Montessori Child: Teach Me to Do It Myself

In the many publications and message boards I subscribe to related to a Montessori education, the topic of freedom within the classroom is very often discussed and debated.

The concept of freedom in terms of education is relatively easy to accept for a preschool student.  The concept, however is much more difficult to envision for an elementary aged child.  And in actuality, I’ve even seen the application of the concept debated within “Montessori Circles.”

Last fall we opened our Montessori Whole-Home School Classroom to a group of our home educating friends for a couple of visits on the Montessori Great Lessons.  That experience helped remind me of exactly why most of our materials are didactic and contain a control of error. But it also reminded me that I need to guide my children but also give them the independence that they need to make mistakes.

The Montessori materials that we use are only truly didactic when there is a set of rules relative to behavior that must be followed when working with the materials. There is a level of accountability.   And, the materials aren’t intended to be used with a parent, teacher or other adult ‘hovering,’ over the shoulders of the children doing the work or correcting the work for the child.

No detail of work within a Montessori classroom is unintentional.  From rolling a rug that was used for a work, to completing a work in a certain order, each activity is designed to help a student become an independent learner. An independent and accountable learner.

The same thing can happen at home, whether with chores or the use of items some may consider to be for adult or older child use only, such as stand mixer, food processor, stove, washing machine, iron or vacuum cleaner.  Clear, step by step directions and accountability for a job well done allow for success for the child who is mature enough and desires the responsibility and independence.

From a very young age, a child’s first communications involved this common request: “Let me do it.”

Children strongly desire independence.

How do you foster independence in your home? And more importantly, what standards do you set for accountability? Do you hover or are you able to demonstrate the proper use of materials, a work or chores and then walk away so that you may observe?

Montessori Elementary Leaf Study

Found this document on Scribd tonight. Very thorough study of Leaves for the Montessori Elementary classroom. Covers leaf shape, leaf margin and leaf venation and includes wall chart & booklets. Make two copies of the booklets and you can use one copy for three-part cards.

Thank you to Kelli Dantin for this work!


Montessori Work Give-away Featuring Vincent van Gogh

This is a picture of the give-away on the Little Acorn's Blog--and there is our Home State of Indiana!--Enter before November 20th!

Karen from Little Acorns blog is holding a give-away for a Montessori inspired work using the weather & Vincent van Gogh as a Meteorologist!  I’m excited about this give-away and have already started thinking about the extensions I could make for my Lower Elementary Montessori children, across the classroom.  As with all thing Montessori, there is some overlap in my functional areas and you could use these extensions in any area you see fit.

1.  Geography

What is Vince Van Gogh’s native country and what are the weather patterns found there.  Compare and contrast the weather pattens in Van Gogh’s native country to those local to where you live or another location on the globe.

From which biome does Vincent hail?  What is the weather like in the type of biome in which Vincent was born?

2. Astronomy

Make your own constellations out of the stars in Starry Night.  Give the constellation proper Graeco-Roman name.

3.  Physical Science

Develop a study on global weather patterns with Vincent the Meteorlogist leading the way.

Landscape at Auvers in the Rain — Van Gogh the Meterologist explains the Water Cycle.  Why does it rain?

4.  Creative Writing

Using the Poetry resources already on our shelves, choose a format for a poem and write a poem about the weather in White House at Night.

5.  Botany

What type of weather conditions are favorable for growing wheat and in what biomes can it be grown?  Look at Van Gogh’s work, Wheat Field with Cypresses, for inspiration.

Because of weather patterns, what time of year can you plant Irisis at different places in the United States? When can you divide them?

Two Peasant Women Digging in Field with Snow–What could these peasants digging for in the snow?

6.  Art History

Where was Van Gogh when he painted the works, The Red Vineyard and The Olive Trees.  What type of weather and climate is required to grow grapes & olives?

“Weather,” we win or not, we’ll be featuring Van Gogh on our Art Shelves for December!  I’ll continue to work on my extensions and post the actual work on scribd with a link here on our blog as they become available in the coming weeks!

But be sure to enter Karen’s contest for a chance to win her creation!

Template for Montessori 3-Part Cards

Several people have asked me if I have a template for Montessori 3-part cards. Since both of my children are technically in Lower Elementary, we now use the definition cards as well as a “fill in the blank with the word,” definition card. So for every item (card), we also have a definition card and a “who/what Am I card.”

It makes for a lot of laminating and cutting work on my end, but this style of work, works well in our home because it allows my children to work very independently. And isn’t Montessori truly about “following the child.”:)

I hope that you find this useful.

4 Part Card Template

Parts of the Mayflower & Who Am I? Game for Montessori Elementary

My 8, soon to be 9 year old (wow, does time fly) daughter absolutely loves making pin maps and pin models.  The really great thing for me is that I can make a control and she traces the control, colors it, laminates it and mounts it on foam core.  She then makes pin flags/labels for it and proudly creates what she calls–and really is–a Montessori work for her younger brother and visiting friends.

Today she used the “Parts of the Eye,” nomenclature from Montessori for Everyone to make a pin model of the parts of the Eye.  I can barely keep up with the need for foam core! But it is worth it as creating her own extensions as well as work for her brother is a huge time saver for me. I plan to purchase the Ein-O’s Eye Science Box Kit to add to her created masterpiece!

She also really loves to play the “Who Am I?” or rather, “What Part Am I?” guessing game with the nomenclature. After she studies the work for a while, she will bring me the descriptions and I will read them to her, replacing the name of the part with the word “blank.” She then guesses which part fits the definition/description.

Since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on November 11th, this week, I made a control of the “Parts of the Mayflower,” along with a “What Part Am I?” game. She can do this game by herself, rather than with a partner as the cards in this game only contain the clue and have a separate control with the answers. She can of course still play this with a partner, taking turns reading the clue and guessing the answer.

You can download this work from Scribd.  Please note, all images and copy are property of, Copyright © 1994-2010. All Rights Reserved. Please be sure to retain this data on the print outs/copies of the materials when printing out this work, as per the terms of the website:)

I am working on some other “Fact Cards,” right now about those who took the voyage on the Mayflower and other Thanksgiving terminology. I hope to have those available yet this week too, but I’m still trying to figure out the best type of work for the information. Any ideas?

Parts of the Mayflower

Montessori Thanksgiving Noun Sorting Work

I’m working with Aidan on nouns and articles right now.  I’m ever so grateful for the science behind the isolation of information in the work we do!

I put this Thanksgiving noun sorting work together for next week.  Simply print, laminate and cut.  The direct aim for this lesson is to differentiate Thanksgiving nouns that are a person, place or thing.  The indirect aims are word recognition and reading.  Control of Error is included.


P.S.  Just in case you are working with them, I’ve attached a document with a page of each article as well.

Thanksgiving Know Your Nouns Person Place or Thing

Montessori Grammar Boxes Articles

Montessori Lower Elementary Cultural Research Forms

Within Montessori Lower Elementary, a primary focus is for students to develop research skills, utilizing a variety of resources.  Many classrooms utilize “Research forms,” to record their findings.  While journals could be used, the “Research forms,” serve as guides to help the child know what types of information they can gather on any given topic.  Ana was fortunate enough to be exposed to these types of forms at the Montessori school she previously attended.

I’ve spent a great deal of time searching for a resources that look similar to what I can only guess the cultural research forms might look like over at Montessori Made Manageable. I’ve seen a few, in the completed work binders my daughter brought home from the Montessori school she previously attended.  The price point for their offerings is just simply beyond our budget, at over $300 per grouping.  While the site references being a fit for homeschools, their pricing is not homeschool budget friendly, IMHO.  I have emailed them several times as well asking if they have any packages available for homeschool families and they have not responded (I have purchased other materials from them, so as a previous customer, I am disappointed that they haven’t taken the time to respond;()

I have made a few of these “Research forms,” on my own, but as with all things, it is a time consuming task and doesn’t seem like the best use of my time on most days.

A few weeks ago, I hit the jack pot.  Although not marketed as “Montessori Materials,” Westvon Publishing offers an incredible resource at an incredible value in their Unit Study Starters .pdf’s.

There are 39 different “Research,” forms which perfectly fit the need for our Montessori classroom.  These types of forms are an integral tool within the Montessori Lower Elementary scope of work.  And they fill an important need in our homeschool.

As you can see from photo on this post (property of Westvon), the forms not only include guiding questions, but also a place to draw pictures, graphs or charts–as appropriate–on each of the research forms.

And the price point at a current offering of $4.00 for the downloadable version was well within my budget.  Purchasing these was definitely money well spent!

Thank you, Westvon–or more specifically, our neighbors in Ohio, Sherri, Jessy and Maggie!

Lest I forget to mention that Sherri, Jessy & Maggie–the purveyors of Westvon–are a homeschool family.  I absolutely LOVE to purchase materials from other homeschool families.

If you give them a try, let me know what you think.  And if you know of other similar resources, please let me know!

1st Five Items You Need to Start Montessori Homeschooling at the Elementary Level

In the little over a year that I’ve been homeschooling using Montessori Methodologies, I’ve learned quite a bit.  And there are things I wish someone would have told me before I started.  One of those things was which resources are worth my time and money.  Sure, there are lots of low to no cost materials available on the web.  And I do use those.  But there are a few “staples,” I wish someone would have recommended to me when I was first starting out on this journey.

Today, someone asked me what they needed to get started teaching using Montessori Elementary in their home.  This post is my feeble attempt to answer the question.  I’ve bought many things in the last year.  Some have been great, while others, well, simply not as great.   Below are the *first *five things I would purchase if I had to start over again.

1.)  Albums.  I’ve tried many and paid for some of them.  But hands down the best I’ve found so far are these F.REE Montessori albums .  I have found it helpful to print all of the albums and do so printing four sheets to a page so as to save paper as there are MANY pages here to print out.  When I need some of the resources in different sizes, I just print them out full size or as needed.

2.)  Paper based materials. For these I highly recommend the CD collection from  It has just about everything you could possibly need on it.  The owner is a trained AMI AMS teacher who is presently homeschooling her children.  She is continuing to add more lower elementary materials on a monthly basis or at least updating things that needed updated.  If something you bought on the CD is updated, she invites you to request the updated .pdf at no charge.  And if you buy the CD, you receive a coupon code to purchase new .pdf’s at 50% off.

3.) A Resource for the Great Lessons. I truly love Miss Barbara’s Great Lesson CD.  Like the albums listed above, I have printed these materials out as well, 4 pages per sheet and print larger pages as needed.

4.)  Printer, laminater & paper cutter. There are lots of materials on these CD’s and lots of extensions that I make myself.  Some of them simply hold up better laminated.

5.)  Hole Punch, Book Rings & those really small rubber bands. I go through a lot of these.  Once you cut things apart, you need a way to manage them.  Rubber bands are great for things that are okay to have come apart.  Controls, however, are better suited for book rings.  Let’s face it.  Montessori work has lots of little pieces and parts.  And when some of these pieces and parts become separated, it’s just easier to have–stealing from the world of web-speak– the control be static…not dynamic in the hands of little people.

With these materials on hand, you’ve made a very good start.

In an upcoming post I will talk about long term storage and presentation storage of the work as well Montessori hard good suppliers.

In the interim, happy printing, laminating and paper cutting!

Montessori Animal Kindgom Taxonomy

We’re working on Animal Kingdom Taxonomy today.  Ana and Aidan were introduced to the concept in pre-school and continue to enjoy exploring this work.

Aidan likes organizing things right now–hard to believe if you look at his work area–but taxonomy is a fit for him.  Aidan classified his own species today.

Ana is working on classifying the topic for her writing class:  a Sea Wasp.  She is very interested in language right now, specifically prefixes, suffixes and root words, so this work with its strong latin focus is right up her alley.  She is so interested in language right now, across so many areas that on Sunday when Papa was visiting we made a discovery.  She had completed some element sorting work and proclaimed that manganese is magnetic because it begins with ‘mag.’  At least she’s thinking, right?  I mean, working on making true leaps to abstraction.

Not quite correctly on this front, but the capacity is there and that in and of itself is an exciting thing.

I made this inverted triangle classification form for the kids to use with their taxonomy work until they have the taxa committed to memory.

Hope it is useful to my homeschooling friends!

Decoding & Encoding: Montessori Learn to Read

Today I was able to watch a friend work with their child and it reminded me of the importance of allowing a child the chance to use their own decoding skills when learning how to read.

My son is learning to read largely by using Montessori Three Part Cards and Classified Nomenclature cards.  The clues that the pictures on these cards give help a child to develop confidence in their ability to try to ‘solve,’ or decode a word.

Don’t get me wrong.  Picture books and easy readers are great.  We use them and will continue to.  And there are days when I simply “tell,” him what a word is that is set before him in a book or on a sign.

But what a great sense of accomplishment a child can feel when they are able to figure out what just one word might be relative to a picture on a card.

And how amazingly advanced the words can be when there is only one word and one picture.

The next time a word shows up in a child’s easy reader that they previously learned on their own, be sure that they will be thrilled to share that they “already know that word!”