Especially for homeschoolers, there are certain materials that always provoke questions: are they useful or not and at which ages?
The puzzle maps are one such material. Large puzzles of the world and each continent, with each continent or country its own pieces (and knobs placed at the capitals as much as possible).
The official AMI statement is that elementary children are too old for this material, even if they are all new to Montessori. Experiences by so many parents and teachers show that they most certainly CAN be useful, although they are likely to be used in different ways than primary.
In any area, the main points to consider when choosing a material that is "out of age range" are the following:
- is this material FEEDING a child's needs?
- is it useful?
- how long will it be useful for?
- Do you have money and space for it? Or do you need an alternative?
- Is the child just going to hide behind this work? (it is ok for a 4 year old to spend 3 hours with the Africa map, just reconstructing it; but it is not ok for a typically developing 8 year old to do so - the 8 year old should be labeling the countries, listing the capitals, creating a booklet or chart of information, creating a new control map, etc - anything that is an extension and using his imagination to come up with new extensions).
- is there a more appropriate material for the proper age range? if so, hone in on that material instead.
For the Geography Puzzle Maps:
- Elementary children should not be working them "just as puzzles" if they work with them.
- The outlines are not the most accurate. They are fine for the primary age as a sensorial impression. This is a good conversation starter at elementary and gets the children analyzing.
- The ideal piece of material are pin maps, but if you have puzzle maps it makes sense to use them for as long as possible. The elementary children can ultimately create pin-maps themselves out of cardboard and pins - or skip the pins and just create their own maps.
Think through each material carefully and make the decision that is right for YOUR situation.