Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten Quick Start Guide

Montessori Preschool Kindergarden Quick Start Guide

Welcome to the Montessori Quick Start guide for preschool and kindergarten!  I'm so excited that you want to learn more about implementing Montessori in your home with your family.   This section is for those starting Montessori with 3-6 year olds, generally preschool through kindergarten age.

Rather than age, I have divided this section of the guide into subject/content areas.  I have listed the category in the general order that I find them to be most appropriate for introducing.   I recommend starting with simple practical life activities, then introducing sensorial, then geography/culture, etc.  Within each category, there is a progression of development and/or activities, links to other posts, and additional resources.  Do not worry about where your child is within a given category based on their age, simply start with what feels most appropriate and move forward.

Note:  Remember this guide is intended as a starting point and is not an inclusive list of all Montessori activities and lessons at a particular age.  For many more examples of each subject area, click on the homeschool button in the right side bar and select the subject area you are interested in exploring.

Practical Life


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Many parents find that practical life activities are an excellent place to begin introducing Montessori techniques at home.   Practical life activities have two big purposes, so don't be tempted to skip ahead without spending time on practical life.  The first is for the child to be master of his or her own environment.  Through the mastery of skills, they are encouraged to develop as an individual capable of many great things!  Learning to pour without spilling a drop, for example, is a source of great pride for a young child.

The second purpose is to develop motor skills and control of movement.  The fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination required for practical life skills build the same muscles and coordination that will later be important in mastering the skills of reading and writing.

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Toddler practical life is focused primarily in the area of care of self.  Care of self continues into the preschool years.   Care of self tasks for preschoolers include dressing, washing, sorting, and folding clothing, tying shoes, washing hands & body, brushing hair, sewing, and more.  Do not underestimate your child's ability to care for their own bodily tasks.  As your child grows they can even learn to polish their own shoes...if they happen to own a real leather pair, which is of course not as common these days!

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In addition to care of self, the child is now able to begin more intense work in caring for their environment.  Caring for their environment includes tasks such as sweeping and mopping, washing the table, polishing silver, washing windows, raking leaves, basic woodworking etc.  During Montessori training, instructors are taught the "correct" way to complete these tasks.  Since you are the instructor in your home, you get to decide the correct way!  Then, through modeling and direct support teach your child the process for each chore.  (Although I caution against thinking too much of practical life activities as chores at this stage.)   Whenever possible, provide child sized supplies.

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The final area of practical life is in the area of food preparation and serving.  Pouring, spooning, knife skills, setting a table, carrying a tray, and washing dishes (to name a few).  These activities are the most directly tied to fine motor skills and are often the materials you would see set out on trays in a traditional Montessori classroom.   Using small creamers, shot glasses, tea sets, and other interesting vessels from a local thrift store allow your child to practice pouring first with rice or beans and then graduating to a liquid.   Sort or transfer solids from one bowl to another with tweezers or a spoon.  Transfer liquids with an eye dropper or even a sponge.  When our oldest two boys were young, we set up a dedicated transferring station in the kitchen.  Many other skills, such as cracking an egg or using a whisk can be learned by simply working side by side with you in the kitchen.

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Since you are living in a home, not a school, keep a box under your sink or in an art cupboard with a variety of pouring/transfer materials including vessels and different materials (rice, beans, etc.).  This will make setting up new activities more convenient.  As your child grows, work towards he or she being able to properly set them up independently!

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Practical Life Resources




Sensorial


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I'm going to start with a pet peeve/misconception that I see floating around the internet on a daily basis.  Sensory bins are not interchangeable with Montessori sensorial materials.  This doesn't mean you have to ban sensory bins from your home (unless you want to and then I applaud your decision) but it does mean to be aware that the purposes are not the same.  The Montessori sensorial materials are specifically designed to help the child explore various physical qualities through the use of their senses.  They also build a child's descriptive vocabulary and prepare the child for later presentations.

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The most well recognized materials are the pink tower and brown stair, but that is truly only the beginning.  The red reds, knobbed cylinders, and knobless cylinders also explore physical dimensions.  There are smelling bottles,  sound boxes, rough and smooth boards, geometric explorations, color boxes, bells, mystery boxes/bags, and more.

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Many sensorial materials provide concrete (sensory) foundations for later work, particularly in mathematics.  The largest cube of the pink tower, for example, has the same dimensions as the thousand cube.  The red rods are the same material as the red and blue rods, with quantity added to provide a bridge from sensorial to mathematical exploration.  Materials such as the binomial and trinomial cube are explored and mastered during the sensorial period of early childhood and then later reintroduced during the elementary ages with their formal equations.   As a child advances through their studies, they find themselves returning to the friendly and familiar materials of their early days.

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Sensorial Resources



Geography and Culture

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I love the Montessori 3-6 Geography & Culture curriculum! The globes & puzzle maps are so intricate and interesting, the landforms are so tactile, the culture/continent boxes are so interesting! Honestly it is so in depth that before starting first grade, most Montessori students have covered an entire elementary geography curriculum. It is no wonder that a former Montessori student we know made it to the state Geography Bee for several years running!

Geography and culture in a Montessori approach is covered from a global perspective.  The child is just one piece of an interconnected universe.   Students first explore the round globe with sandpaper continents (this ties back to exploration of rough and smooth from the sensorial lessons, as do the landform cards), then round globe with colored continents, then flat puzzle maps.  With the flat maps, they begin with the world map.  I have a digital world map available for pin punching or cutting to assemble your own map.  You can also use the file to create a felt puzzle map.  Then move to continent maps.  A country map is the final map studied.  

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At the primary age, continents are explored primarily through the people and animals that they are inhabited by.  Continent drawers and or boxes are a standard material in a typical Montessori classroom, along with similar set ups for the child's country, state, and possibly city.  We find books to be an excellent way to explore the continents and suggest the book Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin as a source of picture books.  This is an excellent way to augment your culture study and enjoy reading together at the same time.   Rotating continents rather than having all of the boxes and puzzles available at the same time will save space in your home classroom.

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The traditional approach to Montessori geography is to approach the continents with a bend towards political geography, and indeed the puzzle maps are arranged according to this method.  A newer school of though has emerged, however, relating early continent study to the biome level approach.  We have chosen to do a little bit of both in our homeschool and I have written about that here.  You can get a good feel for the biome level approach to continent study from Waseca Biomes.  By using this approach, science topics such as botany (officially grouped into culture studies) become more solidly integrated into the broad geography & culture heading.

While geography has a "correct" sequence that should follow an individual child, I find that with a large family this is a subject area that has room for multi age presentations with varying levels of follow up work.

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Geography and Culture Resources






Mathematics



Just as the rough and smooth boards provided the foundations for the transition to the study of geography with the sandpaper globe, the sensorial red rods create the bridge to mathematics.  The red and blue rods are the exact same size/dimension, with the second color added to create a rod that can be counted.  Introducing the number symbol to the quantity happens through materials such as the cards and counters, spindle box, sandpaper numbers, and more.  When you are introducing these concepts use language such as this is (to show the quantity) and this says (to show the symbol/number).  The spindle box is shown above, but you can also use cups labeled with numbers and any manipulative of your choice.

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Once the child has a firm grasp of the number 1-9, they will immediately begin to work the golden beads to learn about place value in the base 10 system.  In the Montessori approach big numbers are handled right away rather than waiting until a child is older.  By the time a Montessori child has completed kindergarten they have been introduced to at least addition with large numbers, including possibly carrying and borrowing.  A wonderful game to play is the Race to 100 Game, available as a stand alone or included in the Montessori Games to Play eBook.


At the same time as your child is learning to make big numbers and manipulate numbers (referred to as static operations and then later dynamic operations) with the golden beads, they also learn advanced counting with the names of the teens and tens and eventually counting the bead chains.  Various charts are used to enforce basic facts.

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Mathematics Resources


Language

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 Montessori language is different than many other language approaches in that the focus is on writing before reading.  All of the sound games of early childhood such as I-spy (described in depth in Montessori Games to Play) are considered precursors to language instruction.  The intense practical life and sensorial work strengthens the hand and eye coordination needed for writing development.  In addition, written materials such as 3 part cards help students recognize the patterns in writing even before they are able to read.  

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Writing development begins with the insets sometime between 3 and 4 years of age.  As interest and fine motor skills increase, the sandpaper letters are introduced along with pictures and objects to learn the letter sounds.  Traditionally Montessori approaches language with cursive before print, although schools of thought vary.  Simple "writing" happens as a child listens to the sounds in the word "cat" and finds the sounds that they hear.  Two common approaches to reading from the sandpaper letters are the Dwyer approach and the Pink, Blue, Green Series.  (I have a PBG reading bingo available on Teachers pay Teachers.) My Boys Teacher explains these approaches in depth.  I use a combination of both and incorporate the Words Their Way spelling curriculum as a spine for language throughout the school years.

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Writing skills (also known as encoding) are strengthened with the moveable alphabet, miniature environments, and mini books.  As encoding skills increase, spontaneous decoding (reading) generally begins to occur.  As reading fluency increases, regular use of the library for beginning readers is key, as is lots and lots of practice.  Once the reading explosion has occurred (and it is an explosion!), instruction begins in the functions of words which I will discuss in the Elementary Quick Start Guide.

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Language Resources
 


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Home Based Montessori Quick Start Guide

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