Monday, February 6, 2012

Depressed and Perplexed

Sorry to bum everyone out out on a Monday with a blog post titled "Depressed and Perplexed." I usually feel pretty good about the job I am doing here at home educating the boys. Recently I began an Elementary Montessori course through Jessica at Keys of the Universe  (I won half-off of the course through a giveaway at Living Montessori Now)  and what I've been reading has been making me feel really down about the job I did with Kal-El at the primary level.

I was feeling rather good about how he was doing in math even though I knew that we weren't going through the sequence as fast as some children do.  He is just about to start the stamp game.  For those of you who are not as familiar with the sequence, this means he has done:

  • number rods 
  • spindle boxes
  • cards and counters
  • all of the golden beads work
  • teens boards
  • tens boards
  • 100 chain
  • 1000 chain
  • 100 board

For those of you who that don't know what those materials mean in terms of skills:

  • He can count up to 1000 by either ones or can skip count by tens.
  • He has not just learned this by rote so that the numbers are "words you say in a certain order", but he understands teens as "ten and another number" and a number like "80" as "8 tens." 
  • He knows the difference between even and odd up to 100.  
  • He understands a number both as a single entity and as a "set."  
  • He can read any number correctly up to 9999.  
  • He can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with numbers up to 9999 using beads as counters.  In the stamp game he will learn to do it without beads.  He has not memorized his facts yet.
  • He knows his addition and subtraction facts up to 10.
If Kal-El were in public school, this week he would beginning the second half of kindergarten (K5).  I know that I couldn't do most of those things when I was in kindergarten and I went to very good public schools.  I know that they are not doing most of those things in the kindergarten down the street that he isn't enrolled in.

One of the main reasons I decided to homeschool was because I knew that the boys could learn what the kids were learning in an six-hour day at school in a fraction of that time at home.  This extra free time would allow them more time to play and chose Montessori because it allowed them to learn in the same way that they play.  The extra free time also allows more time to be involved in other things we wanted to do like sports, violin, and bible study.  Despite the fact that many parents who know nothing about Montessori choose it anyway because they have heard about "advanced academics at young ages," I had no ambitions for them to be "way ahead of everyone else."  I had a pretty good hunch that they would get more rigorous academics at home than at school whether we intended them to or not, but I have not kept them home for rigorous academics.  I kept them home so that all of our lives could have the breathing room needed to be more enjoyable.  The only area in which I am intentionally setting out to be more rigorous is in "critical thinking."

The "perplexed" in the title of this blog post has to do with the pacing of the Montessori math sequence.  All of my primary math albums (Montessori by Hand, Karen Tyler, Gettman, Montessori for Everyone:  Comprehensive List, Primary) go through the large bead frame.  The large bead frame is a long way off from where Kal-El is in the math sequence, but I wasn't worried about it because I thought I understood that there was a large degree of overlap between the end of primary and the beginning of elementary.  The age ranges for the Montessori classrooms are 3-6 and then 6-9.  Ideally whether a six year-old child would be in primary or elementary would be based on their plane of development, but I suspect that in many areas it has more to do with the child's birthdate.  I called a local Montessori school when Kal-El was 2.5 to check on tuition and they said that the child had to be 3 by a certain September 1st to be placed in the 3-6 class or wait until the next year.  So, in my mind, Kal-El would be in his third year of a 3-6 class and still has a semester and a summer before he starts "elementary."  However, as I have been deepening my study of Montessori elementary, I have encountered the idea that there isn't really overlap in math from primary to elementary.  If that's the case, we have a lot of work to do before Kal-El becomes an "elementary" child in the fall.

Then, I read the following in my Elementary course materials in a section called "Memorization and How Society Works Against it":

Another big factor in our schools is the age at which the children enter the primary class. Ideally, the children are meant to enter the casa between the ages of 2 1⁄2 and 3 – this way, they have time to get through all of primary level materials, exercises and work. Some schools have problems entering children under age 3 due to licensing policies; many public Montessori programs require age 3 by a certain date (or wait a whole extra year) or even 4. These factors are negatively impacting how much the children can achieve in a given period of time. Children who start primary at ages 4 or 5 are just not going to get through all that they should have gotten in three to three and a half years. We need to look at our goals, and what we can do to get closer to where we should be. some schools Kal-El would have started primary at 2.5 and would be halfway through his first year of elementary by now.  So did we just become an extra year behind? That same section also talks about the importance of the child getting through entire primary math album before elementary:
We hope that the children going through the primary class have the opportunity to work with all of the mathematics materials developed for the first plane of development so that their foundation and factual knowledge in mathematics is as highly developed as it can be. That means that we hope the children are at least in the process of learning the math facts, because that process belongs to the first plane of development when they have the absorbent mind...One thing that is likely to be seen is the struggle that children go through to learn their math facts, if they don’t already know them at age 6. At the second plane of development, memorizing these facts involves an act of the will. They are not just soaking them in anymore, they have to choose. We have to find that motivation that will encourage them to make this choice, if we have children in that situation. We must remember that because the characteristics change, a second plane child cannot be expected to work through all of the primary materials that he might have missed. The materials are designed for children with different characteristics. If we have gaps that must be filled in at the elementary, and usually there are some, the adult will take certain selective pieces of primary material and use them in a different way to help the children learn what they need to know.

Fortunately, the next section is called "How Do We Choose What to Use and How?".  The course also provides a large section that we are apparently going to need titled "Remedial Mathematics."  Boy, do I feel like I missed the boat.  Now Kal-El needs "remedial mathematics"?  How did this happen?  What happened to my overlap?  Gettman divided the primary experience into seven periods and Kal-El sits pretty much in the sixth period of these.  I couldn't find the specific spot where it says, but I thought there was some overlap of the sixth and seventh period with elementary.

Most of my other sources implied some overlap as well.  My comprehensive list from Montessori for Everyone lists all of the primary math materials on the Elementary list.  I have a complete set of 6-9 albums from the Mid-America Montessori Training Institute.  Their math album is divided into three books.  Book one overlaps my entire Karen Tyler and Montessori by Hand math albums. However, other than tying all the work to the elementary great lessons, the MAMT 6-9 albums seem to eerily contain very little that my primary albums do not, so perhaps that is not something to go by.

The elementary math, language, and geometry albums available at Cultivating Dharma are very different than the MAMT albums and similar in scope to the Keys of the Universe albums.  Both CD and KotU have NO overlap from the primary math albums.  I looked on the Montessori Research & Development website at the tables of contents for their elementary math albums. Their math album also is a set of three.  The first of the three albums overlaps my primary albums by 100%.  I happen to own their elementary Language Arts Volume 1 album and it overlaps the entire grammar section of my Karen Tyler album.  This also led me to believe that there is some overlap.  I'm also influenced by the math materials that I purchased from a homeschooling-mom friend of mine.  Her daughter attended a good Montessori school from age three up through the first year of elementary.  At that time, they pulled her out and started homeschooling due to health reasons.  The first material she had to make for her, for her second year of elementary, was...the stamp game.  I also bought from her a complete set of grammar boxes, and the small bead frame.  I couldn't buy the large bead frame because, at age 10, she was still using it.  The NAMC math guides seem to overlap some of the primary.  It seems from the table of contents that their first presentations begin with the addition strip board and I still see the snake games, long and short bead chains, and golden beads mentioned here.

My favorite primary math, language, practical life, and sensorial albums are Meg's albums from Montessori by Hand.  These are the albums that I use for the "core" areas to absorb sequence an theory.  It matches the Gettman, so I tend to use Gettman for the actual presentations because I can carry one book in my hand instead of four big binders.  I do read and re-read the Montessori by Hand albums frequently though so they have likely played a large part in how I think about Montessori.  I re-read Meg's math album this weekend and found where she said, "We present the mathematic materials at a very particular time, later than the other areas.  There is no rush to start mathematics; it is generally introduced around 4 years of age [my emphasis]."  Not the very first, but one of the earliest presentations in her album is for the number rods.  Each presentation provides a loose "age" for the presentation.  Most albums do with the understanding that those who study Montessori know that in "following the child" these ages can only mean so much.  For the number rods Meg's album says:  4-4.5 (after all practical life and sensorial).  If you have read this blog from the beginning you may remember that Kal-El showed very little interest in the math presentations I tried to give him until that time.  He suddenly "woke up" in math and was ready to go right around that the same time that he finished the bulk of the practical life and sensorial works.  If you use the Gettman at all, you may have noticed that math doesn't at all begin until period three (with just the number rods) and doesn't really get going to until period four.

So, I'm perplexed...I find it hard to believe that most children who begin the math sequence around age four would get through the entire primary sequence before age six.  I also find it hard to believe that it is inappropriate to wait until age four to begin the math sequence.  At the same time I see the argument that these materials are designed for primary, not elementary.  Jessica mentions that this is sometimes a matter of switching from AMS albums to AMI albums.  However, Meg's training (Montessori by Hand) was AMI as was Jessica's.  Both my AMI and AMS albums include all the presentations necessary to get to "the end."  I just never saw any indication that I needed to "push to the end" before age six. One of the great things about Montessori is that there IS no "ahead" or "behind" but rather just "right where you are." It doesn't seem likely that in a Montessori environment where every child is working at their own pace that the majority of them would magically reach the end of the math sequence just before their sixth birthdays.

I believe that I started Kal-El on the math sequence at the right time. I also believe I have been "following the child" the best I could.  Math is a little different than much of the curriculum in that, as Meg says, "In math, the child can't really discover anything on his own that lies ahead.  The teacher's plans are what keep the child moving ahead at an appropriate pace." I did not do daily math presentations when I could have. Should I have?  Me Too is currently 4.5 and ready to start the golden beads.  If I did something "wrong" the first time, I have an opportunity to do it "right" the second time.

I am depressed because it looks like I've set him up for "remedial" work in elementary. I am depressed because I feel like I held him back from the full benefits of the primary math materials.  If it is true that that there should not be much overlap from primary to elementary math we are pretty far off of that mark right now.  Jessica specifically states in her albums not to feel like "all hope is lost" but I do feel bad.  I never thought I would feel bad about my child not being able to do long division halfway through kindergarten though.

I guess I have a question...IS there any overlap between the primary and elementary?  If "no," is that "theoretical" or "a reality."  In reality, have most children who attended three years of Montessori primary completed the math sequence through the large bead frame?  How closely do Montessori guides control the pace of math work in the third year of primary?  Should I do things differently the second time around?

Well, if my imagined "comfort" with Montessori primary led any newer readers to believe I "knew it all" I've certainly blown my cover :)  I started out this blog with a lot of questions and in that tradition don't want to hide our "bumps in the road."

Disclaimer:  (Added a little later in the day)  I had misgivings about posting this not because I didn't want to look bad, but because I didn't want to strike fear into anyone who is in the same place as we are or behind us.  I do feel that Montessori IS about following the child and that it will all work out.  Please don't let my despair make you feel bad about what you are doing, or Montessori in general.  Also, realize that while I quoted from Jessica's albums, I am pulling out just a portion out of pages of what she said.  I will make sure she has an opportunity to comment here and please don't let any mistakes I make here reflect on her albums, her thoughts, or her course (which I am enjoying).  Seeing quotes like that out of context can never reflect on the actual content of a work.

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  1. I promise, even kids who didn't do ANY Montessori can learn math. :) You haven't ruined him.

  2. Oh boy! Now I feel like we are going to have to work our ass' off (pardon the language)! If Kal- El is behind, then Bunny is REALLY OFF! She didnt even start any Montessori work at all untill she was 4 and 3/4s! Needless to say we are still working through alot of stuff. She can do golden bead material up to mulitpication. We are doing snake game, and we have tried stamp, but she didnt quite get it. She is starting to memorize her facts a bit (in fact she wants to, so I am working on getting some other work for that right now) but we dont have the long 1000 chain or some of the other bead work. She can count to 100, but gets stuck once she goes further. Hmmmm....I guess I will have to start looking into stuff right now. Like you, I thought that there was an overlap in most albums. I thought it was all about following the child. I guess I will have to keep working with Bunny a little hard to make sure that I have her in a better place for next fall. You are like a Montessori super mom! I love seeing what you have up to becuase it helps me see where Bunny is headed. I really admire all that you do and I think it is fantastic!!! If you find all the answers I hope you let us all know! Good Luck!

  3. Hi! Sorry about the confusion. Just to clarify, all of the albums at Cultivating Dharma are Elementary 9-12 (4th-6th grade) so they are not applicable in trying to figure out the 3-6/6-9 overlap.

    Somehow you've gotten hold of some poor information. There is absolutely overlap between many concepts/materials in primary and elementary. Your son is not a year behind.

    My son just tried the large bead frame and he is in 6th grade! And we didn't find it very helpful, either - we much prefer the small bead frame and switching to paper (abstract) after that. So I wouldn't even consider it a "required" material.

    Not only do the concepts overlap, but they are approached in different ways in primary and elementary which is why they can crossover. For instance, the multiplication bead board in primary is a "sensorial" material - the child often completes it without understanding or internalizing the multiplication tables. In elementary, the MBB board is used but now the child is to focus on understanding and memorizing the multiplication tables.

    Both in 3-6 and 6-9, Some children work on the MBB a lot, others don't need it as much. It really just depends on the child!

    I don't even think I could list all of the materials/concepts that overlap in every curricular area. There are too many to list!

    Some materials are the same but used differently in each age group (triangle boxes, binomial and trinomial cube). Others are modified, like how 3-6 nomenclature cards are used with pictures, labels, and control cards in primary but with pictures, labels, and definitions in 6-9.

    From what I can tell, your son is doing fantastic and you are doing a fantastic job with him. Keep "doing the next thing" whenever he finishes with one material and concept, and don't worry too much about where he is at.

    That's why we do 3-year cycles, so that materials can be repeated, reviewed, or even introduced in different years for different children based on their interests and abilities.

    Basically, the Montessori materials are a lot more flexible than you've been led to believe, especially when used at home. One of the reasons we homeschool is to avoid those "What is Bobby down the street doing?" types of comparisons, right?

    I used to focus on it more but now that my children are 8 & 11 I don't worry much at all what "grade" level they are at or whether Susie Snowflake at the Montessori school down the street knows more or has done different/better/more advanced materials than my kids have.

    Just to give one more example of how Montessori materials can stretch over the ages: the triangle boxes are used sensorially in 3-6; the children learn the shape names and learn how to measure/rearrange the shapes in 6-9; my son recently used the triangle box to prove the Pythagorean theorem in 9-12! (Which was awesome, by the way).

    Also, the idea of allowing 2 1/2 year olds to join the 3-6 classroom is seldom implemented, mostly for toilet training reasons. The three Montessori schools I worked at (all great schools: one a training center school, another accredited by AMS which is very rare) did not do this. It's more of a "this would be nice if it worked" idea that very much depends on the school, that state's Children & Family policies, and the individual child.

    Hope that helps!

    -Lori from Montessori for Everyone

  4. I am an avid reader of your blog and cannot even begin to tell you how impressed I am with all that you do. You read - a lot. Sometimes I find that helps me, but other times it doesn't. I wonder if you are in the latter case. I do not know the answer to your specific question, as this is out of my area of expertise. But what I do know is that the underlying principle of Montessori is to follow the child. I can see that you do that. Your boys appear to LOVE learning. With that fuel, anything is and will be possible. That is the greatest gift you can give them. Whether they can do long division at six is literally nothing compared to that. I hope that you will end up feeling less conflicted and that you will find the answers that you seek. For whatever it is worth, I think you are doing an amazing job.
    Laura in PA.

  5. Hi Lori,

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for commenting. I am honored!

    I really appreciate the information, and hope that my comments didn't reflect badly on Jessica or her albums in any way. Obviously I could be misunderstanding some things. This is why I'm putting it all out there so it can be cleared up.

    This is what Jonathan, from Cultivating Dharma, has to say about the age range of the albums (from the comments on his albums page):

    Suzy says:
    May 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm
    Hello, I was wondering if your albums are Upper Elementary (9-12) or Lower Elementary (6-9). thank you

    jonathan says:
    May 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm
    Well, they are supposed to be both. The training I went through combined both the Elementary 1 & Elementary 2 into one program. However, based on my particular experience teaching, I feel the albums are a bit weak both at the bottom and the top. Maybe they are more like 7-11 albums.

    Maybe what I am noticing this week is the "weak at the bottom" that he mentioned.

    Jessica's albums do go on to talk a lot about the fact that while we can use the primary materials at the elementary level we have to approach them differently.

    I think that part of what you might be saying though is that just because we approach things differently at the primary and elementary levels, it doesn't mean we have to "cram it all in" to primary just to avoid missing that "sensorial" or "absorbent" approach.

    I really appreciate your comments and support... you are right, part of the reason I homeschool IS to avoid those kinds of comparisons. I think that is part of why this week was so hard for me, I "compared" when I usually don't do that.

  6. Thank you to all who are commenting! KEEP EM COMING GUYS! I have to go take the boys to violin, so I can't respond to all of your comments personally right this minute, but will later. You guys are the best! I responded to Lori right away so no one who has the Cultivating Dharma albums would be confused by part of her comment. Thanks all!

  7. Hi! I do remember that now at Jonathan's site, and I did see some overlap with 6-9 at the beginning of the albums (I'm working my way through them with my son), but the overlap was more with things you'd do in second or third grade, so I don't consider them truly 6-12. His language album is mostly 9-12, from what I can tell. There were almost no 6-9 language language presentations.

    Keep in mind that when materials are mentioned they may use the same name (We use the multiplication bead board in 3-6! We use the multiplication bead board in 6-9!) but they are used in a different way, so that can be confusing when looking at something like my comprehensive lists which only name the materials without including the presentations.

    We absolutely do NOT want to "cram" things into 3-6 just for the sake of checking off materials or presentations. 3-6 is supposed to be very child-led and even in a Montessori school, no two kids in 3-6 will be working on the exact same things at the same time or will get the same things from the use of the materials.

    There's so much variation and individualization in Montessori, which is one of the main reasons why Montessori & homeschooling are such a good fit.

    Happy to help!

  8. Sorry for the "language language" in the first paragraph :)

    As someone who is currently using Jonathan's math, language, and geometry albums, I do have to disagree with his assessment of the age range.

    Based on my 6-9 albums from my training, his albums are almost completely 9-12 with a few 6-9 (leaning towards the edge of 9) lessons thrown in at the beginning of the math albums. Obviously, each training center is different.

    So I do actually stand by my first comment about his albums. You would not want to start his albums with a 6 year old as many important foundational 6-9 presentations are simply not there.

    That is not to slam his albums at all - I love them and am so appreciative that he has provided them as free downloads. I just think people might be a little confused if they approach his albums as 6-12, which they are not.

  9. The children absolutely use the same materials in the first year of the elementary classroom. When I started teaching the 6-9's I was so looking forward to teaching from the new album. It was a bit of a shock to find I had to wait a year!

    It is important to remember a few things. One is that the montessori materials work, even when older children work through them. You doan't have to do it in quite the same way then because they generally have a bit more of an abstract idea of numbers and what they do, simply by virtue of having been alive.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that some children stay in the 3-6 class until they are 6 and 11 months. You have two years left to complete the work and it seems like you are doing well.

    Yet another thing to bear in mind is that it is normal for all children to put all their energies into learning in a particular sphere- so if reading is going really well then maths may plateau. That is normal!

    And another thing - follow the child!

    I would pick the sequence you are most comfortable with and work from that - ignore all the ones that have "should have" or "must" anywhere in them - see my point above! Stick to one sequence and follow it - there are variations in the elementary sequence because Montessori didn't write it in the way that she did the 3-6 sequence, so her followers did the best they could from what she said, wrote and adapted during her life.

    Your boy looks to be exactly where he should be - he understands completely what he knows, is working through the sequence of work leaving no gaps in understanding and is enjoying himself. I absolutely disagree with one part of what Montessorians hold to as utter gospel - I see no time when children stop absorbing if they find it enjoyable. Children in the 6-9 classroom soak up information in much the same way as in the 3-6 classroom. They hear a lesson in poetry going on in the corner and the next thing you know - they have written a Haiku, even though they never recieved the lesson formally. Relax, trust the sequence you have chosen and remember that it all crosses over. An elementary teacher could not send a child down to the primary classroom because they hadn't finished the 3-6 sequence of work, if the child is ready socially and emotionally for the 6-9 classroom. They'd just teach it!!!

  10. This is a wonderful honest post, and such great helpful comments!! I was worried about being behind as well, but if my children are happy, productive and progressing... then perhaps... we are right on time:)

  11. I love all the comments that have been left within hours of your post. Some are answering your questions and some are supportive - both equally important since you sound so down. I hope you feel all the support being sent your way. Very few people want to admit that they don't know something, especially something important. I'm glad you had the courage to post it on your blog so that we can learn with you.

    Many of us weren't even introduced to math until kindergarden. Kal-El is way ahead of where we were. To quote Jen "You haven't ruined him"!

    I love your blog and am learning so much from you. I hope tomorrow is a better day.

  12. Jen: You are so right. Thank you. That's the type of thing I usually say to people, but somehow that switch in my brain got turned off this week.

    Stephanie: Don't panic! As I often am, it looks like I was wrong and that everything is just fine. Part of the reason I posted about this was so that all the fantastic people out there who happen to read this blog could help us all puzzle it all out.

    Laura: Thank you so much for the support and for reading! I really needed to hear what you said today and appreciate it.

    Annicles: I was HOPING you would chime in...thank you! I usually try to stay away from the "woulds" and "shoulds" like you say. Maybe its because I'm sick this week, but I'm sure Jessica will say I'm hearing "woulds" and "shoulds" where I shouldn't be. I also hear you on the "follow one sequence" advice. I usually give that advice myself...right now I'm a vulnerable because I'm trying to pick that sequence. I was hoping to "kick in" to the elementary mindset in the fall so here I am thinking I'm all ahead of the game and suddenly start to feel like I'm behind.

    Cherine and Amy:

    Thank you for your support and kind words. I'm so glad that we get to learn together!

  13. Lori,

    Thanks again! No, it didn't even cross my mind to think you were slamming Jonathan's albums. It is so nice to get a point of view on elementary albums from someone who has used them. It is hard to choose albums. Like you said, a material can be used at the primary level and used again in elementary in a completely different way. I know when I see "binomial cube" on an elementary table of contents that it's being used differently so I can't just think "done that." I know Annicles posted recently about using the Grammar farm later in elementary and how it's very different than the primary/early elementary grammar farm.

    The only real way to compare albums is to see ALL of the albums. Table of contents are almost useless in this respect. Then we throw into the mix whether or not all of the age ranges are truly represented and it gets REALLY difficult. I really appreciate your comments because throwing these ideas out there and really talking about our individual experiences with the albums or in the classroom is the only way to find this out.

    So, how did you get from your primary albums to the Cultivating Dharma albums? What did you use in-between? The answer to that may be your own albums from your own training, but I have to ask :)

  14. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! PLEASE don't EVER stop blogging:} Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. I appreciate your concerns - there can be such a confusion about albums.

    I have a very long response for you that will hopefully help - I'll send it privately :)

    Here are some key thoughts to consider though:

    --If your son were in a Montessori school that started at 2 1/2, he would STILL be in primary (some schools have a 4th year of primary). This is due to not "switching" to the second plane of development until age 6. It happens in spurts between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2.

    So, rest assured, your son is NOT in the wrong place for HIM. :)

    --There is a large discrepancy between albums. My AMI primary albums DO have an overlap of presentations (namely the early math work found in the course files) --- BUT the presentations themselves are going to differ, because they are geared for 1st versus 2nd plane of development characteristics. So, if children don't get to fractions in primary; or they just need review; the initial fractions presentations in elementary could be a review, brand new, or the child is entirely past it -- just depends on the child.

    --Kal-El should continue to proceed forward with what he is doing (and I will respond privately with suggestions).

    Finally, I've not read all the comments in detail yet (I love all the thoughts that people are sharing!), but the one thing that stood out that I want to reiterate - when comparing albums, one also notices that the names of materials or presentations can lead to one to assume that the same presentation is given twice - when it's not. The Bank Game with beads that some people have at primary, is called "The Change Game" in AMI - and the Bank Game is an elementary presentation (without beads).

    --For anyone interested in my course and concerned about that transition, I do offer "connecting albums" to help the transition from one style of album to another, without forsaking the flow of work for your children :)

  16. Oops! I think I wrote the name above.

    Sorry about that!

  17. Ok, just one more comment now I've read teh comments more in detail :)

    One of the differences between albums is "what is done at lower elementary" - so one person's albums/training ("album A") that might be 6-12, another album/training ("album B") would actually use at 9-12 because they spent 6-9 doing more of the things that "album A" covers at primary OR is covered in children's personal exploration/interest/studies.

    Another way of saying that: some albums put in *everything* and therefore take longer getting through a subject. Other albums are focused on the basic/key concepts, and leave more time for children's interests and discoveries.

    Both have their benefits! But it can be hard to compare them.

  18. One of my most profound memories of the philosophy of "following the child" was LONG BEFORE my Montessori days - when I was first considering homeschooling 15 years ago. I was at a homeschooling conference and one of the speakers said - if your child is struggling with algebra put it away and come back to it the next year and try again. I was aghast!!! How could anyone let go of educational expectations!? I have homeschooled every age level several times now with my 8 children. I am not a Montessori purist by any means. We "melt it into the mix" and it works just fine. I have had kids who first read at 3 yo and some who didn't get it til they were 12-13yo. I have one child who has always been 4-5 grades ahead in spelling and I have children who were 4-5 grades below in spelling until one day it finally clicked and then their skills jump 3-4 grade levels in a few months. So what? At least they were not in the public school system and labeled forever failures because they did not all bloom at the scheduled time or in the same scheduled order of subjects. You offer your children the opportunities for learning and they will pick it up when the timing is right for them. There is NO *perfect* plan and NO *perfect* album and you may not know that *now* with your young children - but you will - after you have homeschooled as many children as I have - or after you have homeschooled for as long as I have. RELAX and use your motherly intuition and God-given parental graces to educate your child. Don't give into the pressures of some prescribed set of expectations.

  19. Discovering Montessori,

    THANK YOU! I can't count the number of times I've wanted to quit blogging because it felt like I have nothing of value to add or that no one but my Mom is reading. Thank you.


    Thank you, you are so right. Such important points. I got a little stuck in the compare game this week. Although, what disappoints me the most is the idea that perhaps *I* held him back and that it will be more difficult for him to memorize his math facts because he didn't use the material at the right time. Part of the reason I chose Montessori was because it makes it so easy for the child to learn. I hate to make things more difficult for him.

  20. Whew!!!! I am so glad that I dont have to panic! I think that this has been one of the most helpful posts/ conversations I been a part of in a while! I love that there are so many wonderful people out there to help out when the need be! This is an awesome community!
    I think that it is so easy to get caught comparing our kids to someone else or something else! Thank heavens for the support that helps us calm down and keep going! So the moral is that we need to keep going and relax! I am so glad that that is what we need to do! I cant wait to hear about what else you find out about the 6-9 albums! I am hoping to use your research! :) Thanks for being open helping us all in the process! You are the best!

  21. Hi My Boys Teacher!

    I want to make a comment on the Research and Development Math Manuals. Since I was trained using those I can speak about them. The 6-9 mathematics one album does come with the entire 3-6 math album. We are trained on all of the 3-6 math materials and 6-9 materials. They do this because the trainers know a 6-9 teacher will get students at different levels in Mathematics and so we need to be trained to start wherever the student is "at".
    This was the same case for Geometry Manual and Fractions Manual.

    I know you do not want to compare and neither do I but I'll tell you that my daughter who is the same age as your oldest is at the same place in mathematics as he is. She spent A LOT of time this school year in the Language area. She loves the language area and has spent a lot of time reading, using the moveable alphabet to spell and learn all of the phonetic rules and writing stories.

    In one of my 6-9 math classes a few of the teachers taking the class have taught in the 3-6 age group and they discussed how they only had one or two students get through the entire sequence.

  22. Well said! Yes the moral of the story is: "keep going and relax!" I love the line from the book "Misunderstood Betsy" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher where the girl in a country school says, "If I'm in 2nd grade arithmetic, and 7th grade reading, and 3rd grade spelling, what grade am I?" I have to share what my kids said as I was sharing this discussion with them and then I will save any further comment for a future post on my own blog. LOL! I get frustrated with how young Montessori parents get fixated on the sensitive periods and sequence of learning. It just means that overall it is easier and quicker for most children to learn certain things at certain ages but it never means that they will never learn properly once those periods are past, it just takes a bit more effort and time. My 19yo piped up as I was venting and she said, "I was the 1st child in our family homeschooled from the start - I was the experimental child...(does this work, well maybe not). I don't think I learned much during my sensitive periods but I'm *not* an idiot!" This is the girl who was often known to *take over* my homeschooling lessons because she knew more about the subjects than I did - especially history and science! She is naturally an absorbent (and very analytical) child even to this day. She sees or reads it once and she knows it and remembers it. I was saying good night to her on the phone and I said "I'm glad I didn't mess you up too bad," and my 12 year old son humorously pipes up behind me, "I'm pretty sure you messed us all up in one way or another mom." Gotta love it.

  23. I missed this post when you first wrote it. I love your blog and am so thankful you haven't stopped blogging.

  24. The Girl Who Painted Trees,

    Thank you soo know how it can be, some days we post and hear nothing but crickets. But, it is so nice to have some bloggy friends to cheer me up when I've hit a wall.