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, February 7, 2013

Prepared Card Materials

prepared card material - one of the definition stages
What are the benefit to already prepared/purchased cards over ones created on the fly? 

That answer depends on the age of the child!

Consider how the cards are supposed to be used - a teaching tool or review?

At primary, the language album (in AMI the language album includes some of the music, science, geography, and the like, thus almost all-encompassing) emphasizes that the card material should only be brought out after the child has had experience with the real thing.

So we bring out the classifications of vertebrates/non-vertebrates and the sets for classes of vertebrates, AFTER visiting the aquarium, the zoo, the farm, pet stores, or having had some of those creatures as pets or visitors. Then we use the cards to emphasize the vocabulary, review the concepts learned and provide an easier method for sorting the animals. We can also introduce new micro-concepts with the cards at this stage (such as "animals of another continent").

We bring in the leaf nomenclature cards, and the botany cabinet, after going outside and exploring leaves on the trees and other plants.

We do have some cards already prepared that are "keys". Otherwise, it is preferred to follow the child's interest at the first plane of development. And you'll likely want to purchase sets either already printed, or to be printed, rather than make them up as you go - fun, but time-consuming if someone else has already done the work. (but if you do make more - share them with the world ;) ).

In elementary, we have a very few (MINIMAL) number of prepared "keys" card sets that the children utilize in different ways than they did at primary. And there are definition cards/strips (could have been added at age 5 in primary, but the elementary definitions are split up different), and other components - making these more "5-part cards".

The main thrust at elementary though, is still review. The child must still have real experience or study first, then the cards come after. Unless something is a key (found in a key-based album), or is on the local educational requirements, then the children should be creating! Creating charts, diagrams, nomenclature card material for his own review or to create as a game or presentation for other children (yes, it's ok for these things to come from the other children - because it inspires the recipient children to then know they can create their own as well!).

The above is my professional opinion. 

My personal opinion as a homeschool mom is that even with the local educational requirements, it is very possible and potentially even preferable for the children to still create their own material. Rather than hand them a timeline of American history for study, our local educational requirements for 3rd grade, actually require the children to MAKE the timeline - and that's not even Montessori! Yet timeline making is a very big deal in Montessori history, thus it seems to an odd mis-match that the public schools want it child-made and Montessori schools/homeschools could just hand it to the child. And honestly, really, this mom is busy and just wants to spend TIME with the child, not always creating, finding, printing, preparing, or otherwise working to earn the money to purchase materials, that he can TRULY do himself.

Legoboy has taken various sets of nomenclature material, re-created it himself, making his own booklets and charts; then moving into elementary starting making his own subject matter. We (or he by himself) do some reading, watch some videos, go see/do real things, then he chooses the media and method of his own review: a notebook of lists, photographs, nomenclature cards, nomenclature charts, games, Legos, clay figures, crafty projects, word-based projects (such as reports), or I can't even think of what all else! Off and on, he is working on a now 3-year project of combining the timelines of various ancient civilizations, only looking at the ancient time period itself. Could I hand him a timeline from ETC Montessori for just this purpose? YEP! Am I gonna? NO!

This was HIS project; HIS idea; HIS organization; HIS learning. If I hand him that timeline, I have taken away everything that makes the work personally his. Everything that makes it valuable. By allowing him to create the timeline, think through the placement, change things up, he is learning SO much: even spacing, how much spacing, how to add more details in busy areas (fold-up pages was his solution; sometimes he has little booklets glued on), decisions on colors that will keep things organized and visually appealing. What happens with a BIG mistake? how do we correct that? (problem-solving, emotional control, channeling of anger and disappointment into something constructive); What ARE the most important events? which events are just interesting? which events are so funny they have to be included? Which ones make no sense or have uncertain dates - how shall we note those ones? storage of the material while in-progress; at what stages do we want photographs or ready to share it with someone? Perhaps there are places to add a little pouch into which are inserted homemade 3-part cards for these various civilizations? I can't remember what all he has on there right now, but I know he has Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Mesopotamia, specifically Ancient Israel, Ancient China just for comparison.
(and no, this was work was not initially inspired by the Timeline of Civilizations, but its continuation most certainly was!)

The creative expression, the cultivation of the intellect and the imagination as an integrated unit. 

That was my goal and despite not always feeling up to par in many areas, this is one goal that has been achieved and is still being achieved - and it is why I fell in love with Montessori.

So, yep, I'm passionate about ;)
a girl re-creating a biology impressionistic chart

It is an aspect I see fading away in so many of the schools I visit or sub at - where the children are handed "everything" instead of just the "keys" - and the outcomes are such that I would not want to send my child to that school.

Montessori without creative expression is what so many people see when comparing Montessori Waldorf or even Charlotte Mason. But Montessori without creative expression isn't really Montessori.

ON THE FLY MATERIAL: The children should be making it, not the adults.
BALANCE: Provide the keys with prepared materials along with the tools needed for the children to create their own.

But what about those personal interests? How do we provide without going crazy with constant last-minute preparations?

Provide resources on the subject at hand: books, videos, outings, opportunities, discussions. Discern the pertinent information and invite the child to take notes on keywords with bare-bones descriptions (so they don't end up plagiarizing - and yes, note taking can start in primary, with keywords and pictures, and the adult can write a minimal amount for the child). To inspire the child, the adult might need to show a list of keywords/images on paper or on notecards just once to show how it might be done. Just enough to get them started!

Provide paper varieties, pencils, colored pencils, paints, clays, Legos, wood, whatever! Provide a few basic tools, then provide a few more basics as interests expand.

Don't break the bank or your patience! ;)

Tracing the beaded 100-square. Why nine circles in each row/column?
Because those are the gaps between the beads - not the beads themselves.
He accidentally discovered the concept of "negatives"
and the art concept of "negative space."

Recognize this one? His ode to completing the material.
He says, "It is so beautiful I had to make it just one time!"

Re-creating scene from a piece of literature


  1. Love the information in this post! It seems like I am always on alert waiting to see where my daughter's interests will take her. After the second great lesson presentation, she started reading about micro-organisms and then now is totally obsessed with fungi! Since we did not have any good books on hand I searched through the library to get her a few books. One of them has a lot of activities to do, so she is busy trying to complete those that she can. Luckily I had a Magic School Bus kit on germs on hand that she could use to do some of her experiments. I love this new phase of learning though, so much curiosity and so much deeper learning! Glad I did not buy or make any information cards on fungi for her, I am sure she would love to make some!

    1. I asked my son his favorite card material to make: "Parts of a scroll saw" (I had a broken one here that needed to be recycled and he took photos of it, read its instruction manual and created a booklet and set of cards).

      Magic School Bus kits - we LOVED them for getting us started with science, back before my elementary albums were properly organized for homeschool use. They provided so many tools and a sense of organization, without breaking the bank or being "over-done". Perfect for that kindergarten to 2nd grade or so (although we did them with pre-teens as well!) ;)