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.

When Montessori FAILS


So many times in Montessori - or *any* homeschool program or experience - we feel like failures.

As intentionally homeschooling parents we tend to doubt ourselves even more than other parents - are we making the right decisions? Am I doing this right? Is this really what is right for my child?

What is very true about Montessori is that it is intended for *all* children - the universal child. The key principles of observation and key-based response leads to a personalized experience for each child - that recognizes both the universal forces within the child as well as their individual uniqueness.

But when Montessori doesn't work for *our* child, we doubt. Either it is ourselves or it is the method. Or maybe Montessori doesn't actually work for every child.

Well.... What Montessori means to some people might not work for every child, but the *core* of what Montessori actually IS does indeed work for all children.

For additional pointers, see this Montessori Trails post about Presentations and Materials in the homeschool Montessori environment.

An article at Keys of the Universe on a Child Refusing Presentations.


Some keys to keep in mind with authentic Montessori:
  • Montessori works on a 3-fold foundation: prepared adult, prepared child, prepared environment. Of the three, the prepared adult is the most difficult. 
  • While it is not "about" the materials, the authentic Montessori materials are the response to the observation that children need particular keys to help them organize their world and master concepts. These keys have been thoughtfully developed and prepared to meet particular needs - and each material has a DEPTH that not all albums, trainers, or bloggers provide. 
  • Montessori is really about living real life - and providing the keys at various points to aid in living that real life. Living life with respect for one another, honoring the presence of each person in one's life as well as those who came before us and those who will come after us. 


It is when we worry that our child is not working with the materials, we doubt. So let's consider why the child isn't connecting with the materials and Montessori-based experiences:
  • it may be in our personal approach
  • it may be the reality that our children need something else in that particular moment
  • It may be the fact that our children learn through observation (we can learn through observation too!)
  • It may also be a lack of understanding the school versus the home setting. Montessori is not about the materials but about living life. We use the materials to provide keys-based experiences, but the children in a school do NOT spend their entire 3-hour work cycle touching the materials. They have bathroom breaks, stories, conversations, watering plants, caring for animals, perhaps some gardening, snack time, walking on the line. 
  • In other words, the children may not need as much repetition with the materials at this point in their self-construction. They may need that repetition later; or they are simply observing - they see the material, they recall the presentation and the concepts shown, and they are repeating the concepts in their own minds! 
  • If you your child is age 4 and suddenly not interested in much, works through things too fast or too sloppily, this is the time of mental percolation. YOU work with the materials, YOU talk through things. Let the absorbent mind of the child take it in. Four years olds are percolating ;) 

Questions to ask ourselves: 
  • Do you have a continuous, no sharp corners, non-circular line for walking? 
  • Are you doing the activities that don't utilize materials (silence game, in primary (ages 3-6) the entire first chapter of the language album (Spoken Language activities are actually QUITE extensive), so many more!)
  • Are we presenting the keys, then letting the child have time to explore and discover extensions and games and the like before we introduce them ourselves - in other words, are we pacing enough to keep presenting new things (daily in the beginning - but again, not everything with materials) while allowing personal discovery? 
  • How much time have we spent JUST observing? 
  • Do we have a good guide for WHAT to be observing? 
  • Is your child age 4? 
  • Do you have access to a solid theory source? 



Practical things to DO in Montessori: 
  • Observe your child. Note interests, attention span, actual needs (some of which are unexpressed). Mastery of a skill or lack thereof is not necessarily a sign of needing to move forward or hold back - observe other signs. For example, sometimes a child will not do a work well or choose a work, because it is already below their current abilities. Sometimes a child will do those things because the work is too difficult - still not the right match just yet. 
  • Have real conversations and experiences that bring the child into life in the real world. Social situations, gardening, caring for animals, practical life of cooking and cleaning. 
  • Hold your child responsible for cleaning up after himself - yes this can be with your help; the focus here is on setting that good habit of "the work is not done until is put away and/or ready for the next person."
  • Consider everything you do as part of your child's education - you have been teaching your child since your child was conceived (or since you adopted your child) - so keep right on doing it. And count that all as education! 
  • Do the work yourself. 





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