Before we start, let's consider that all of the below could be "included" to a small and APPROPRIATE degree within a Montessori environment. And the Montessori approach is set to meet the needs of the individuals living IN that environment/community.
And let's move towards accuracy of our terms.
Montessori is NOT:
Montessori is not letter of the week. P is for pumpkin. Have a seasonal focus such as a focus on
pumpkins and other fall produce - via practical life in drying
pumpkins/gourds, decorating them, carving them, preparing snacks with
their insides, etc. These are GREAT. Swap out some language experiences, especially in describing sensorial experiences with these autumn objects (taste, smell, visual, texture - lots of sensorial real life experience, lots of language, lots of practical life, even some math if you want to introduce basic graphing (how many seeds in each pumpkin/gourd), measuring using language such as height, length, width, girth, perimeter ---- AWESOME options here! All that expand on the keys provided. We call this "real life experience" ;)
Just remember that 1) pumpkin is phonetic and 2) whether phonetic or not, play the SOUND GAME with it ;)
Pumpkin is also for p, uh, m, another p, ck, ih, n
What are ALL the sounds you hear in the word pumpkin? What other words do we know with "uh" in the middle? with "n" at the end? Any words that rhyme with pumpkin?
(this leads into not focusing on CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) - but providing experiences exploring ALL of language --- another topic, for another day)
Montessori is not "work on trays". We do have some work on trays.
Montessori is also not "work on mats" though this practice is more prevalent than trays ;)
Montessori is not worksheets, however cute. In homeschools, we find these slip in from time to time.
Montessori is not hands-on learning. Well, it IS hands-on learning, but
just because it is a hands-on activity doesn't mean it is actually
Montessori or even Montessori inspired. Some hands-on activities
available via internet and dubbed as Montessori are still
adult-directed, not developmentally needed activities.
Montessori is NOT free-for-all - only do what the child wants to do and
absolutely nothing else. The adult sets the environment; the child
constructs himself from it. The adult is a guide for the child through
that environment, and the adult carefully observes the child, has
conversations with him, and gets to know each child very well so as to
know what is the next appropriate step for the child, then present new
material as such. The adult should also be presenting some new material
at varying times regardless of interest, so as to expand the children's
horizons, provide additional work choices, ignite potential interest
either in the moment or down the road, the child will know there is a
suitable work choice already available to him when he is ready.
Montessori is not unit studies. The teacher/adult/parent might have some seasonal experiences for the children, and there may be some rotation of a very few materials. Within a homeschool setting, there can be unit studies of course; just know that these are part of your home experience. It is a slippery slope to have "Montessori units" because it becomes adult led and directed, and not keys-based, interest/need-driven. Unit studies centered around a family interest and planned/modified as a group are GREAT. Thus, they have a place, but are let's call it "outcomes" based on interests/needs/keys, not what we go into Montessori with.
Montessori IS real life experiences in the context of real
life, with some time spent each day focusing on specific keys to the
world (below age 6) or keys to the universe (above age 6) - height,
weight, numbers, specific practical life skills. Each of these
experiences and skill-keys are developmental in that the child takes
these experiences and these keys and constructs (develops) himself with them. We
follow the child in his developmental needs and his personal interests,
sometimes providing something he needs but doesn't know that he needs,
through a new presentation, a conversation, a real life experience.