Methods: Montessori

Who was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952) was a Catholic pioneer in the area of early childhood education. Her methods have met with unprecedented success and were highly praised by several Popes. Many of her ideas, although designed for a specialized classroom setting, will be useful to Catholic homeschooling parents today. Her ideas of the "three period lesson", "practical life exercises" and "sensitive periods" are particularly helpful. Her philosophies about how children learn and "the prepared environment" are very applicable to the homeschool setting.

The following books are written by or about Maria Montessori and her educational ideas.

Montessori on a Limited Budget: A Manual for the Amateur Craftsman

Author(s):
Elvira Farrow
Author(s):
Carol Hill
Copyright:
1975
Publisher:
Education Systems Publisher
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
291 pages
Subject(s):
Methods: Montessori
Review:

This is a more advanced and thorough version of Teaching Montessori in the Home. The book contains a very good introduction to the Montessori philosophy of education, but from a secular point of view. It includes much more detailed descriptions of the different activities. It also includes instructions for making nicer materials, but more skill, time and money is required than the materials outlined in Teaching Montessori in the Home.

Perspective:
Secular
Additional notes:
Copyrights 1972/1975
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Available From:
Michael Olaf

Natural Structure: A Montessori Approach to Classical Education at Home

Book cover: 'Natural Structure: A Montessori Approach to Classical Education at Home'
Author(s):
Edward and Nancy Walsh
Copyright:
2000
Publisher:
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
145 pages
Subject(s):
Methods: Montessori
Review:

Dr. and Mrs. Walsh who are Catholic homeschool parents of three children and Third Order Carmelites (and have many years of teaching experience between them) have outlined a Catholic homeschool curriculum using Maria Montessori's philosophies to guide the teaching methods and Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" to direct the content (subjects covered, materials used, etc.).

This book came about from their own experience homeschooling their young children. They implemented ideas from both Montessori and Sayers and saw truth in each. They wondered if two methods that seemed so different could be compatible. They decided that in both methods "some critical elements were shared. Both rely heavily, classical education in the division of the Trivium and Dr. Montessori in the sequence of the work, on the natural development and interests of the child. Both also claim as one result the ability to learn on one's own. Looking at them from this perspective we realized that htey could indeed be combined, and in fact complemented each other perfectly. Dorothy Sayers' outline provided the overall framework, while Dr. Montessori's method provided the day-to-day detail. In reality this is simply an extension of the Montessori method which, when closely examined, reveals a pattern of free choice within limits. Dorothy Sayers provided us with the content and Dr. Montessori with the method of our curriculum" (pg. 12).

This book outlines the philosophies of both Montessori and Sayers (including a separate chapter on each - but slightly more emphasis on Montessori - which makes sense because Montessori wrote many volumes on education and was a true pioneer in her field, whereas Sayers' educational philosophies are contained in her one excellent essay). It is valuable for Catholic homeschoolers to be reintroduced to Montessori from a Catholic perspective. Most Americans have heard of Maria Montessori, but few realize that she was Catholic and that her philsophies have been, to a great extent, watered-down and/or misunderstood in the United States today. Not only are there Catholic Montessori materials (such as the Miniature Mass Kit and her own book The Mass: Explained to Children), but her writings and teachings about children reflect Catholic teaching from Christ's exhortation to "Let the Children come to Me" and "Unless you become like little Children..." to the Church's modern-day teachings on the dignity of human life.

The Walshes give us the details about what is and what is not true Montessori philosophy, the basics of those parts of her method which are applicable to a homeschool setting, some thoughts which may change your philosophies about educational videos, toys, etc. and the basic ideas for setting up a Montessori-type work area in your home. Following these more philosophical chapters (including one that answers "Frequently Asked Questions about Natural Structure") are chapters which outline the curriculum. Grades are grouped together as follows: Preschool through 2nd Grade (Preparatory), 3rd Grade through 5th Grade (Grammar), 6th through 8th (Dialectic), 9th and 10th (Rhetoric), and 11th and 12th (beginning of the Quadrivium). Recommended texts, literature and other educational materials for each part (with a chart that breaksdown which texts are used in which grade - many texts are used over the course of several years) and descriptions of the texts (along with publisher information, etc.) are included in one of the appendices. These chapters also provide some of the whys and hows of implementing these materials along with pertinent quotes from Montessori and Sayers.

The appendices include the aforementioned "Text Descriptions" (generally a few lines of description for each text), "Curriculum Samples" (several brief pages of information regarding a one year Music Appreciation Curriculum and an outline of topics to research for the 12th grade Government Curriculum), "Materials Samples" (21 pages of sample worksheets that can be photocopied and serve as examples for making your own), "Foreign Language Curriculum" (which gives recommended texts for grades 5-8 and grades 9-12 along with a listing of which languages are available in each course), the "Sensorial Materials" Appendix has two Sections: First, an outline of the those manipulatives that Maria Montessori is well-known for (explaining that some of the materials will be expensive or hard-to-find, but the authors believe that explaining what they are and how they are used may lead homeschool parents to find adequate substitutes) and a basic explanation of the Sequin Method and the Education of the Senses. The Second Section, "Educational Materials for the Natural Structure Method", includes a book list by subject area, an "Alternate and Supplementary Text" LIst, a Suggested Reading List (literature and biographies), a list of Math Manipulatives used by Natural Structure (along with brief descriptions), "Shoestring Suggestions" (ideas for saving money in several subject areas) and a listing of the hands-on Montessori-type materials and activities suggested for each subject (along with descriptions of how to use them. Final appendices include "Curriculum Materials Sources" (recommended reading and supplier listings, an explanation of Maria Montessori's philosophies in light of Church teaching, and suggested quotes on Children from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The text is illustrated with approximately twenty full-color photos depicting Montessori materials and substitutes and how they can be used in the home. The "Frequently Asked Questions" (which was not included in the first edition of the book) should be very helpful and includes pointers on dealing with ADHD and dyslexia, Natural Structure in the large family and further explanation of Montessori philosophies.

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
9-8-2000

The Red Letter Alphabet book

Author(s):
Ellen Gould
Binding:
Other
Number of pages:
56 pages
Subject(s):
Phonics
Methods: Montessori
Grade / Age level:
Preschool
Kindergarten
Review:

This is one of those nifty little resources that has actually worked for all of my kids I've tried it with (I bought our copy when our now ten-year-old, was three or four).

Many people are familiar with Montessori-style sandpaper letters to help children learn the alphabet in a multi-sensory fashion. Children look at the letter, trace it with their finger and say the sound of the letter at the same time; particularly helpful for children with special needs. It works, but some children (particularly those who are sensitive to texture) find the feel of the rough sandpaper very irritating. Besides, the set of sandpaper letters on wooden backings are quite expensive to buy (and a bit of trouble to make). Enter The Red Letter Alphabet Book. It's a heavy cardstock, comb-bound book with a felt-textured letter on each page. The opposite page has black and white images of objects whose names contain the sound of the letter (you can also buy these images on cards to play related word games).

We've used this book quite casually with each of the children as soon as they were interested in it. We reached this stage with our three year old just recently. Frank, proving Montessori's maxim of "work" having a "normalizing" effect, was wigged out over something out of our control (can't remember exactly what) and was completely miserable. I knew that this wasn't an occasion for discipline, but for distraction. The Red Letter Alphabet Book was handy and, on a whim, I brought it to him. Within seconds, and without any convincing needed, he was having me trace his index finger over the letters, his face locked in open-mouthed bliss (what a contrast from a few moments before!). He made me do it three times straight through with him right then and there. He’s brought it to me numerous times since.

The book is published by Montessori Services, who also offer The Blue Number Counting Book. This has also played an important role in our family's learning. I particularly remember Angela first using this book and, basically, falling in love with numbers right then and there. It was partly a matter of introducing the concept at just the right time for her, but I'm very grateful for these simple and gentle books for little ones that make it SO easy!

Additional notes:
Binding: comb-bound, heavy cardstock pages
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
4-7-2007
Available From:
Montessori Services

Teaching Montessori in the Home

Author(s):
Elizabeth Hainstock
Subject(s):
Methods: Montessori
Review:

This book is filled with simple Montessori learning activities and techniques for young children (2 - 5 yrs. or so). Included are instructions for making the materials very simply and inexpensively. For example we made some very nice picture cards by cutting photographs out of magazines, catalogs, etc. I attached them to index cards with contact paper.
One of the most valuable things I gained from using this book is a method called the "three period lesson" which I've found useful for teaching many things. I'll use the example of picture flashcards to explain it. The first step is to show the child the picture and tell them it's name. The second is to have the child point out a particular picture out of a small group. (e.g. where is the dog?). The third is to point to a picture and ask the child what it's name is. You won't use all three steps in the very beginning, but observe the child so you know when they are ready to proceed to the next step. It sounds very simple, but you might be surprised how easy it is to expect your child to know something he hasn't yet been introduced to. This method presents a very straightforward way to keep yourself from skipping steps.

Additional notes:
Note from the Webmaster: Since this review was written, the book was essentially split into two separate books, subtitled: <em>The Preschool Years</em> and <em>The School Years</em>. I have not personally seen the new volumes, but I'm under the impression that the content has remained essentially the same.
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
1999
Available From:
Adoremus Books
Available From:
Aquinas and More
Available From:
By Way of the Family
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