Monday, September 20, 2010

A Better Language Approach for Montessori at Home: Part One, Introduction

Most Montessori homeschooling moms are familiar with the pink, blue and green scheme (hereafter PBG) for language development. I can't think of more than one or two Montessori blogs, homeschool or traditional, that don't use the PBG scheme. Most of the online albums use the PBG scheme. The albums I have purchased use the PBG scheme. There are many places to purchase PBG materials, including Nienhuis, and free resources available as well. The Homfray videos use the PBG system. Whoever is running public relations department for the PBG scheme is doing a bang up job! For a while, I thought PBG was simply "the way it is done" in the English-speaking, Montessori world. Yet, I had a lingering sense that I was missing something...

  • Mysteriously, not even a whisper of pink, blue and green appears in the Gettman...the primary resource for many self-trained Montessori Moms.
  • The PBG scheme is too labor intensive to be universal.
  • Every once in a while I catch wind of someone mentioning that they do not use the PBG system and/or disapprove of it. However, while these same sources may mention how their approach is different, they usually don't give a name or reference to where that system may have originated.

Recently on a discussion board someone casual mentioned the name of Muriel Dwyer in connection with what they were doing and I finally had something to go on.

Muriel Dwyer wrote a booklet called "A Key to Writing and Reading for English" (1968, 1977). After many requests for a reprinting, she rewrote it and it was published as "A Path for the Exploration of Any language Leading to Writing and Reading As part of the Total Montessori Approach to the Development of Language" in the NAMTA Journal (Vol. 29, No. 3 Summer 2004). This is available on the NAMTA website for a small fee (and a hefty shipping fee). (Note: I cannot provide a direct link to the pamphlet on their site as they restructure so frequently the link always breaks.) As most homeschooling Montessori Moms are not members of NAMTA, it should not be surprising that we should be in the dark on this.

I am bringing all of this up for three reasons. The first reason is that after studying the pamphlet for some time I am convinced that the Dwyer scheme is a much more practical model for a Montessori homeschool than the PBG model. It requires making far fewer materials and takes advantage of the one-to-one relationship of mother and child in a way the PBG scheme does not.

The second reason is that no matter which scheme you use, the Dwyer pamphlet is the best explanation of the importance of aural preparation prior to the sandpaper letters and its impact on the the child's experience and progress that I have read. It made it very clear to me what constitutes readiness for each of the traditional language materials and the type of aural preparation the child has received effects their point of interest. These clarifications made it abundantly obvious to me why most Montessori homeschools see an explosion into decoding CVC words (that often quickly diminishes) rather than the traditional explosion into writing as described by Maria Montessori.

The third reason is that having a basic understanding of both methods explains a lot of the contradictory information that the self-training Montessori Mom encounters such as whether double sandpaper letters should be introduced alongside the singles or separately at a later stage and whether object boxes should or shouldn't be used with the moveable alphabet.

I highly recommend that you purchase the back-issue of the journal and read it in its entirety for yourself. The integrated approach of Montessori means that highlights that I will give you here cannot be successful unless part of the whole. However, I will continue to write about this over the next several days. Tomorrow, I will write about the basic difference between the Dwyer and PBG schemes (so you know what I'm talking about). Later in the week I plan to write expand upon all of the topics and tidbits mentioned above.

I've been working on this a long time planning to publish it as one big post. It reminded me of writing my dissertation at times and I was really getting bogged down. It occurred to me that it would be a lot easier to break it up and that you all might appreciate getting the information in smaller doses anyway. In the end, I plan to consolidate it and have all this information on a "page" of my blog.


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  1. We use a blended approach, although admittedly I don't talk about Dwyer much on the blog. Not sure why that is. The entire PBG is WAY too labor intensive. I use a few things in the early pink series with the moveable alphabet, but that is all I use. My heart is caught on this Words Their Way spelling though. More Montessorian homeschoolers need to find it and see what they think!

  2. So looking forward to this! I've been hemming and hawing about getting the Dwyer book (that shipping fee is hard to justify to the Mr.) and have simply been using Gettman as my guide.

    And I haven't been able to find a homeschooling mom blog resource who doesn't use PBG (or similar type) of scheme.

  3. Thanks for doing the research on this! I've never been a fan of the PBG thing, and have been half-following "Montessori Read and Write" and half-"making things up". I'd love to hear of a method that's more complete and makes more sense!

  4. I am looking forward to your posts. I have been using the Pink Materials right now with my son, but he is the first child that I have really done much with it. I have been using it along with other phonic materials too. The language part of the Gettman book always confused me/got bogged down with the idea having to create all those little booklets, etc.

  5. You rock!! I'm so glad you are posting again. I always learn so much and get inspired all over again. It's also so great to have someone else do all of the research! Thanks for being so generous with you knowledge.

  6. Can't wait to read more on this!

  7. Heidi, It is really helpful to know that. I wonder how many others have been blending or using Dwyer on the "down low" ? I have a feeling we'll have few other speaking up on this as well.

    Smith, It is totally worth it. You can get the Dwyer scheme straight out of the Gettman, but Dwyer is better for the "how to work with your child" aspect. Every time I reread it I get more and more out of it. It is a lot clearer than the Montessori Read and Write. There is a lot in there that makes the directress/child relationship very clear in a way that works particularly well for homeschoolers.

    Jen, Yeah. I like Montessori Read and Write, but you have to work a little harder to get a plan out of there.

    Andie, with little booklets I think you mean the phonetic dictionaries you make later. I will get into that later. I'm not fully into that yet. I do think you might do something like them in both schemes though.

  8. I also wanted to add that in hubby's Montessori training, he learned Dwyer and didn't do anything with PBG for 6-12 at all. The training center he went to doesn't teach it for 3-6 either.

  9. Very interesting. I look forward to reading more.

  10. Heidi, Is he AMS or AMI? I been wondering a little bit if it isn't an AMS/AMI difference but that's probably unlikely.

  11. Oh, now that I read Muriel Dwyer, I know that another mom I met recently is using it and couldn't lend it to me b/c she was using it. She raved about it. I skimmed through it and thought it looks similar to what I am doing with PBG (my own version of it anyway) but of course, I was only browsing quickly. I can't wait to read more. Thank you so much for writing these posts.

  12. thank you for posting this! my little one is pre-verbal, but I figure now is when I should bone up and prepare so I'm not fumbling through when the time comes. Thank you!

  13. I know that this post is old, but it is really helpful!!!! I posted about it at my blog

  14. Where could I get a copy of the 40 sounds for the initial list? I have tried to find one but was unable. I was trying to compile a list myself but seem to be coming up with more than 40. I do have an old Abeka reader that is phonically based for part of my list.

    it has nice little readers that i still have from when my younger brother used them and would love to reuse them if possible.

  15. You can find a list in the Gettman, the Dwyer, or Montessori Read and Write. They are:

    a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,l,m,n,o,p,r,s,t,u,v,w,x,y,z (notice I didn't list "q"; and "c" and "k" only count ONCE)

    ai, au, ee, ie, oa, ue, ar, er, or, oo ou, oy, sh, ch, th, qu

    I would recommend that you own one of the three above books. It's never a good idea to go completely off of blogs.

  16. Finally after a whole year of wanting to study your series of posts, I'm doing it. I read this summery of her book and it is pretty much a summary of my 3-6 Language album. I thought I was missing something from my training with everyone online talking about the PBG series.

    I can't agree enough about the aural preparation. We're studying phonics in another language and the more we study the more I feel that reading/writing is just putting down into symbols what a child already knows in speech. If they have phoneme and phonological awareness it makes it easier to translate that into symbols....Otherwise you spend all that time learning that while you're learning symbols....

  17. Hey, I know this post is six years old but I found good news on ordering the Dwyer pamphlet. I was having difficulty submitting my order online so I called. It turns out the website uses UPS (so it costs about $12) but over the phone, because it is small they can use the postal service so it costs $3. Much better!