Getting Started
in Montessori

New to Montessori? A page to get you started.

How do I start Montessori homeschooling? 
How do we begin using Montessori at home? 


Beginning Montessori - at any age: 
(looking for specifically elementary? scroll about 1/3 of the page down)

In a nutshell, Montessori is an approach to life that focuses on 
  • observation and response
  • prepared environment, prepared adult and prepared child
  • keys-based experiences that open up opportunities for exploration in areas of interest and family values
    • simplicity in what is presented, to focus on what is necessary
  • simplicity, beauty, order

What am I supposed to *do*? 
On the one hand, it is NOT about specifically what to do, if you are focusing on keys. But a good Montessori scope and sequence definitely helps you to see what has been observed over the last 110 years to be developmentally appropriate at approximate ages. The Montessori scope and sequence page provided here has many free suggestions and a few paid options.

*How* do I do Montessori? 
You need a consistent approach. And that is found in a combination of a good mentor and a set of "complete" albums. You can read all the blogs, join all the Facebook groups, you can read all of Montessori's books (and you should!), but still not know how to DO Montessori - those places will help you once you know what/how to do ;) You can then go on to Pinterest and see all of things that are labeled Montessori - and then your brain starts hurting ;)


Theory album corresponding with the age of the children you are with, will be your most direct, concise guidance for you. That Theory album takes all of Maria Montessori's experiences for that plane of development (age group), distilled into topic-specific chunks, with updated research and experiences to corroborate or build on her own experiences, and presents it to the album reader in a way that helps Montessori make sense. You can read every single book by and about Maria Montessori (and you should read all of them!) - the theory albums pull those pieces together.
  1. ) Read Susan Stephenson's books The Universal Child: Guided by Nature and then the book of choice based on the age of your chid: The Joyful Child (ages 0-3) or Child of the World (ages 3-12+)
  2. ) Read an appropriate theory album for the age of the children you have or are preparing for - and you'll understand Montessori without having a single "authentic" Montessori material.
  3. ) Read Montessori's books The 1946 London Lectures and The Discovery of the Child
  4. ) By now you'll be putting things into practice! 
  5. ) Read The Absorbent Mind.


By the way: authentic Montessori materials, start with REAL LIFE experiences and an environment ready for the child to explore - no expense involved. ;)

The albums are divided into the following age groups:
  • Infant-Toddler (conception to 3rd birthday)
  • Primary (2 1/2 to 6th birthday)
  • Elementary (6-12) - some are artifically divided between lower elementary and upper elementary
  • Adolescence (12-15/12-18)

What are albums? 
Albums contain the lesson plans, but are not JUST lesson plans - and they are far more than just "notes". Albums explain how the key experiences and materials connect back to the publications we have of Dr. Montessori. Albums are the prepared physical environment in written form, thus they are a written description of all the materials and experiences provided for the child at that plane of development. In a way, albums are the curriculum - they are half the curriculum - the child is the other half. Good albums also include tons of information on the psychological environment, the preparation of the child and the preparation of the adult within each area.

With an album set, you will have access to the "key experiences" for each age level, which will allow you the freedom to adapt and modify for YOUR situation. You do not need all the materials listed in the albums - these are "maps" to help you identify developmentally appropriate key experiences.

See these related Montessori Nuggets:

Read these blogs:

Read this page for a list of most currently available Montessori albums at each age level:
Montessori albums - list of options

NOTE: Albums are not advertised as being a full training course and do not replace a full training course. If you have the option for a full training course, GO FOR IT!


Can't I read other blogs and read other books? And what about Pinterest? 
YES! Go for it! Just know that most blogs (including my own) provide their own modifications for their own families and schools. That is great for them to do. But YOU should start with the core and modify for YOUR situation, Some people choose to step away from the homeschooling Montessori and Montessori school blogs while they are getting on their own feet, so they can focus on their own family. This is my personal recommendation. Pick the one or two blogs or online resources that seem to fit your family values the closest; join a good support group; just BEGIN; move outward from there as you are ready.

Pinterest? Some good stuff is becoming more obviously available but there are many things dubbed Montessori that really aren't. The theory album will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.


What groups of other Montessori homeschooling parents can I join?
Feel free to comment below if you know of others!

Yahoo groups:
  • playschool6
  • montessorimakers
  • Montessori_online
  • Montessori_swap (buying/selling/trading materials only)

Facebook groups: 
  • Montessori Homeschooling
  • Montessori Elementary and Adolescent Homeschoolers
  • Montessori Moms
  • Montessori Material For Sale
  • Bringing up Montessori Infants and Toddlers
  • Montessori Connections





Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling

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Useful tips for starting a new classroom or transitioning in new-to-Montessori children as well.
Over the years, there have been numerous blog posts and other articles helping parents get started with Montessori homeschooling; most of these articles are addressed to the primary level; a few to elementary. None really get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Montessori intensely observed the child and his inner workings, observing what has been there since the moment of creation - and found a way to provide for what she discovered. On the one hand, nothing magical; on the other hand, so profound that it affects our very being - because that is what she observed - the depth of the human soul. Thus Montessori is about more than materials and lesson plans (album pages), more than the academics... it gets down deep and the environment MUST reflect this depth in order to achieve the true fulfillment of the child.
Elementary is compatible with primary, if you have children of both ages in your home; but it is NOT the same. The needs and tendencies are the same, the core response is the same (respect, follow the child), but the outward signs are different. Why? Because the elementary child is now in the second plane of development, which brings about a set of changes. A need for order? Yes! but order has now been internalized and the child no longer feels the need to keep order in his outer environment - now we must be very conscious about keeping our space cleaned up out of respect for the other persons in the environment and not for our own internal development. Among many other examples.
So how do we get started with Montessori homeschooling at the elementary level? What if your child has had no Montessori background or is even approaching the adolescent years. Let's take a look at what remains the same. First some previously posted articles of interest that remain pertinent to our needs in this article - these apply to both primary and elementary, with my elementary additions:
Thoughts to keep in mind as you FOCUS ON THE KEYS: 
    • A set of Montessori albums (manuals, lesson plans) will be your "keys" - your academic teasers to get the children working on their own interests. 
    • The children should be exploring their own interests; and you will need to pull in resources according to those interests.
    • You do NOT need the most expensive manuals with every possible interest included. You want something reasonably-priced with the *keys* so that you have both time and money to do what you need to do with your child's interests.
    • You WANT a theory album to explain all the background in every day applicable terms.
    • The elementary level is OPPOSITE the primary level in the following key ways:
        1. If the child is not yet reading/writing, reading will typically come first. (in primary, writing was first)
        2. We will now provide the BIG picture first; then go back and fill in the details. We will provide that big picture every single year of elementary - so there is plenty of time to come back to it; they don't need to get everything the first year. (in primary, we start with the most basic) - Cosmic Education (everything is inter-connected) - the big picture is told via stories called the Great Lessons. 
        3. It is NOT necessary to finish the primary albums before moving into elementary, if you have AMI (keys) albums that provide for what to do with children who didn't finish or didn't do primary Montessori.
So how do I suggest getting started with elementary Montessori homeschooling?
(these tips are good regardless if you are new to Montessori altogether or are transitioning from primary to elementary or even if your children are nearing or even in adolescence)
  1. Follow the steps in the two articles above - and READ. This is just to get started in laying the foundation. Add in the book Volume 2 of The Advanced Montessori Method (available free online through Google Books) - just the background portions to get a feel for things. Also add in Child of the World from Susan Stephenson. Purchase your core set of albums, or at least the "theory" album. Hint: if the set of albums does not contain theory, it probably won't suit your homeschool needs at this time; these other album options can be added later if you find your child has particular interests. 
  2. Focus on de-cluttering your home. Don't get rid of anything just yet (you'll end up wanting some of that stuff back) - just clear it out of the main living areas. Do get it out of the way - what is the purpose(s) of each room, just have what you need there. You do not need 5 tools to do the same job. You do want your children to have access to the tools they need. Consider placing strong chemicals in a high-up cabinet so that the accessible cabinets contain safe items. Consider replacing your cleaning chemicals with safe substances your children can use with you.
  3. IF you are transitioning from primary, you will be removing a LOT of trays (or keep the trays for your other littles). The elementary child now has things he needs in more logical places. Science experiments are only trays for the teacher demonstration, and when the child goes to the supply shelf to gather his needed supplies. He does NOT need everything laid out for him on a tray anymore. Trays at the elementary age, for the most part, are an insult to his intelligence. Yes, a nice basket of interesting items, requested by the child or presented once in a while by the adult is a great way to entice an interest, but that doesn't look like primary ;)
  4. WITH your children, make any necessary repairs on found items. These practical life skills are HUGE to the foundation of an elementary child's education. And a very strong preparation for a fantastic adolescent experience.
  5. WITH your children, truly clean the house. Same idea with the practical life skills. Use those safe cleaners (white vinegar, baking soda and citric acid go a LONG way; add some washing soda and borax and 99% of your cleaning is done). Use those large muscles and those tiny muscles. CARE about the environment and show them how to do so as well.
  6. On your cleaning breaks: Begin telling the Great Lessons. Just the stories, with the included experiments. You'll pull your supplies from what you have, only buy what you  need for these lessons.
  7. Work on remedial language skills IF needed. 5 minutes at a time, interspersed throughout the day - the needed keys should be in your elementary Montessori language album. The ideal is that a 1st grader can read at what the public schools consider a 3rd grade reading level. By 2nd grade, a Montessori child utilizing KEYS, will be reading at middle/high school level and your only concern from there is keeping up with maturity in regards to topics.
  8. Where do your children's interests lead? Establish the pattern of hearing a story, exploring what we think about it, what entices us, what questions do we have (write those questions down and expect them to find answers, sometimes with your help), what do we want to DO with this new knowledge (write that down too). The children can copy the chart, re-create the charts in another way, repeat experiments, seek out further information on a key point of interest.... If they have more than one idea, write down the other ideas to save for another day. Encourage a point of completion - write down the question and the answer found; draw pictures; collect ideas in a notebook; create a poster; etc. Around this time you will also be starting to work on work plans and journals - as you are comfortable and find the need for accountability, it will come more naturally. Not every story or presentation will lead to self-designed follow-up; be ok with that, but also be encouraging of the child asking questions, going further, and EXPLORING. 
  9. (this step might be a month or more in) With your chosen set of albums, go through the early math lessons to find where your child is. Keep it fun and interesting - let your child show you what they know. Let them know this is what you are doing (show a material, state its purpose and say, "show me what you know, I'll fill in the rest"). Do NOT worry about the age on the album pages when you are starting - just focus on finding where your child is since the sequence is very different from every other math option out there. Begin where needed and move forward from there. Hint: Good elementary math albums include a section on what to do with children who have had no (or limited) primary experience. Do not start a typically developing elementary child in the primary math album.
  10. Getting into the rest of the albums. By now, you should find that you are using most or at least half of the subject albums based on the child's interests (geography, music, biology, history) and the basic skills (math, language, geometry). Add in the remaining subjects when appropriate for your family.
There you have it: 10 Steps to Elementary Montessori Homeschooling.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this helpful post! :) I have a few questions:
    1. How long would you say it should take to get from step one to step 10?

    2. How should a child be encouraged to find the answers to his own questions if he does not know how (i.e.he is not yet comfortable reading on his own)? Do we do the research with him until he learns how to do it on his own?

    3. Do we absolutely need to start with the great lessons, or can we start with the remedial stuff first?

    4.What if the interests are beyond what he has studied/learned...for example he is asking about cells, when we have not yet started lessons in biology, but have read a book from the library that mentions something about cells? Should we go ahead and teach him more about cells even before he has learned the fundamentals?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings :)

      It should take as long as it needs to take. Everyone's situation will be entirely different.

      The child who doesn't know how to read comfortably yet should be provided those needed keys, according to the plane of development he is in. The planes of development describe the change in the child's mind over time - in the first plane (0-6) the child has an absorbent mind and in the second plane (ages 6-12) the child has a reasoning mind. So the keys/helps we provide will vary - same information, different style.

      Holding back an elementary child who is otherwise ready for the vision of the universe and life provided by the Great Lessons because he can't yet read, might very well be holding him back from that which makes reading a useful skill to him.

      As far as doing research, there are videos, meeting with people, visiting places on-site (museums, archaeological digs, aquariums, etc. etc. etc.) that go far beyond information found in books. Research is about having a question, checking a variety of information and finding your answer (in turn generally leading to other questions ;) ). Most of us grew up thinking about "research papers" and libraries only, but the world is MUCH wider ;) So a child wonders what kind of birds visit his backyard - most of his research time will be spent with binoculars or a camera.

      If a child has an interest - he is ready to learn something about that subject. It might not be MUCH or it might be a LOT. It sounds like you are asking about an elementary age child (research, Great Lessons, etc.) - so it would be totally fine to move into the plant studies in the biology album and start looking at plant cells under a microscope. Anything he truly needs to learn to understand something in a current interest, he will be able to take in small chunks as he is learning :)

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  2. Montessori for the Unique Learner. A Facebook closed group of primarily homeschoolers with at least one child who has a special needs/ diagnosis making learning more of a challanging adventure. The group will remain closed to the public and screens as it focuses on applying Montessori's methods but in an environment for parents of Children with special needs.

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