This wekk in one of the home ed groups I’m in, someone asked about Montessori books for home ed. I went digging around on Amazon (shh) and found that you can get Montessori Play and Learn : A Parents’ Guide to Purposeful Play from Two to Six for as low as 1p plus postage secondhand. And then I found The Montessori Method on Kindle for only 72p. Bargain.
I suspect with those two books, you could get a pretty good understanding of the theory, and the practice, of Montessori. The best way to learn it is hands on, of course, given that’s how it works. It’s hands on 😉
The idea is quite simple. Children learn by doing, by exploration, by getting stuck in. Montessori is *not* a teaching system – there are no passive recipients of knowledge. It’s designed (and yes, I do mean designed) for a completely different outcome. The materials are meant to be self correcting, so once the use of the material has been demonstrated, the child can then get on with using it with very little further input, and learn from the use.
What does that mean? Well, for some things, like the trinomialor binomial cubes, you can tell you’ve done it right because when you’re done it fits back in the box (The cube can be used for teaching algebra. That bit isn’t usually discussed at age 3 or 4 though.)
Or with the spindle box, there are exactly the right number of spindles. So if you run out before the end, or you’ve got any left over, then you’ve done it wrong. You can buy montessori materials, as you can see, but lots of them are very expensive.
You can also make them. When Maria Montessori was doing all of this, wood was the material of choice, and I suspect the materials were effectively cheap and cheerful, as well as being extraordinarily hard wearing, and forgiving of multiple use. In our throwaway world, plastic is the thing, and we think everything needs to be brightly coloured. Montessori materials tend not to be brightly coloured, so as not to have colours distracting from the purpose of the material.
For my spindle box, I’m collecting toilet roll tubes and lolly sticks. (45 lollies. In a family of 6 going through a pack of 12 mini gellatos from Lidl a week, that’s not going to take terribly long.) This means my material is going to be cardboard and wood – not so very far from the original. I’ll cut the tubes in half and fit them into a box – maybe a shoebox lid if I can find one big enough. Or maybe I’ll just fold cardboard to make the divisions – I haven’t quite decided yet.
What do you think – does it look like it will work? I’ll be back with pictures when it’s done, and I’ll also demonstrate the lesson. (I am actually a qualified and experienced montessori directress. And I’ve got a couple of children to demonstrate with 😉 )
I think Montessori is a wonderful method of education, and I’m sure it’s going to suit both Smallest and Tigerboy down to the ground. Look out for more posts on individual lessons, materials and general waffling coming very soon.