Monday, October 5, 2009

How NOT to Make Your Own Geography Materials: Part Two, Land and Water Globe

I finally finished making what is probably the largest sand and water globe in Montessori history. If you want another perspective on its size, check out my previous post where you can see it in relation to the size of my house.

Okay, I'll let you know how it went and what I did with the following caveat: If I could do it over again I definitely would have bought this material.

When I hit my husband a year ago with the news that I wanted to do Montessori I sat him down and gave him a presentation. He didn't know what Montessori even was. I had to get him from "total ignorance" to "we aren't sending the boys to school" to "I would like to spend a good hunk of money on boxes of bizarre materials that will eventually begin arriving on our doorstep."

To his credit, he was not difficult to convince. I'm still not sure that he really knows what Montessori is or what I'm doing or what's in these boxes (he's one of the main reasons I started to blog). The more he sees and the more he learns the more supportive he has become. This reminds me that the other day I saw the Gettman book open and face down to hold a page sitting on the breakfast table. I was completely touched because I knew I hadn't left it there and I thought that he had started to take more serious interest. Then I looked more closely and realized it was like that because he had been shooting chipmunks in the backyard with his BB gun and he used the book to cover up the gun so the kids couldn't see it while it was not in use. Classy.

The point I was getting to was that one of the things I stated during my sales pitch was that I could make a lot of materials myself and that I would only order what I couldn't make and what I thought we would get a lot of use out of. My first order only covered what I thought I couldn't make for the first year of Kal-El education because I wasn't sure if I would still be interested after a year.

One of the things I decided I could make were the sandpaper globe and the continents globe.

My husband scrounged up one globe for free at work and I found the other on Craigslist for $5. I had to buy a big tube of acrylic paint in blue and a big in white (for bring the navy blue down to more of an aqua). I also bought a variety pack of acrylics for doing the continents globe. I bought a bag of brown decorator sand. I also, of course, used some glue. I planned to modgepodge or varnish, but have changed my mind. I was also planning on priming first, but decided to skip that step (we'll see how sorry I am.)

It took me one hour to paint the water on the sandpaper globe. It was really frustrating work. I started by looking my map of world parts to see what level of detail to include. A little ways in I looked up a picture of one at Adena and realized they were including much more detail. There are a lot more islands on this planet than I remembered! I finally decided to use a medium-sized brush and let the size of my brush dictate whether a geographical feature was to be included. I apologize if you live in the canary islands (or basically any island). You no longer exist.

Considering the amount of time and metal anguish I suffered feeling like I was doing a poor job erasing the homelands of others left and right and the amount of money I spent on paint, globes, brushes, etc., I think that the 18.80 that Adena charges for these globes would have been money well-spent.

It took an additional two hours over four days to get all the glue painted on and covered with sand. I took out my new set of maps as I did each continent and dabbed some dots of glue back on in most of the places where I erased the island homes of my fellow man. Because it was 30 degrees and raining every day that I chose to work on this project, I had to do it indoors. This meant four separate washings of the kitchen table (even though I did the sand with the globe in a very large, shallow Rubbermaid bin) and four separate vacuumings (kitchen probably needed it anyway.

Do know that it is possible if you really need to do it. I just don't see much of a financial upside. I knew that it would be a lot of work, but thought that I would kind of enjoy it. I think I would have enjoyed it if I hadn't felt like I was doing such a poor job. I have decided to go ahead and buy the continents glove and save the extra globe I already have to be our real globe in the future. I started with the sand globe intentionally because I knew it would get less use than the next one. I wish I had realized this before I placed my fall order.

If I were crazy enough to attempt this project again in the future I would paint the continents the same color as my sand (adding yet another step and more work). In some places you can see through the sand to the printing underneath. I used a darker color sand than is traditional, so it is not nearly as bad as I have heard it has been for some others. [New Tip: I just read on Montessori Makers that someone used a black marker to color in the continents before hand. Should be easier than paint] I also would make sure I could do the glue and sand outside. And finally, I would not leave it in the garage to dry and forget to bring it back in before my husband played out on the driveway with the kids. After all my hard work was over, Kal-El knocked it over the shelving it was on. The fall (and shelving that fell on top of it) scraped off sand in a bunch of places that I had to touch up.

Stay tuned for future posts: "How NOT to Make Your Own Montessori Materials: Part Three, Cards for the Geometric and Botany Cabinets." and "Maybe Someday I'll Have the Strength Return to My Hands So I Can Finish My Landforms."

If you have blogged, or blog in the future, about making your own sandpaper globe please add a link to your post to this McLinky:


  1. I enjoyed your post because I have started and scrapped many Montessori materials. It does look good and good for you for sticking with it!

  2. I love when you tell what went wrong when making DIY Montessori materials. That's so helpful for anyone trying to make their own materials. Your globe looks great in the end, but I can definitely understand the downsides to making your own globe. I featured your post and photo in my DIY Montessori Globes post at

  3. I know this is an old post, but it popped up when I was looking for one about money. I was wondering if you would be willing to elaborate on how you convinced your husband to homeschool. My oldest is supposed to go to kindergarten in the fall. My husband is a high school choir director and thinks it is not appropriate for a public school teacher to not even send his own kids to school......