Our music has not been entirely Montessori - and that is as it should be!

In a school setting, the primary child has the bells, as well as rhythm activities, group songs, and cultural music. The elementary child continues with these activities, studies music in history and other cultures, and is introduced to the tone bars.

Then that child will have other musical influences outside of school, varying with the family and living situation.

For us, we have had the following influences and experiences:

  • Full Montessori primary level music: bells and rhythm specifically
  • Can You Hear It? 
  • Our Musical Year - Level 1
  • 1 year of Montessori school with the group singing; 1/2 year at another Montessori school; 1 year at a local non-Montessori preschool (lots and lots of songs)
  • Church hymns and prayer time songs
  • Atrium music - 3 years

Is Montessori music curriculum enough? No. Music needs to be part of a child's life and for the most part, we can assume that music IS a part of the child's life, in some manner or another. It is written in their souls. 

Therefore Montessori music presumes that music saturates a child's life and the materials are designed to hone in on certain key aspects in order to enrich the child's experience elsewhere and fulfill his inner soul. 

Recently, my son received his long-awaited big Christmas present (we're just over 3 months late): 

He started his first lesson the same evening - and is already 3 lessons in (the next day as I type this!).
(Editing just before this post goes live: he's halfway through book 1 because of his previous music experience)

We are skipping the entire activity book that corresponds with this level. Why? Because the Montessori primary music alone covered it ALL; but then he's had the other experiences as well. The only thing for which we'll pull out our music flashcards to reinforce are the intervals - which Montessori covers, we just didn't as much as we could have. Again - Montessori music was not meant to be the child's ONLY music experience - but if it is their only experience, they are still on strong footing. 

I like The Music Tree books, because they have a Montessori feel for them. 
  • They were developed at a music school in conjunction with the students (sounds like the history of Montessori, huh?)
  • Book 1:
    • it gets the children hands on the black keys immediately; using BOTH hands; and in multiple octaves (this is the first song!). 
    • The child immediately becomes adept at moving across the keyboard, using black and white keys (white keys are brought in just a couple of lessons in). 
    • The child is given exercises in playing the same patterns in multiple locations on the keyboards (using those intervals of 2nds and 3rds, etc!) - this is possible because the staff lines are not introduced until halfway into the book. The focus is on the pattern, not on just memorizing the location of notes. 
    • In this way, the child is playing real music with real patterns before focusing too much on the scale of notes; he'll be able to adjust to both bass and treble readily. (how many of us are stuck in one or the other because we played a single clef instrument in our youth? or our piano lessons didn't include bass clef until we had "learned" treble clef?)
  • Additional books: 
    • Corresponding activity books fit together and extend better than others I've seen, or those that I used to teach myself over the years, and even those I used in my own lessons. 
    • the second book as a full set of staff lines and looks more like a regular piano books
    • starting in the 1st book and continuing ahead, there is constant review on each page
    • AND the children write their own songs based on patterns they are learning

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Toys in the Montessori Home - Primary

Our toys requirements for the primary Montessori age - 3-6 years old:

  • real materials
  • real images
  • constructive
  • imagination development
  • develop real-life skills
  • aesthetics: something I can stand to look at
  • long-lasting (culturally, age-span, actual number of years in use)
And these lists are not including activities that don't require materials - this is just physical items.

So what did we have? A lot that has been very multi-age - we use a lot now in elementary, and had some of it in toddlerhood as well. 
  • Balance Beam - great extension for walking on the line (does not replace it!)
  • Lincoln Logs - cultural significance to North America, natural, limitations of styles encourages creative solutions to build various structures, those same limitations demonstrate what is possible or not possible with this particular material
  • Easel - double-sided with chalkboard and magnetic/dry-erase board
  • Art and Writing supplies: non-drying clay, a few kid water-colors, easel paper, various high quality paint brushes, a couple of junk drawers for random supplies to use for imaginative purposes, high-quality paper scissors, fabric scissors, tracing paper, some construction paper, glue, double-sided tape, Prismacolor colored pencils, white erasers, KUM pencil sharpeners, cheap sets of cards and envelopes, notepads
  • Craft supplies: yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, cross-stitch and embroidery materials, felt
  • Schleich and Toob animals and scenery
  • Wood barn
  • Supply of cardboard for making own creations
  • Gardening supplies
  • Stuffed animals - nothing gaudy or entirely unrealistic
  • Wood train track with magnetic-wooden trains
  • Music: various percussion instruments from various cultures
  • Books - lots and lots of excellent literature selections
  • Wood pattern blocks for tessellations and patterns: we had these at the primary age, but they were not a big hit
  • Games: typical deck of cards, Skip-Bo, Uno, Bible Timeline cards, Mary Memory Match, Opposites Matching 
  • Building blocks
  • Blankets and pillows for making forts
  • Practical life items: child-size brooms and mops, cleaning cloths, spray bottles; yep, these were toys ;) 
  • tricycle (carryover from toddler)
This has actually been a difficult list to create because so much of our school and home/play overlaps, flowing from one to the other. Because of this overlap, this list actually looks longer than it feels. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toys in a Montessori Home - Lower Elementary

Our toys requirements for the elementary Montessori age - 6-12 years:

  • constructive
  • imagination development
  • develop real-life skills
  • aesthetics: something I can stand to look at

So what do we have? A lot that has carried over from primary actually - just expanded and deepened, with a few things removed: 
  • Legos - yep, plastic - constructive, imaginative, aesthetics (good and bad), patterning - we do NOT utilize many specialized pieces; a friend has described his engineering college degree as "legos on steroids"
  • Lincoln Logs - cultural significance to North America, natural, limitations of styles encourages creative solutions to build various structures, those same limitations demonstrate what is possible or not possible with this particular material
  • Easel with chalkboard and magnetic/dry-erase board
  • Art and Writing supplies: non-drying clay, real water-colors, a few kid water-colors, easel paper, various high quality paint brushes, a couple of junk drawers for random supplies to use for imaginative purposes, high-quality paper scissors, fabric scissors, tracing paper, some construction paper, glue, double-sided tape, Prismacolor colored pencils, white erasers, KUM pencil sharpeners, cheap sets of cards and envelopes, notepads
  • Craft supplies: yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, cross-stitch and embroidery materials, felt, fabric and thread, use of the sewing machine
  • Schleich and Toob animals and scenery
  • Wood barn
  • Supply of cardboard for making own creations
  • Gardening supplies
  • Stuffed animals - nothing gaudy or entirely unrealistic
  • Wood train track with magnetic-wooden trains
  • Music: various percussion instruments from various cultures; recorder with instruction book; CDs; CD player; 
  • Books - lots and lots of excellent literature selections
  • Wood pattern blocks for tessellations and patterns: my Montessori albums do not include presentations for these, so we count them as "toys"
  • Board games, card games, strategy and logic games: this is a whole post by itself! See this post for a few of our games
  • Building blocks
  • Wood yo-yo
  • 2-wheel bicycle
  • jump ropes, kites, sleds
  • Keyboard: newest acquisition - yes, it's for learning to play, but it's also for fun!
  • Kept the balance beam! 
This has actually been a difficult list to create because so much of our school and home/play overlaps, flowing from one to the other. Because of this overlap, this list actually looks longer than it feels. A lot of these items were primarily "school" at primary and are now toys; or are still partially used for school. 

And I want to include our science supplies as toys, because they are so much fun! But I'll hold back on that one! ;) 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toys in a Montessori Home - Series

So not only does my son have a Montessori education, with the influence of such at home - we are homeschooling Montessori, so the influence is even greater.

I've had a few e-mails asking what kind of toys does my son play with? What do we allow or disallow?

Well. There's toys, then there are toys.

Yes, I have always made very conscious decisions about purchases and gift lists. Follows were the credentials:
  • small living space
  • not easily broken, yet encourages proper care
  • readily repairable when needed
  • limited budget for batteries and electric bills
  • desire for an actual attention span in my child

We have had more than our share of plasticy toys, items I didn't really want but somehow ended up in our home, whether because the previous tenant left a bunch of stuff, or the church nursery was closing and I received everything to use for my in-home daycare, or as gifts. 

Maria Montessori was not opposed to toys - she just found that the children *chose* not to use them when they were presented with more real-life items that fit their developmental needs at the time. 

What follows in the next few days is a series of posts about some of the toys we've had in our home over the years for various purposes. 

The second Mama-endorsed electrical "toy" ;) 
Toys in a Primary Montessori Home
Toys in a Lower Elementary Montessori Home

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Elementary Montessori Continuum - or Breakage

It is so great to see more information on elementary Montessori spreading across the internet :)

There are differences between AMS and AMI and other Montessori organizations; unfortunately AMI's stance of keeping themselves to themselves has allowed a proliferation of information on Montessori to spread that is not entirely "the complete picture".

One of those differences is in regard to the continuum or division of the elementary age.

Many Montessori schools (and training centers) divide up the elementary into lower and upper elementary - and the most readily accessible albums for homeschoolers are divided thus; however the presentations and materials used are the same and should not be arbitrarily divided - I've seen so many album options for this age group that become too much "curriculum" and not enough "fulfilling the needs of the child, encouraging independent research, and building community".

Just something to think about when we say "this work is only for upper elementary" when you have a 7 year old KEENLY interested and doing independent research on that very topic that surpasses what we would typically give to an upper elementary student.

At elementary, we want to give the most pertinent, necessary information; give them their place in human history through the key timelines; spark imagination and intrigue; so that they go off and discover new insights on their own, in community, and find their places in our society, in history. It looks chaotic, but if they are receiving the keys, allowed time to explore on their own, having certain amounts of outside expectations/requirements to fulfill, creating their own materials that are above and beyond the keys, and are truly going deep with their work, then we have a true elementary environment :) because then we have a community (which leads to the peace education and other aspects that we desire, without having to use a "curriculum" to get there).

My concern with splitting 6-12 to 6-9 and 9-12 is that we want to give too much, and the children are left with less to discover on their own; there will be less community-building; fewer opportunities for conflict resolution; fewer opportunities for self-planned Goings-Out (student planned field trips for a small group of children exploring a particular field of interest); less opportunity for building self-confidence and study skills;

Practically speaking, many schools may NEED to divide into 6-9 and 9-12; but then each classroom should have the complete set of elementary materials (and training) so that the children can be where they need to be at any given age, without that arbitrary division that will only hinder growth.

However, Montessori teachers who have a full class of children ages 6-12 find that they a true community and the children really teach each other, with the children having more freedom of movement within the continuum so that they can go back and forth as needed without worry of "being at the wrong level."

In our homeschools, the continuum should definitely be maintained, without artificial breakages; especially if you have children across age spans - otherwise you'll give up on Montessori before you really get into it.

I choose AMI elementary because of this continuum. I have the complete picture for the elementary range and my son moves along where he needs to be.

I know that if I had used the 6-9 and 9-12 albums available, we would be "too structured" and our love of learning would be entirely killed, given our family situation and circumstances. I still look at those albums once in a while, but we almost never use any of the presentations or "assignments" in them because either my son already thought of that work himself (as an extension) or it is superfluous to our family and life goals.

So I keep coming back to my AMI albums, and trusting them more and more each day, with each passing moment.

The albums I use are available through Keys of the Universe.