Thursday, March 19, 2009

Montessori Printables

Websites with Montessori printables for download

Montessori Materials

Livable Learning

Montessori Material Makers

My Montessori printables

Fraction circles

Fraction circles: whole to sixths

Fraction circles: sevenths to twelfths

Print onto coloured card and cut out.

Grid paper in Montessori hierarchical colours

Grid paper in Montessori hierarchical colours

This is a grid, colour-coded in the Montessori hierarchical colours, for children to record addition, multiplication, subtraction and division calculations on.

Montessori decimal fraction board

Decimal fraction board - file 1

Decimal fraction board - file 2

To make the decimal fraction board, print both files onto card. Cut the right hand margin from the first file. Glue the files together so that the right hand edge of the first file lines up with the left hand border of the table on the second file. Laminate.

A variation on the Montessori decimal checker board

A variation on the Montessori decimal checker board

This is a miniature, more abstract version of the Montessori decimal checker board. By the time I introduced multiplication of decimals to my son, he was moving very quickly from the concrete to the abstract on new maths concepts. I did not want to spend a lot of time making a decimal checker board for him to use maybe twice, so I made this quicker variation.

How to use
Please note: these instructions will only make sense to people familiar with the Montessori decimal checker board. To learn about how decimal numbers are taught in the Montessori curriculum, see a Montessori manual such as Montessori Research and Development's Decimal Manual.

  1. Write the multiplicand horizontally along the centre of the checker board and write the multiplier vertically down the centre of the checker board (or vice versa).

  2. Work out the product in each square of the checker board as you do when using the basic checker board: one row at a time, always starting at the right and moving to the left. Write each product in its square.

  3. Just as with the basic checker board, any product greater than nine needs to be rearranged: the tens removed and one unit for every ten placed in the square to the left. Obviously digits written in pencil can't be “removed” and “placed” as straightforwardly as bead bars can. The best way to get around this will depend on the individual child. The rearranged forms of the products could be worked out on a fresh copy of the decimal checker board, with the child referring back to the initial copy each step of the way.

    Or the products could be erased one at a time and rewritten in their rearranged forms. Or, as my son chose, the products could be written in their rearranged forms initially.

  4. Finally, just as with the basic checker board, all the tens need to be swept together and added up, all the ones swept together and added up, all the tenths swept together and added up, and so on. In my decimal checker board, the row above the centre line is the base row. Squares above that row should be swept diagonally down and to the left; squares below the base line should be swept diagonally up and to the right. Of course once again figures written in pencil cannot be “swept” as easily as bead bars can. My son did the addition in his head, writing the result at the bottom of the page one digit at a time. Some children may wish to write the addition problem out on a sheet of grid paper to work out. Or the decimal checker board could be cut into rows, the rows realigned and then added together.

The prerequisites for this work are the same as for the Montessori decimal checker board: the child needs to be comfortable with addition and subtraction of decimal numbers and multiplication of decimal numbers by whole numbers, and needs to have had an introduction to multiplication of decimal numbers by decimal numbers to the extent that they have worked out:

0.1 x 0.1
0.1 x 0.01
0.1 x 0.001
0.1 x 0.0001

0.01 x 0.1
0.01 x 0.01
0.01 x 0.001
0.01 x 0.0001

0.001 x 0.1
0.001 x 0.01
0.001 x 0.001
0.001 x 0.0001

In fact, some children may enjoy filling out a blank copy of my variation of the decimal checker board before beginning work with it.

Some children may appreciate the extra cues that would be provided by a colour-coded decimal checker board in Montessori hierarchical colours. An editable version of my decimal checker board is available for anyone who would like to add colours. If you make a coloured version and would like to share it with others, please leave a comment; I am happy to host or link to a coloured version.

Montessori Manuals

Manuals for ages 3-6

Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori.

The Montessori Method - Maria Montessori.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: the Preschool Years - Elizabeth Hainstock.

Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-fives - David Gettman.

Shu-Chen Jenny Yen's online Montessori albums.

Don Jenning's online Montessori albums at the Montessori Teachers Collective.

Montessori World Educational Institute online Montessori albums.

InfoMontessori's online Montessori albums.

Manuals for ages 6-12

The Advanced Montessori Method volume II (also called The Elementary Materials) - Maria Montessori.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: the School Years - Elizabeth Hainstock.

Don Jenning's online Montessori albums at the Montessori Teachers Collective.

Division by a 2-or-3-Digit Divisor: a Montessori-Style Teaching Manual - Lisia Grocott.

Montessori Research and Development Montessori manuals available for purchase. I recommend the Montessori Research and Development manuals reservedly. Montessori homeschooling with my children, I have used the Decimals, Fractions, Maths, Geometry and Language manuals for 9-12. Both children have thoroughly enjoyed the maths and geometry activities. I do not believe there is a better programme available, Montessori or other, for teaching elementary maths. However, the Montessori Research and Development manuals I purchased in about 2003 are riddled with errors. Many of the activities are explained poorly and required modifying before I could present them to my children.

What is Montessori?

The prepared environment and the role of the teacher

In my opinion, the prepared environment is the base of a Montessori education. It is through the environment that the adult helper attempts to meet each child's individual, changing needs. The environment is clean, orderly and attractive. To begin with, the adult entices the child to work, through presenting and re-presenting a variety of activities, waiting patiently for the day when one of the activities will “call” to the child, and the child's concentration will be caught.

When that happens, the adult must quietly step back. The adult's role now is to protect that fragile concentration from interruption, for in the early stages, if it is broken, days or even one or two weeks might pass before the child's concentration is caught again. Even a friendly “How are things going?” or an awareness of being observed might be enough to shatter the child's concentration.

The child begins to make choices based not on surface appeal and whatever catches their eye but based on a deep inner desire to explore certain activities. The adult's role is to observe and consider, changing the environment and making new presentations and re-presentations based on the child's needs. The child will not be in this perfect state of knowing his or her own needs all the time; sometimes children will be slaves to whims. The adult must learn to distinguish between indiscriminate choices and the choices that stem from a genuine inner need.

Trust the child

I think the hardest task of a Montessori teacher or parent is to trust that children will educate themselves if allowed to follow their own interests as described above. According to Maria Montessori, there should be no compulsion. Children are invited and enticed to work, not coerced.


Closely tied to trust in the child is a great respect for the child. Not only are children treated with respect in all interactions, but their concentration is also respected. Adults do not interrupt a child who is absorbed in work, and children are taught to avoid doing so too.

Children's ability to care for themselves and the environment is respected. It has been observed that children derive enjoyment and a sense of pride and self worth from being able to look after themselves and their environment. To that end, presentations of practical life activities are made and children are premitted to do as much for themselves as they are capable of and as they want to.

The principle of respect encompasses every aspect of a Montessori environment. As well as respect between people, there is also respect for the things in the environment and for everything in the wider environment of the world. The Montessori materials are treated with care.

"Help me to help myself"

It is acknowledged that help can be a hindrance: when a child is capable, but only just, of doing up the buttons on a jacket and is trying hard to do so, it would be quickest to take over and do the task oneself, but that is not what the child wants, nor is it actually helpful to the child.

If a child completes a task or activity, ignorant of some sort of error, the child is not corrected. Instead the adult makes a note to re-present that activity at a later time.

The materials

Maria Montessori created a set of apparatus from which children can discover for themselves, and then practise, many different concepts. Even complicated mathematical concepts such as calculating cube roots are presented concretely with physical apparatus so that through seeing and building for themselves, children can reach their own understanding of each concept.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How to Get Started Montessori Homeschooling

Nicky asked about this in a recent comment. "Where to start" is a question often asked at Playschool6 too. Here are my ideas on how to get started Montessori homeschooling ...

1. Read a brief overview of Montessori

Dr Montessori's Own Handbook by Maria Montessori is the best place to start in my opinion because it is a quick read and an excellent synopsis of Montessori. There are some lovely anecdotes from the earliest Montessori classrooms, which give a picture of Montessori in practice.

An even briefer overview of Montessori can be found on my website.

2. Read an introduction to the materials and activities

Elizabeth Hainstock's two books: Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years and Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years are condensed Montessori manuals. They do not include as many activities as other manuals but this means that they can quickly be read from cover to cover, giving the reader a view of the Montessori progression, which I think is valuable to get early on.

3. Support groups

Playschool6, Montessori homeschooling discussion.

Montessorimakers, discussion on making Montessori materials.

4. Observe the child and start making and collecting materials

Observe your children. What are they interested in? What absorbs them? What causes them annoyance? What activities in their daily life are they striving to master for themselves?

Start preparing materials for Montessori activities. Any Montessori activity you think your child will be attracted to. Maria Montessori stressed that although her activities are designed in logical sequences, building on each other, the best order in which to introduce them to an individual child depends on the child.

Montessorimakers is a great source of information on different ways people have made Montessori materials.

There are a number of websites offering printable Montessori materials for download.

5. Start presenting Montessori activities

If the child enjoys an activity, allow them to explore it and work with it freely; then, over a period of days and weeks, continue with the activities that follow on. If the child is frustrated, put the activity aside for a while; try something easier next time.

I have found that doing Montessori at home means the adult needs to initiate more activities than a Montessori teacher in a classroom might. In a classroom, the children get ideas for work from watching each other. At home, the adult getting an activity out and working with it attracts the children to the work and reminds them of the choices available.

6. Observe the child and the environment and remove obstacles

Anything that hinders the child ... tv; playstation; toys that are just getting in the way and not satisfying the child; clutter. There might be more specific obstacles: a bulky jacket that makes it hard for the child to make full use of their hands; the child enjoys sweeping up spills but can't open the cupboard where the brush and pan are kept.

7. More information

Check out the Manuals, Books and Links page on my website for more exhaustive Montessori manuals than Hainstock's books.

One of the books that has helped me most in my homeschooling is Maria Montessori's Discovery of the Child.

Chapter 27 of The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori is all about the teacher's role in a classroom of preschool children new to Montessori.

A note on reading Montessori manuals

Montessori manuals (often called albums) give step by step instructions for presenting activities. I often find the steps hard to follow if I just read them. I have learned to read Montessori manuals with the Nienhuis catalogue open beside me so I can see what the materials look like. If I have the materials for the activity or similar materials, I have them beside me too, so that I can follow the steps with the materials. If I don't have the materials yet, I use pencils, paper and scissors to make makeshift materials as I go along.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why Montessori homeschooling?

A member of the Montessori homeschooling email discussion group Playschool6 is writing a magazine article on Montessori homeschooling and has posted a list of questions for willing members to answer to help her with the article. Some of the questions were on topics I don't think I've written about previously here. In case they are of interest, here are my answers to those ...

Why homeschooling?

The reason we started homeschooling and the reason we continue to homeschool are different so I'll answer them separately.

We pulled Tessa out of a "Montessori" preschool at age 4.5 years because we were not happy with the environment at that school. Children only had limited freedom to choose their own work; the classroom atmosphere was intimidating: "No crying at school" one teacher told a child; low level bullying (kids saying unkind things to each other) was the norm each day when all four preschool classes used the playground together and three of the four adult supervisors sat chatting in a corner of the playground.

Initially, we planned to re-enrol Tessa in the school when she turned 6: Josiah was enjoying his time in one of the 6-9 classrooms with a loving, gentle teacher, although he was often frustrated and hampered by the lack of freedom to choose his own work. But before Tessa turned 6, we had discovered the advantages of homeschooling and decided to continue homeschooling. We waited till Josiah expressed interest in trying homeschooling, which he did at age 7, then he left school too.

Our primary reason for continuing to homeschool is the freedom it gives our children to follow their own interests and timing and to work and learn in their own style. And because we all love it :)

Why Montessori?

Because I agree with Maria Montessori's views as expressed in her books, that children learn best in an environment of freedom with responsibility, treated with respect, with a responsive adult present who observes the child and modifies the environment to better meet the child's needs, removing obstacles and introducing activities that cater to the individual child's changing interests.

How did you discover it?

When Josiah was 2.5 years old, my local homebirth group organised a day seminar on "alternative education". As well as a speaker from a local Free School (Summerhill style) and someone else I can't remember, Beth Alcorn of Montessori World Education Institute spoke about Montessori and demonstrated materials. I was enthralled.

What do you like in this method?

The outstanding learning that is possible when children choose their own work rather than having it set by someone else.

The ease with which it is possible to provide an individualised education for every child, catering to each child's interests, timing and learning and working styles.

The Montessori materials, which, to my mind, are the work of genius, especially the maths and geometry materials. The Montessori maths and geometry curriculum is far superior to any other I have seen. Josiah and Tessa love working with the materials and discovering concepts through their own exploration.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Montessori Freedom for 6-12-Year-Olds

Someone asked me recently if Maria Montessori intended elementary school age children to have the freedom to choose their own work that Montessori preschool children have. The answer is definitely yes! Writing about children over age six, Maria Montessori says:

“As in the first period: We seek the child's consent to receive a lesson given. The lesson is now abstract when earlier it was sensorial.” From Childhood to Adolescence.

“... the child must learn by his own individual activity, being given a mental freedom to take what he needs, and not to be questioned in his choice. Our teaching must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them.” To Educate the Human Potential.

“He must have absolute freedom of choice, and then he requires nothing but repeated experiences which will become increasingly marked by interest and serious attention, during his acquisition of some desired knowledge.” To Educate the Human Potential.

The two Montessori elementary schools I've observed in allow children only limited freedom to choose their work. One required children to complete certain activities each morning before being free to choose their own work. The other school set the subjects that would be worked on each morning; the children chose an activity from the first set subject then moved on to the next.

I have heard such restrictions blamed on pressure from parents. I suspect that this is only partly true and that a significant number of Montessori teachers do not agree with Maria Montessori that children learn best when they choose their own work. Such teachers can cope with allowing preschool children freedom because society doesn't have high expectations of preschool children's learning. Once children reach age six and we expect them to be learning to read and do maths, teachers feel a need to ensure the learning happens by taking control of it.

Allowing children to choose their own work in a Montessori homeschool can be more of a challenge than in a classroom because there are more distractions at home. If you allow a homeschool child freedom to choose their own activities, they might choose to go back to bed with a book or go for a bike ride or make a snack or play with their toys or – if you have them – watch tv or play playstation.

Some Montessori homeschooling families have a room they turn into a “classroom” which they go into each day for the work session, solving the problem. Other families create a virtual classroom by designating a certain period of the day “shelf work time” when the children's choices are limited to what is available on certain shelves. Other families find that even with all the distractions of a home, allowing their children to choose their own work at all times works well.

We have never had a classroom in our home but have happily used both the other methods at different times in our journey.

There are also homeschoolers who choose just some Montessori practices and materials to use in their homeschooling.