LIVABLE LEARNING - Preparing the Home and the Heart
Frequently Asked Questions


Which homeschooling resources work well with Montessori?

MELTING MONTESSORI INTO THE MIX

As frustrating as it may seem, with true Montessori education, you will not find a commercially "boxed" or a "one size-fits-all" curriculum with manufactured materials. When using this method of education, it is typical for each teacher to create her own personalized album of presentation based on the presentations of other directresses. The album is her personal plan of study which aids in her preparation to teach the child.

Ellen Yale Stevens in her book, A Guide to the Montessori Method, warns that we should guard the Montessori method from a "hasty, unconsidered, too literal adoption." she asks that we use Montessori's materials with flexibility and freedom while holding fast to the principles. Stevens goes on to say that, "Is is always much easier to follow a method blindly than to make our very own the principles which it illustrates, and this [Montessori] material in its very appeal to the parent and teacher on account of its simplicity, practicality and concreteness may, in the minds of many, take the first place and be adopted without the thought of the spirit behind it."

To those looking into Montessori education and wanting to implement it into an already existing homeschool plan of study, I would just caution you to give yourself TIME to learn about the method and the materials. First of all, one needs to humbly accept that Montessori education is not a "Fast Food" approach to teaching and learning, rather it is an opportunity to embrace the philosophy of "Learning for a Lifetime," and it will take *time* to understand the spirit of the method and the presentation of the materials. It's a method that cannot be easily learned or understood until one experiences it. Montessori is a 3-D (hands-on) method of education and it is difficult to explain it in a 2-D manner.

When I first started with Montessori, I began with materials that would help my children where they most needed it. We started with the Phonics boxes, and we made the beads for the Snake Game because it sounded like fun. My Montessori checklists may be helpful in giving an overview of the traditional presentations and the lists will be available for downloading with my
Teacher Preparation materials on the Members Only page.

We had already been homeschooling for four years when I started getting interested in Montessori education. If I had to do it all over again I don't think there is anything I would change. I worked my way into it gently. I recommend that you give yourself reasonably about three years to begin to understand the Montessori way.

Concentrate your efforts the first year in decluttering your home, while you work on creating a prepared learning environment, making materials as needed to supplement any curriculum you are currently using. Learn to OBSERVE your child and then to discipline yourself to direct your child instead of to teach and correct. Most important of all, hold your tongue from constant rebuke and correction of your child and strive to provide a learning environment where you can teach as St. Francis did - teaching always but using words only when necessary. You'll be amazed at what you will learn about your child and how he learns best.

The second year you can dig more seriously into materials making while introducing a few more presentations. The playschool6 and MontessoriMakers discussion egroups are great places for ideas and support. There is a collective website called Montessori Materials with free printable materials, and of course I am always adding the the
downloadable files on my website.

The third year you might continue to make materials, but focusing primarily on developing a sincere 2-3 hour work cycle of independent work for your children. As you are easing your way into the Montessori way read as much and as often as you can about Montessori education.

With Montessori homeschooling, as a rule, if I am going to supplement with other programs I now try to find programs that are multi-sensory, and materials that work for varying age levels. I also avoid texts that contain twaddle and busy, brightly colored photographs.


PHONICS/SPELLING/READING
Saxon Phonics 1
Spelling Power  
ABCs and All Their Tricks
We made our own Montessori Movable Alphabet and then I designed my own Pink, Blue and Green Phonics Tackle boxes, and we used Saxon Phonics for our group lessons. Instead of writing out the words for spelling tests my kids used the Movable Alphabet. I prefer the Faith and Freedom Readers because of their simplicity and their attractive but not overwhelming illustrations. Spelling Power has been a favorite for many years in our home. It is a great program for 3rd grade through high school and has a valuable grade level assessment test. We have supplemented with a sensorial approach to spelling having the kids use fruit flavored dry erase markers on white boards or using fingers to spell in cornmeal on a cookie sheet. As the kids get older we especially like ABCs and All Their Tricks for group spelling sessions.

         

GRAMMAR/COMPOSITION
Easy Grammar and Easy Writing - grades 3-12
Institute for Excellence in Writing - grades 2-12
The Montessori Grammar symbols for the parts of speech can easily be used with the above grammar materials, and I would not hesitate to use the Montessori Grammar materials with middle or high schoolers who have never had a Montessori education or who have trouble understanding the concepts.

         

HANDWRITING

Seton Handwriting Manuals
We start with the Handwriting Without Tears manipulatives for the upper case letters but then work into the sandpaper letters and fabric movable alphabet for the lower case and cursive letters. Mini chalkboards are great for focusing on one letter at a time - I found ours for $2 each in the craft section of our local WalMart. Handwriting papers are available in the Language section as free downloads on my Members Only page. Seton Catholic Homeschool offers a variety of handwriting manuals for all ages.

GEOMETRY
Decimal Squares
I've seen little that compares with Montessori Geometry materials. I did find manipulatives from Hubbard Scientific that I would also recommend: Decimal Squares 

GEOGRAPHY
Mapping the World by Heart
We have found this to be an excellent geography program for all ages - newly revised. For high school students the Glencoe World Geography textbook is a good resource and the answer key can be purchased from Seton homeschool.

       

HISTORY and SCIENCE and RELIGION
Apologia Science
Great Adventure Bible Timeline by Jeff Cavin
Epic: A Journey through Church History by Jeff Cavin
 
We are learning to take more of a storytelling approach in these areas, whether it's through the catalyst of Montessori's Great Lessons, of reading biographies or other related stories, of presenting the narratives for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. We love the homemade manipulatives of Friendly Chemistry - a high school course suitable for all ages. We also recommend the Apologia science texts if only for their well organized course of study. Be cautious once again of the anti-Catholic slant especially regarding evolution. The Apologia High School Biology text works great with the Montessori study of the Kingdoms! The Bible Timeline and the Epic are excellent programs and I especially love that the time periods are all color coded!

         

          

         

MUSIC and ART
     Child Sized Masterpieces
     Draw and Tell Catholic Drawing series
     Draw Write Now
     Bruce McIntyre Drawing textbook

An excellent program for Art Appreciation Montessori-style is Child-sized Masterpieces by Aline D. Wolf. One can also put together collections and presentations using post card collections from Dover Publications. For Religious art lessons the Draw and Tell series is excellent. I would recommend Bruce McIntyre's Drawing Handbook for basic drawing techniques but I was not impressed with his other drawing texts - the pages were too busy, cartoonish, and confusing to the eye. The Draw Write Now is another favorite with my kids for manuscript handwriting pages and step by step drawing practice.

      

         

         

This had been a gradual process for us - it's a good thing I have had six young ones to learn with. Keep in mind that you need to do what works best for you. Use my recommendations as a reference point as you begin to work Montessori into your mix and you may find resources that work better for you and your family than what I have listed here. I doubt that I will ever use a boxed curriculum again. I'm too independent - I like to keep myself and my children open to spontaneous paths of learning as they develop. Keep in mind too that spontaneous, properly defined, means "freely chosen." An example of spontaneous learning in our homeschool environment is when we were reading Archimedes, the Door to Science, as a family and it led us into the Seven Wonders of the World, Greek Literature (namely myths and Homer and Aesop) Simple Machines, Astronomy, Social Graces and Manners, Self-Restraint, Greek Counting, Friendly Chemistry, the Socratic Method, Geometry, and Greek Culture and a timeline of events and people. That's a great way to approach learning I think... to let it lead you where it will!! (...At all times with the discernment and leading of the Holy Spirit of course).

 
What should I buy and what should I make?
One of the most overwhelming decisions you will face once you decide to homeschool with Montessori materials is what to buy vs. what to make. Most of the items not listed here can be easily homemade or printed from our Hope4ME page. Unless you have access to a woodworker these are the materials that I recommend be purchased with items in bold type those items that I consider to be absolute necessities for a homeschool environment:
  • Sensorial:   (Kid Advance is a good resource for these items)
      • Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, Red Rods
      • Knobbed Cylinders, Knobless Cylinders
      • Binomial Cube,Trinomial Cube
      • Geometric Solids, Geometric Cabinet
  • Language:
      • Farm Animals (for miniature environment for Grammar) The best realistic size is 1:32 scale. New Ray, Ertl, or Country Life are the best brand names. Any of the sets below will work for the Farm Grammar Games. Additional farm figures can be purchased separately at your local farm supply store.
  • Culture:    (Montessori Outlet and Allison's Montessori are good sources)
      • Sand & Water Globe
      • Continent Globe
      • Continent Maps and Map Stand
        • World Parts, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, United States, Canada
      • Botany Cabinet   (Kid Advance)

         

How many Beads do I need?

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