How to do Montessori without going broke?

Last weeks I could see lot of people being concerned about following Montessori method because it seems to be too expensive or already became too expensive. In fact, Maria Montessori started her teaching in the poor environment and worked with orphans, used only few special materials designed by herself. So if whoever tries to make you believe that Grimms rainbow, rocking board, busy board or wooden cutting fruits are Montessori musts and you really have to have them to be cool, you can be sure it’s just the good seller’s marketing tactics. 

Montessori method is something else then just colorful wooden educational toys. I can only recommend reading few books of Maria Montessori to understand what she really was talking about. The layman would buy all the wooden toys, because this is the first impression that people get when we speak about Montessori. You really don’t need to buy anything to be Montessori, the best tools are available everywhere around us and in nature. Less is always more in Montessori.

Montessori is a philosophy, not a brand.

Montessori is an application of concepts, not a bunch of stuff and fancy shelves. Use what is at hand right now without the urge to do unnecessary shopping.

As my son is getting older and older, I can see the things and activities that attracts him most at home are different from what I would imagine for him. Home environment is not a school and till you don’t do your homeschooling, it will never be. My beautifully arranged shelves are right now, in his 25 months, most of the time covered in dust but yes, I still continue rotating the materials and making new ones, because I LOVE IT. I am enjoying the order and cleanliness of newly arranged shelves and I admit I do it for myself 😀 He is just in the phase of practical life activities, doing everything from cleaning the wash basins to repairing broken stuff at home. What do we need to make child feel independent in practical life activities? Lot of time and PATIENCE, everything else is there around us, stool to climb on to repair broken light, knife to cut mushrooms, spray bottle to wash the windows 100 times a day, soap to clean the wash basin.

Maria Montessori designed her special material for children of 3 years and above. Only 11 months more and my shelves will get some use 😀 … that’s what I am imagining. To get the understanding which materials are Montessori and which just fancy educational toys, you can read Dr. Montessori’s own Handbook by Maria Montessori, it’s written in simple language and all her materials are nicely described. You can be sure you won’t read about Grimms rainbow in her work.

On the other side, Montessori materials can be handmade and you can find lots of ideas on  Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook. Using your own materials made up from recycled items will make your Montessori way of living very reasonable.  Simple things like cutting the legs shorter on tables and chairs which you already have at home instead of buying fancy new furniture makes Montessori accessible to everyone.

Do not feel like you are not enough Montessori without having all that fancy stuff outside. Preparing your space for independence, practical life activities, patience and respect for the child are the most essential tools and all available for free.    

Montessori apparatus – abstract concept made into concrete material.

Few days ago I got into conversation about Montessori toys…As I think about it deeper, the term ‘Montessori’ became just fashion and label for all educational and cool stuff out there but Maria Montessori’s philosophy and her material is about something else. 

Photo source: www.montessoricircle.com
What is Montessori material? 
Montessori material was designed by Maria Montessori herself. As she first worked with mentally handicapped children the apparatus was primarily made for their use. Some of materials were taken from Itard and Sequin and adjusted by Montessori according to the needs of the children in her House of Children. When she made her own apparatus for the normal children she had let the children work with them and she observed the frequency of use and the advantages derived from them. Through the trial and error method she modified her apparatus that allows to detect the defects at an early stage and correct them. For example the sound boxes can detect deafness and the color boxes can detect color blindness.
Maria Montessori is not talking about the toys. According to her, child in process of play works and that’s why she is talking about materials. Materials which have to be presented to child in such a beautiful and organized way that it feels like getting the gift. Only beautiful things attract our senses, allow the brain to work and create millions of new neural connections.

Characteristics of Montessori material:
* Natural materials
* Beautiful – all of the material is aesthetically pleasing.
* Neat and clean
* Complete – all of the material must be complete. This allows the child to finish through the entire piece of work without having to stop and find a missing piece.
* It has control of error – this calls to the child to make the corrections himself.
* Each material isolates one quality – this allows the child to focus on that one quality.
* Limited -there is only one of each material in the environment (building of patience in other children present) and only few qualities are presented to the child. The child is not given every color in the world, but only a selected few. This gives the child the key to the information so it peaks his curiosity.

“The technique of my method as it follows the guidance of the natural physiological and psychical development of the child, may be divided into three parts:
Motor education. Sensory education. Language.
The care and management of the environment itself afford the principal means of motor education, while sensory education and the education of language are provided for by my didactic material.” M.Montessori

Montessori categorized the Sensory Exercises into eight different groups: Visual, Tactile, Baric, Thermic, Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory, and Stereognostic. The material she developed has either never been seen or never been used by the child in his everyday life. With this said however, the child will receive no new experiences through the use of the material. This was purposefully thought through in order to give the child what he knows, but might not yet realize, and to then refine his knowledge. In order to do this, the material is presented in a specific way or in a specific pattern.

“The didactic material for the education of the senses consists of:
(a) Three sets of solid insets.
(b) Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, comprising: (1) Pink cubes. (2)
Brown prisms. (3) Rods: (a) colored green; (b) colored alternately red and blue.
(c) Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid, sphere, cylinder, cone, etc.).
(d) Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth surfaces.
(e) A collection of various stuffs.
(f) Small wooden tablets of different weights.
(g) Two boxes, each containing sixty-four colored tablets.
(h) A chest of drawers containing plane insets.
(i) Three series of cards on which are pasted geometrical forms in paper.
(k) A collection of cylindrical closed boxes (sounds).
(l) A double series of musical bells, wooden boards on which are painted the lines used in music, small wooden discs for the notes.

                Photo source: http://julianagroup.com
Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing and Arithmetic:
(m) Two sloping desks and various iron insets.
(n) Cards on which are pasted sandpaper letters.
(o) Two alphabets of colored cardboard and of different sizes.
(p) A series of cards on which are pasted sandpaper figures (1, 2, 3, etc.).
(q) A series of large cards bearing the same figures in smooth paper for the enumeration
of numbers above ten.
(r) Two boxes with small sticks for counting.
(s) The volume of drawings belonging specially to the method, and colored pencils.
(t) The frames for lacing, buttoning, etc., which are used for the education of the movements of the hand.
(u) Beads material.
(v) Binomial cube. ” M.Montessori

Most importantly, all of the material could be called “materialized abstractions”. This means that in Montessori materials, abstract concepts are made into concrete materials.
If above written is Montessori material then remaining toys can be called Montessori inspired or educational materials.