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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Montessori Materials

SOAP-BOX ALERT! This post is about me and my reactions to current materials offered by Montessori companies. It is not about my son or his education, at least directly. It's about me and my emotions.

I will not be offended if you choose not to read this. I do not intend to offend anyone with the following words, but I feel certain that someone will think I have said something offensive.

Let me say here and NOW: each family must choose for themselves and I don't judge the "extras" that you choose. We have extras too. My soap-box has to do with the impression of Montessori in the public sphere because of these "extras".

Feel free to stop reading and join us tomorrow for our regular daily reports of Montessori elementary (or previous primary or infant/toddler) experiences.

Click the next line if you don't mind reading my soap-box ;)

(UPDATE 12/8/12: I am not providing images because I do not want to pick on any particular company - I mention Nienhuis only because they are the main company claiming to create material per AMI standards)

I also would like to note there is a difference between educational toys and games that are used separate from the core Montessori materials.

Soap-Box begins: 

Yesterday, I wrote about winning the giveaway of the beautiful power of three cube - I still love just looking at it! It's just that beautiful! Haha! and SO unnecessary!

Now, over the last few years, I've been busy - single mom, working full-time for two churches, then running two businesses from home; homeschooling my son. So when I have purchased materials in the last 4 years, it has been me looking at my albums for upcoming lessons, making what I can, planning the purchases, searching for those particular materials and particular follow-ups - and making the needed purchases. I've not had TIME to peruse the catalogs - to just browse the websites. It's "hunt and fire" - no leisure here ;)

Sure, I pare down on items because we homeschool. I make a lot out of cardstock and lamination (and sometimes plain paper) that would be made with sheets of wood in a Montessori classroom. I use the decanomial bead bar box for EVERYTHING possible, rather than have lots of individual boxes for individual materials. I have one child and a small co-op. We're good.

But that paring down does not explain everything I have recently discovered about "extra materials."

And I know that albums change from time to time - even in AMI. But... I'm doubting some of these ones... I am happy to be enlightened! I NEED to be enlightened!

And I'm right there with authentic Montessori provides keys for exploration - and some children need some additional materials outside of the albums. But there are still materials left without excuses.

I sat down with three Montessori catalogs I had in a box. I am overwhelmed by the number of truly UNNECESSARY materials that are sold by all Montessori companies. Even Nienhuis is jumping on the bandwagon! So when they say they are following AMI standards, this is my second proof of, "No, they're not!" (the first proof was sitting in elementary training and being told that the Nienhuis multiplication checkerboard was too short by about a hundred-million. Or maybe it was hundred-billion. Anyway, it was a LOT - by the by, I cannot even find that material on their site right now - weird).

So here I am looking at transition material from the beads to the cubing material. If a child needs this sort of a step, he's not ready for the cubing material - and the adult needs to go back and fill in those chinks in the foundation FAST!

I've never heard of the multi-base material. It looks similar to the hierarchical materials (and is almost as expensive), but comes with a bunch of stuff that doesn't make sense.
(UPDATE 12/8/12 - I OWN this material! And didn't KNOW it! It was tucked away!).

Snake game guides? the children should be making these up on their own with the material provided to them. Creativity. Working out various problems. If they've set up the problem, they own it - they'll be invested in it. They'll find those patterns more efficiently because they'll be the ones setting it up (my son's use of the number 9 in so many of his division problems has revealed patterns to him that he would not have seen if I'd given him ALL of his math problems).

I can see the benefit having base-10 material for those who can't afford the golden beads. Ok fine. But not in addition to it.

Magnetic Number and Counter Boards - the children do need to learn control of movement. It's ok to learn control of movement by having math tiles physically slip away. That's the interconnected nature of Montessori. It all builds together.

All the language sections just make me cry. No wonder so many people are "scared away" from Montessori. You don't NEED all those materials! Now, I'll admit that Hebrew movable alphabet is looking pretty attractive for our level 3 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium... what a neat novelty!
But then, we try to limit the novelties in there too.

The science materials needed for elementary geography are difficult to find - a lot is there - it's just hard to spot, mixed in with all the stuff that is "extra".

Far too many timelines just handed to the child. That's inappropriate. The elementary child should be exploring and researching and CREATING these timelines.
Now, there are some neat-looking research cards to correspond to the Timeline of Life and of Humans - these look helpful.
But then, I'm only seeing one timeline of humans - there are two in any keys-based album....
(Click here for a Montessori Nugget on timelines)

UPDATED 12/8/12 to add this paragraph:
Fraction sets for 1/11 through 1/20 - there is a keys-based presentation for helping the children work with fraction above 1/10. If a child is given the material for fractions 1/11 and higher, he is losing out on the opportunity to explore on an abstract level. He will always be hindered in his work because he was given "the fish" when he needed directions on "using the fishing pole". I have had 3 moms tell me their 5 or 6 year old was SO STRONGLY into fractions and since the child was so young, this hands-on material would be appropriate for them. NO! Can I say that loud enough!? NO!!! NO! NO! NO! There is a reason that fractions are in the primary album for children ages 5 and 6 - BECAUSE they have an intense interest! So we are already feeding that interest! But we are feeding that interest by providing the FOUNDATION. A STRONG foundation in the basic facts and uses of fractions. Then if your child is truly a fractions-genius and his interest hasn't yet waned (most children's intense interest in fractions wanes for a year or two, because they 1) need to consolidate and 2) are moving on to other areas of development and 3) there is just so much else to DO) - there are a series of elementary level presentations that are worked on FIRST, before you even get to the need for doing 1/11 and beyond. Once you get to the presentation for 1/11 and beyond - WE DON'T STOP AT 1/20! We go 1/100 and 1/360 and BEYOND even that! So when a child is ready - he's READY!

Therefore the materials are superfluous at best; a hindrance and a crutch at worst. Don't bother with them!

SO. I do humbly apologize to all those people asking me about materials lists for the various albums and I've had it lower on the priority list. I didn't realize how drastic the situation truly is - trying to sort through what is needed as a KEY, what is appropriate as a follow-up and what is straight-up unnecessary or even dangerous (educationally-speaking).

The materials lists is now moved to the TOP of the priority list. Look for the materials lists organized by chapter within each album by the end of the week if you are a Keys of the Universe participant. Not a participant? Consider joining - or I will provide a modified (more generic version) for all newsletter subscribers.
(UPDATE 12/8/12 - these materials lists were posted a while back, but I do need to get them out to newsletter subscribers!)

Stepping off soap-box now. :) Thank you for indulging me. :)

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