I think it's hard to admit, at least for us mothers, that a two year old and a three year old are capable of such vastly different things. After all, your child is smart and capable and likely even ahead of their peers! You pay close attention to what they are doing with their play and their vocabulary and you think you know what they can do and not do.
But then you sit down with your two-year-old to do a Montessori lesson for three-year-olds and they just. won't. do it. There is obviously a big difference between individual children. Some of them will jump to the challenge. Some will understand what they are supposed to do but just not care. Some won't get it at all. And if your child isn't doing the lesson, you are probably wondering where you went wrong.
I was reading the Wikipedia entry for Montessori earlier and was trying to figure out which tenet of Montessori education I believe. I think it most holds true to me that they order and kinds of lessons Montessori practiced were independent of individuality and culture. That it is true that two-year-olds do one thing and three-year-olds do another and reading shouldn't start until four even if the child seems ready, etc.
One thing I've learned over the last several months that I have been trying to do Montessori-ish things at home is that besides practical life activities, the closer Ryann gets to age three, the better her ability to follow my directions. Or to want to follow my directions. It's almost like magic.
When I started this blog in December, Ryann was two years and three months old. I know at some point I expressed frustration that she didn't follow any lessons and an experienced Montessori teacher wisely pointed out that she was only two. Now she is less than three months from turning three and she is much more careful, considerate and excited about doing activities. She's also more likely to spontaneously pick something off the shelf. And do it by herself.
I've read a few posts around the Internet lately where people are equally as frustrated that their otherwise leaps ahead two-year-old won't sit down for a lesson. I think they are discouraged by the small percentage of two-year-olds that are at a developmental level to do more complicated Montessori activities. In my experience, you can see all sorts of evidence of your kids ability to do a certain lesson, but they still might not be old enough. And that's okay! Enjoy each stage in a child's life, the next stage will come soon enough.