Saturday, December 11, 2010

Getting Started with Montessori Education

A reader recently left a comment on one of my posts asking for book recommendations for people just dipping their toes into the Montessori method. As I went to respond I realized quickly my post would turn into a book of its own and decided it would make a fantastic post!

I also realized that I've never explained how I got involved in Montessori. Partially it's because I don't really remember how it happened. I've always been a single mom and when I found myself pregnant and unsure of what was coming next in my life I did what I always do, I Googled. I am a researcher by nature and a perfectionist about things that are important, like my child, so I quickly became an expert in all things baby. I think it was in this mad search for understanding that I ran across Montessori somewhere in the ether. As a former unschooler, education philosophies are very important to me and this one was interesting. But school seemed a long way off and I kind of set the idea on the back burner.

When Ryann was about six months old my mom, knowing my interest in Montessori, got me Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work at the library. It's a biography of her life, but also goes into some of the specifics of the method, its effectiveness and outcomes. It's a very interesting book and really got me interested in her work. Which then led to reading Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three. To be honest, I never finished this book. It is good. Fascinating even. But it definitely has a black and white, right and wrong view of how your house should be and it doesn't seem very realistic to a laissez-faire person like me. I would like to go back and read this again though, as I might have a different take on it now.

After that introduction, I found Montessori blogs to be a great source of information. I tend to gravitate towards blogs that explain the methodology rather than worksheets and printables. Some of my favorites are, Montessori Matters, A Montessori Musing Place, Confessions of a Montessori Mom and The Montessori Child at Home.

Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child is a book of activities anyone can do with their toddlers and preschoolers. It's a well-written book with lots of pictures but it is low on real Montessori info and most of the activities are easily found on blogs and elsewhere on the internet. A quick read that can help you brainstorm ways to incorporate practical life activities into your daily routine. Again, I feel this book is more for Type A people who want to check off lists. I prefer to just clean the house and let the learning happen as it may.

I have since also read Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook  which is  great to get a better understanding of the lessons and how they work together. But my most favorite source for how to give lessons are the Margaret Homfray lectures. Margaret Homfray learned from Montessori herself and it is so fortunate that her lectures were video taped before her death because the information she imparts is really amazing. The videos are long, and sometimes rambling. But also interesting and probably the most direct, hands-on look at the method that you will get outside of a classroom.

I think these are all fantastic resources to get anyone started. I am far from an expert and could stand to do more reading myself, but I think the secret to understanding the world of a Montessori parent is to not get bogged down with the details of what lessons to do when or how many index cards to laminate, but instead immerse yourself in the ideals and core values of Montessori education. Then you will better be able to understand why the lessons work the way they do, and more importantly, why you would want your child to do them.


  1. Well said, my friend. :) Mind if I add a link from my blog to this post? Very helpful, indeed!

  2. Aw, please do! I do hope it is helpful to those starting out, as it's a complicated world to break into. Thanks!

  3. Wonderful post and great recommendations! Kerri

  4. thank you! this has been so helpful!

  5. Thank you for collecting these resources! I have Montessori from the Start, and its recommendations of mother-led weaning starting at 6 months (which I know Maria Montessori recommended, but don't we know better now?) and of the Weissbluth CIO sleep-training method were real turn-offs for me. And, like you, I'm just not all that Type A, at least when it comes to practical life. The blogs sound like a great place to start. Thanks!

  6. Oh gosh, I even forgot about the CIO! For me personally, I feel like Montessori's work and research generally focused on 3-6 and we should maybe take her suggestions meant for other ages (like mother-led weaning) with a grain of salt. And of course, look at what research today is saying is good for babies and preschoolers alike. Montessori isn't faith, it's science.

    Great comment! Thanks :)

  7. Thank you very helpful! ... hope it's ok, we found the book on Google in PDF version and also tweet it (!/montelingual)

    Dr. Montessori's own handbook on Google (PDF available)

  8. Tom, awesome find!! I am all about free books on Google when I can find them, I didn't even think of looking these up. Thanks!

  9. I found the following book quite good:
    "Teaching Montessori in the home" by Elizabeth G. Hainstock
    When I heard about Montessori method of education, I read quite a good few books to see how I could adapt the activities and the method to my home environment with my younger kids. Eight years later, I am now running my own Montessori preschool, but I still refer to the book. The activities and materials described are so simple and so inexpensive. The book is also very well organised. So I would recommend it to anybody wanting to follow the Montessori education at home. Here is the link on Google Books: