Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Need Advice (again)

I need advice. Again.

I am looking specifically for recommendations for books or articles I can read that will deal with the issue of correcting (or not correcting as the case may be) the child when they make errors in their work. Now, I know Montessori works are supposed to be self-correcting. However, I am finding plenty of situations in which errors are being made in the boys work. All of the reading I have done up until this point has alluded to not correcting the work, but demonstrating the work properly until the child does it correctly on his or her own.

I am definitely missing some nuances in this area. For example, Kal-El was working on making the letter "A" in the salt tray but kept making a letter "H" instead. I demonstrated tracing the sandpaper letter. He traced it correctly. I demonstrated an "A" in the salt, he drew an "H." I asked him "what letter is that?" He said "it's an 'H'." We repeated all of these steps about three more times, and finally the fourth time I said "If you want to make an 'A' instead of an 'H' your long beams have to touch at the top. Make your first beam, touch the top of that beam and then make your second beam." Afterwards he drew it himself several times.

Another example, putting the brown stair or pink tower away out of order apparently does not bother him. If I say nothing, he puts it away in close to the right order, but not quite. If I say "fix it" when he puts a couple pieces in the wrong place he corrects the problem.

I have an inkling, however, that I am not supposed to be handling things this way. I would like to do some specific reading in this area but don't know where to go.

Any recommended reading?


  1. I think part of the problem is simply that the boys don't have any other children in the room with them to "dilute" the attention you are giving them. In a classroom the broadstair problem would be sorted out by another child coming to use it and making some comment about it being out of order. He wouldn't want to make that mistake again because it would matter to him that his peers cared. I don' know how homeschoolers get around that one.

    As to not getting presentations, I would say he isn't watching carefully and in a grace and courtesy lesson I would address that to cover all lessons......

  2. I don't know that I have a specific book to recommend, but my gut says that if a child is not concerned with making mistakes then the material is probably either too advanced or too simple for him.

    The Montessori student should take personal pride in a work well done. Even if mistakes are not corrected every time, eventually the correct use of the material will win out. Remember that in a classroom with 15-20 students, you would not see every mistake ever time. It is hard at home not to mistake the fact that we CAN correct every time for the fact that we should correct every time. This is something I have struggled with as well. Learning the balance between interrupting and letting the child struggle internally to master the work. Montessori would say that we shouldn't interrupt unless the material is being used improperly. There is a difference between a mistake and improper use. By constantly interrupting to correct mistakes, we are training children to look to the adult for correction and approval instead of building on their own knowledge and experience.

    I'm going to stop now, because I am realizing I have enough to write an entire blog post on my thoughts on this topic so I'm going to hold off!

    The last thing that I wanted to say is that with the whole A/H thing, you may actually be observing a gap between your little ones cognitive understanding and his motor skills. Going back to the insets or pin punching..even the knobbed cylinders.. that will help him strengthen his fingers may be ultimately more useful than correcting his mistakes!

    Good Luck!

  3. I would have to agree with the person who said that if the child is not concerned with making mistakes, the material is either too advanced or too simple. That's been my experience with this phenomenon over the years anyway.

    I usually have 5-6 preschoolers so I tend to have more than a homeschool family, but less than a school, and so sometimes I get the benefits that you would get with a classroom, but not usually.

  4. I struggled with this for several years in the classroom, I hated seeing mistakes made and just HAD to correct them, even when I knew I shouldn't. It just didn't make sense to me. As time went on, I started looking at the big picture, and began relaxing. A lot. I don't pay any attention to mistakes, especially by very young children. I just keep presenting the correct way. At some point he will "get" it. When the child gets to be 5 1/2 to 6, they themselves start to be concerned about whether they are making mistakes - "Is this spelled correctly?" then I will answer them, or help them figure out if it is spelled correctly. Today a child called a Canada Goose a duck. I almost stepped in, but really, what does it matter if he called it a duck or a goose? He had a good feeling about himself that he knew it was a duck. In a few days I'll re-present the material, and call it a Canada Goose, and maybe talk about the differences between ducks and geese. But I would never tell him that what he said was a duck was really a goose. I think your child is young enough that when he makes an H you say "what a nice H!" If he says "Its an A", you nod and smile, and re-present "A" tomorrow with LOTS of tracing. And continue like this until he can make an A. No big deal, eventually he will be making an A.

  5. I don't think there is anything wrong with occasionally correcting those things. It's wonderful for a child to learn to be self-correcting, but learning to accept correction is also a useful life skill.

    I'm visiting from Heidi's blog. :)

  6. I just came across a VERY old post you made at http://absorbent-mind.blogspot.com/2009/10/chapter-24-mistakes-and-their.html and you linked back to here.

    I just wanted to Thank You for your diligent study and for posting the quotes that you did. I'll be honest, I'm not that good at reading theory and getting anything good out of it. Your post was enlightening - I hadn't realized how serious MM was about not pointing out mistakes, to the point of ignoring the child during their concentration. Link often asks if he is doing things right and won't continue until I tell him yes or no. If I really do ignore him, he doesn't want to do the work at all. I hope to emphasize the control of error part of his presentations in the future so that he will be more independent. I also hope to follow Lindart's advice from comment above in the future and hopefully undo some the self-consciousness I have created in Link!