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NOTICE ON PICS - All pics on this blog (unless otherwise stated) are my personal work. DO NOT take pics from this blog without seeking my permission first! Bless you.

Welcome to my blog. It is updated weekly with pictures and projects from our homeschool - maybe you can find something to inspire you :) I have a (no longer updated) materials page elsewhere on my website and will, occasionally, post my homemade materials in this blog.

I'm married to Tim (delivery driver and gorgeous musician), have 2 daughters, live on the south coast of the UK and have 1 aging cat (Hemmingway or Hemmy for short). I love reading, yoga, crafts, baking, daft old comedies, music and teaching.

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NOTE ON PICTURES: This shouldn't be necessary but I have, sadly, noticed growing cases. Please DO NOT link directly to pictures on this website - it steals my bandwidth and is BAD! I CAN trace you if you do and I will take action.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Making Montessori Work - Part 2

I think one of the things that always scared me to death when I first started considering Montessori was the idea of having materials everywhere. It seemed to me that, to use the Montessori method, you HAD to have a lot of materials, sometimes several for one topic. After a lot of trial and error (not to mention cash!) I realised that this isn't true, at least not for a homeschooling environment. Nor is it necessary to have EXACT Montessori materials.

In this post, I'm hoping to cover what I, personally, think is important to have and what isn't. Remember, these are just my personal opinions - things that have worked for me.

Really Essential

3-Part Cards - When I started out with Montessori, these were the first things I "discovered" and, to this day, they remain one of my most favourite of all the materials. Why? Easy! They are such a truly simple idea and yet they can teach SO much. They allow the child to learn in a completely independent way and they take, sometimes very complex, ideas and make them easy to understand and remember. They can be used for language arts, history, science, geography (anything!), are easy to make yourself (or purchased very cheaply) and small enough to store easily without taking up a lot of space.

Let's take a topic, say, the human heart. This is a complicated organ with a lot of "bits" that make it up! If you give your child a textbook with a labelled diagram of the heart and ask them to memorise the parts so that they can then (without looking) colour and label their own diagram, they could do it but what hard work! They'd literally have to just stare at the picture until they remembered the parts! Now take a set of 3 part cards - 1 card for each part of the heart, black and white line drawings with just ONE part per card coloured (usually in red) with the name of that part underneath. To go with this, you have exactly the same pictures but this time with the labelled area removed. Your child can "play" with the cards - studying the labelled cards, matching them with the unlabelled, finding the matching word cards and, eventually, challenging himself to match the correct labels with the correct pictures without looking at the "control" cards. It's hands on and interactive - he/she isn't just staring at a picture and trying to memorise it - they are, almost, taking the heart to pieces like a puzzle and learning each part in turn.

I once heard 3-part cards being dismissed as just "bits of laminated card that my kids wouldn't be interested in". No, no, no! I suspect this lady really hadn't given it much chance (if at all) and dismissed it out of hand. Possibly - I don't know, maybe her children wouldn't have been interested but, then again, maybe they would. These "bits of laminated card" are incredibly powerful, simple learning tools!

Puzzle Maps - Yes, those beautiful maps you see in Montessori schools HOWEVER not all (unless you can afford them and have the space to store then go ahead!) We have the world puzzle map and the map for our own continent and that's it. That's all I think you "need" - for the other continents I just made pin maps by printing out the map, laminating, mounting on foam board and then providing a lablled control map and pinflags for the countries. I think it's really important for the kids to have the opportunity to create their own maps by tracing, colouring and labelling the pieces (brilliant for hand/eye co-ordination for littles too!)

Geometry cabinet/solids - Over the years I've spent vast amounts on Montessori materials .... and then sold them again! The 2 things we'd NEVER part with though are our geometric cabinet and geometric solids. They are used again and again and again, they are a beautiful and tactile way to learn various geometry concepts and can be used with toddlers for sensorial exploration right through to more advanced concepts. We've used them (apart from the obvious of learning the names of shapes!) for ordering sizes (using the circle drawer), in place of inset shapes for learning to use a pencil, for measuring angles of triangles and so much more. The kids have used the inset frames for tracing when doing art projects and, yes (Montessori puritans might shudder in horror!), April has built churches and castles with the solids and peopled them with Playmobil characters!

Stamp Game - If I had to choose ONE maths materials, above all others, that was my favourite it has to be this. Rosie (my eldest) had the most HORRENDOUS problems, at age 9/10, grasping the concept of place value and carrying/borrowing and I'd tried everything. I was already using 3 part cards in science and decided to investigate the stamp game. I made my own out of coloured paper and "presented" it to her (more or less!) as per the Moteaco albums - after a couple of fits and starts she got it. Totally got it and didn't have ANY problems with this concept again. Being able to count out the stamps for the sum she was doing, PHYSICALLY change the stamps for 1 of the next place value when she got to 9 and SEE the result laid out in front of her just made it all click into place. A brilliant, brilliant "invention". Truly.

Not Essential

Coloured beads/Gold Beads - again, if you can afford it and have the space then go for it but if you can/haven't don't beat yourself up over it. There are 2, perfectly good, alternatives - connecting Cuisenaire rods (in place of coloured bead bars) and base 10 blocks (in place of gold beads). They are generally cheaper and do exactly the same job.

Animal/botany puzzles - beautiful yes, but not necessary. Use 3 part cards to teach the parts.

ALL the varieties of maths materials - this is probably a bit of a tetchy subject but I really don't think that there NEEDS to be, say, 3 or 4 different materials to teach addition facts. Now, I'm not a trained Montessorian so perhaps I'm missing something but I think having the addition strip board and several different addition fact charts might be overkill. Personally, I think the strip board material is enough. Same for subtraction, multiplication and division - we don't have enough room in our homes for ALL these things (at least I don't and I know others who have said the same)!

So, imo, what would we use for basic maths? Just these:

Addition/Sutraction - Strip Board Materials.

Division - Division bead board

Multiplication - Multiplication bead board

Connecting Cuisenaire Rods (for doing the bead activities)

Base 10 Blocks

Stamp Game

In our homeschool, we also feel that a good computer based learning programme is useful for maths (particularly if it isn't your strongest subject!) I know they're not used in true Montessori environments but we are Montessori-enhanced NOT true Montessori :)

Posted by Sarah at 8:19 PM [ permalink ]
Categories: Homeschooling


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