Sunday, September 4, 2011

About Montessori

A few of you have asked why I haven't set up a Montessori curriculum for my sons this year as I started homeschooling them.  While I understand why you're curious, it surprised me a bit because I honestly hadn't thought about the fact that I wasn't using a Montessori curriculum for them.  After it was brought to my attention, I was forced to reflect on why I hadn't set up our homeschool environment in a "Montessori" way.  So I'll do my best to put my thoughts about that into writing here.  Please don't hesitate to email me or leave a comment if you'd like.  I love getting comments!

OK, first of all, my Montessori training is for 3-6 year olds and that is the curriculum I'm most comfortable with in regard to Montessori education.  I can assure you that if I'd started homeschooling back when they were in preschool or younger, our "schoolroom" would have had a definite Montessori vibe with open shelves and materials from which they could self-select.  That said, I don't have the training in Montessori Elementary education.  I have thought about getting it in the past, but it just hasn't been feasible from either a financial or time-commitment standpoint. 

Next, my oldest son (who is turning 10 soon) attended a private Montessori elementary for first and second grade.  It was a wonderful school and I feel he got a great introduction and exposure to the key elements of a Montessori elementary education.  If he were attending a Montessori school this fall, he'd be in the 9-12 year old class.......and that is definitely out of my realm of expertise when it comes to Montessori training.  I think Montessori is a wonderful model, even at the older age levels.  I just don't feel that I could replicate it in a homeschool setting.  As I researched homeschool curricula almost obsessively last winter, I wasn't able to come up with a resource for "doing" Montessori with upper elementary children in a home setting.  If any of you have any suggestions or references for something like this, I'd be thrilled to take a look!

From the little I know about Montessori education at the elementary level, I know that there is a great deal of emphasis placed on non-fiction reading and reading for research purposes.  While I believe these to be very valid and necessary goals for children, my oldest son excels in this area and would spend all his time reading non-fiction or for research if given the choice.   Reading and understanding fiction at a higher reading level is an area that I felt I needed to focus on with him this year.  So when I chose our main curriculum (A World of Adventure by Learning Adventures), I was looking for something that had literature at its core and which tied in the history and science with the literature components.  In many ways, I can see that the structure of AWOA actually closely matches what I can imagine would be emphasized in an upper-elementary Montessori setting:  lots of content reading from "real books", learning history in chronological order, and hands-on projects to reinforce concepts.

Finally, I think one of the basic tenets that characterizes Montessori education is to "follow the child".  This, more than any material or exercise, is what I believe to be the essential message of Maria Montessori.  Given that, I will definitely be implementing a "follow the child" philosophy in our homeschool setting as I try to build on my children's interests and strengths while simultaneously matching my support and encouragement to their areas of need or struggle.

I truly appreciate being asked this question.  It has been very thought-provoking and reflective for me to ponder.  And I hope I've adequately explained my reasoning for choosing the path I've chosen.  If any of you are using a Montessori approach with your older children, I would really love to hear about it!!  I love how blogging connects people of similar interests and allows us to learn from each other. 


  1. That is a very interesting answer and as far as you older son is concerned I can completely understand your reasons. I hope you do not asking me about your younger son?! He is still at an age to enjoy some of the aspects of Montessori that you are familiar with and would benefit fomr enormously. I'm thinking of using the golden beads for maths and some of the late primary language materials. The hands-on aspect of Montessori is so important for understanding key concepts. Are you going to use materials for teaching him, even if you don't follow the curriculum?

    Enjoy the new week!

  2. There's some useful (and free) Teacher albums for the 6-9 crowd to be found here:

  3. Thanks, Alison, for the link. I will surely check it out. What a great resource!

    Annicles, That's a very valid question about my younger son. I agree that he would love using the golden bead material and benefit from it greatly. When I was his Montessori teacher for two years in preschool, I did have him work with that material. Unfortunately, our homeschool budget doesn't allow me to purchase the golden bead material for our home. However, the math curriculum we're using, Right Start, is very hands on and has several manipulatives that are quite similar to the golden bead material as well as using the decimal cards. As for the language materials, he is at a point where he can sound out most words with a CVC pattern as well as the blends. I will use some of my Montessori language downloads with him to work on harder phonetic words. Additionally, our spelling program, All About Spelling, is very hands-on and uses individual letter cards which are very similar to the moveable alphabet. Thanks so much for your question, I didn't mind it a bit!!

  4. We use All About Spelling also and love it. I agree that it fits very well with Montessori. Thank you for your post. I was one who asked why you weren't doing Montessori with your sons and this completely answers the question. I wish I had gone with Rightstart but I went with Singapore with my daughter. She isn't liking it very much and the last thing I want is for her not to like math so we've put it aside and I am reading my albums to help me with some Montessori lessons (which is what she is used to as that is what I have done with her since she was 2.5). I am not Montessori trained though and so sometimes I worry about that. All I have to go by are Karen Tyler and Meg's (Sew Liberated) albums and lots of inspiration from your old blog. Please never delete that! :)

  5. I love that honeschooling really makes you look hard at yourself and see why you do what you do! It's hard, but its a good thing to do! I love that you are really looking at wha tyour biys need, even if it means stepping out of what you know! Great Job!
    And I agree with Julie, it is hard to "do" montessori and not be trained. Having your old blog is super helpful! Thanks!

  6. Laura,
    have you heard of the Redwall series of fiction stories for boys?
    My son read and re-read them for 2 years (and had a marvelous time laughing as they are very humorous) starting in 4th grade, and I have to credit this series with his achieving a 12.9 (late high school) reading score when he was tested in 7th or 8th grade. He is more naturally inclined toward math and sports and music, and would probably have been one of those at-risk readers had we not discovered this series.

    He also loved Eragon and the other Christopher Paolini novels, and of course The Hobbit.

    Hope this is helpful to you!

  7. I understand your post entirely! My son and I are officially "elementary Montessori homeschooling" but many people that look at our minute to minute schedule wouldn't recognize it as such. Elementary Montessori provides the framework and some materials; but it is SO full of independent research AND the expectation of meeting local educational standards (ie Mom's requirements ;).

    Some great elementary albums and online support for 6-12 can be found at - a lot cheaper than trying to do two sets of trainings :)