What to Look for in a Montessori Curriculum

Choosing to go the Montessori homeschool route can feel intimidating, but finding the right Montessori curriculum can help make everything much easier, from understanding Montessori philosophy to making it work in your homeschool. But, what makes one Montessori curriculum better than another? What are the most important components of a Montessori curriculum?

Homeschooling in general is a diverse topic with all manner of methods, theories, and individual curriculums. There are so many to choose from - how do you know which is the right one for your family? It can be a tough question to answer, especially if you're just starting out. After all, the value of your child's education can not be overstated, and a curriculum is a big investment. Before you invest in a Montessori curriculum, consider the following factors to help you make the right choice.

What to Look for in a Montessori Curriculum

Reject Complexity

Above all, reject complexity. Homeschooling is a huge project to take on; the enormity of the task should not be underestimated. So, the last thing you want is a curriculum that overcomplicates this already challenging project. That's why your Montessori curriculum should be a straightforward resource purposefully designed to make things easier for you. This is especially true when you are new to homeschooling, because you and your kid(s) are both learning at the same time.

As you begin educating yourself, you’re going to be reading and digesting a lot of new information, which can be taxing. Let's face it, homeschoolers just don't have a lot of extra time on their hands. So, an ideal curriculum will simplify the Montessori Method and help you get the most out of your effort. In turn, this will allow you to spend less time researching and more time focused on your kids.

Verify Authenticity

The word “Montessori” is not trademarked or copyrighted. This means that any school, curriculum, toy or manipulative can use it without providing anything even closely related to the authentic Montessori methodology. So, it’s up to you to be educated and analytical. The good news is that most elements of an authentic Montessori homeschool curriculum mirror those of a credible Montessori school.

You should be looking for a curriculum that follows the traditional Montessori scope & sequence, facilitates creation of a beautifully prepared environment, instructs the homeschool guide in Montessori lesson presentation, encourages self-directed learning, emphasizes independence, and is easily tailored to each child while facilitating multi-age studies.

Additionally, since you are not a formally trained Montessori guide, you will want to find a Montessori curriculum that provides ongoing support. Unlike Montessori schools themselves, curricula can not be accredited. So, while finding an accredited Montessori school is important, you won’t have to worry about finding an “accredited curriculum,” because they don’t exist.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Adhere to the Traditional Montessori Scope and Sequence

Traditional schooling has expectations for learning outcomes in each grade, while Montessori uses a multi-age scope and sequence to expose children to the appropriate variety of topics, but at their own pace and based on their interests. Moreover, Montessori kids are introduced to a wide range of topics at a young age, and the scope and sequence helps us determine a broad set of goals for age ranges. A good Montessori curriculum will, therefore, translate the often long and verbose scope and sequence into an easy to digest, simplified form.

For instance, children in the primary classroom (ages 3-6) are taught scientific concepts that might seem out of their league. But, because children at this age are in a sensitive period for language acquisition, this early exposure to complex vocabulary is important for development of a deeper understanding later on.

Sensitive periods Montessori

Children have sensitive periods for information acquisition, and the Montessori Method appreciates that. That's why subject specific scope and sequences should be included - to break down the components of each concept into a user friendly plan.

Because Montessori learning is interconnected, no subject is taught in a vacuum. Science, math, and language are all presented in a way that touches on the other subjects. Additionally, complex information is presented at a younger age than in traditional schooling; it’s not uncommon to see 7-year-old students doing basic algebra.

The simplified scope and sequences of a great Montessori curriculum will help you identify when to present topics and what you should generally expect developmentally and educationally for each age range. It also helps you see what will be coming later on, so you can be prepared.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Guide you in Creating a Beautiful Environment that Encourages Movement

Orderliness, cleanliness and aesthetic beauty are critical to an effective Montessori environment. This is because small children are highly impressionable as they move through various sensitive periods for learning. For this reason, Montessori believed that kids should be immersed in an environment that appeals to all of their senses in a calming and peaceful way.

Further, Maria Montessori believed “what the hand does, the mind remembers”. This means that when a child learns via active movement, they retain information better. Things make more sense when a child is fully engaged through a multi-sensory approach that uses their minds and  bodies, and so your curriculum should lean into this concept. Bottom line: if the curriculum is a workbook, then it’s just not Montessori.

One of the biggest differences between Traditional Education and the Montessori Method is that Montessori doesn’t rely on lecture at all. Consider how dreadful sitting and listening to someone drone on about a topic can be, even as an adult. Children thirst for engagement and the kinesthetic learning that is the core of Montessori is truly a powerful teaching method. Moreover, your curriculum should be vibrant, lovely, and physically interactive, instilling a lifelong passion for learning and curiosity in your kids.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Instruct you in Proper Lesson Presentation 

These lessons, exact and fascinating, given in an intimate way to each child separately, are the teacher’s offering to the child’s soul. ~ The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori

A great Montessori homeschool curriculum will encourage you to begin with observation and to consider your child, your materials and your environment before presenting lessons. It will focus on and instruct you with regard to both your words and movements during the lesson. Oftentimes it is easier for non-Montessori trained homeschoolers to follow scripted lessons, so that option should be available as well.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Encourage Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning does not mean that children are free to choose to do and not do whatever they want. Quite to the contrary, in Montessori, self-directed learning means that children are permitted to choose what they want to study from a set of predetermined age and developmentally appropriate options established by an adult guide. The best way to achieve this is to use a Montessori curriculum that encourages mixed-age activities, organization of the learning environment according to subject area, using proper Montessori teaching methodology and ensuring a low teacher-to-student ratio.

An important note about single year Montessori curriculums: it can feel a lot simpler, less intimidating and cheaper to buy single year curriculums. I get it. I really do. But - again - it’s just not Montessori.

Think about it: Montessori is known for allowing children to develop at their own unique pace. One child may be an advanced reader but struggle in math. Another may be right on track in reading, but be able to do complex math beyond other children his or her age. This is the beauty of the multi-age approach of Montessori.

If you use a “Kindergarten Montessori Curriculum” for your 5 year old, you will lose this fundamental and indispensable element of the Montessori Method. To create an effective Montessori homeschool, you and your child must be free from the structure of Traditional Schooling that requires all children to learn the same thing at the same age.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Emphasize Independence and Self-Reliance

The child’s inner need: ‘Help me to do it by myself.' ~ Maria Montessori

Montessori methodology relies on respect for the child as an individual. This respect is seen most clearly through Montessori’s emphasis on allowing children to independently choose their work from a carefully prepared environment. How does this lead to independence and self-reliance?

The Montessori approach allows children to work autonomously and to experience the pride of accomplishment when a lesson is mastered. Then, as the child progresses through the carefully sequenced and prepared lessons ahead, they develop confidence in their own burgeoning understanding of the world and in their own decision-making abilities. In combination with the implementation of a thoughtfully designed practical life curriculum, Montessori homeschooling gives children the tools they need to “do it by myself.” 

Your Montessori Curriculum Should be Easily Tailored to each Child while Facilitating Multi-Age Studies

Your Montessori homeschool should provide activities which ignite passionate curiosity in each learner while simultaneously offering related activities that appeal to and are developmentally appropriate for all children within the multi-age group.

For example, your 3 year old may be interested in learning about animals, while your 5 year old is most excited about geography and learning about the seven continents. In this situation, your Montessori curriculum should help you create Science shelves which focus on zoology and Geography shelves which focus on the continents. It should allow you to highlight the interconnectedness of the topics by prominently displaying works which cover the varied and exciting animals that live in each continent, and it should provide activities that are appropriate for both your 3 and 5 year old.

In this way, both children are drawn to the materials based on their individual interests, can experience the independence boosting effects of success with certain tasks, and can rely on one another for multi-age learning on a topic that excites them both. Times like these are absolutely amazing in the Montessori homeschool environment, and your curriculum should help you facilitate them.

Your Montessori Curriculum Should Provide Ongoing Support

Many curriculums are well put together, but once you’ve invested, you’re on your own. With Montessori, the support and guidance of other homeschoolers and the curriculum’s creator is essential. Don’t get stuck in a situation where you have a curriculum, but can’t use it because there’s no support offered.

With Multisori’s Montessori homeschool curriculum, you get ongoing support directly from the creator, and a forum where you can engage with other Montessori families. By creating a reliable support system and a collaborative space for our homeschooling families, we help make the Montessori homeschooling experience better for all of us.

The Cost of Montessori Homeschool Curriculum

Setting up a Montessori classroom with Montessori-specific tools, furniture, and manipulatives can cost thousands of dollars. Your curriculum should help you find a route to Montessori homeschooling without forcing you to spend tons of money on unnecessary additional equipment. You don’t need a $10,000 Montessori classroom that’s built out for 30 children each year over 20 years when you only have your own to teach.

The child's inner need - help me do it myself. - Maria Montessori

Homeschooling Materials

Your curriculum should also be able to guide you towards materials that do make sense to invest in: you probably don’t need a bunch of highly durable wooden tools that would last for 20+ years if you only have a few kids to homeschool. Tools like these are wonderful, but they’re also expensive. On the other hand, investing in something like golden beads, which can significantly aid mathematical learning, is absolutely worth it. Your curriculum should help guide you when making decisions like that.

This is why here at Multisori we talk about Montessori on a budget, why our curriculum provides ideas for useful and affordable products when appropriate, and why DIY options abound.

It’s so important to have a curriculum that guides you on how to DIY the tools you need quickly and easily, or includes printable manipulatives. In this way, you can spend more time focusing on learning and less time worrying about procuring expensive and quite likely unnecessary equipment.

Record Keeping + Homeschooling

Your state or local government will have reporting requirements and unfortunately, their requirements rarely look the same. What’s most important, generally, is that you be able to tell the state what you did, when you did it, and how you did it. You don’t need a fancy reporting system because you’re not responsible for a huge classroom of kids; just your own.

And let’s face it - many homeschool moms will be overwhelmed at one point or another. You certainly don’t need to add on another stressor like trying to approach record keeping like a professional Montessori Guide would! That’s why M3 by Multisori utilizes a simple checklist approach to make lesson organization, reporting and tracking quick and easy.

Invest in a Montessori Curriculum that Helps You Be Your Best

As we said before, homeschooling is a big undertaking, but choosing the right curriculum can make it so much easier. You should be looking for a curriculum that follows the traditional Montessori scope & sequence, facilitates creation of a beautifully prepared environment, instructs the homeschool guide in Montessori lesson presentation, encourages self-directed learning, emphasizes independence, and is easily tailored to each child while facilitating multi-age studies. Additionally, since you are not a formally trained Montessori guide, you will want to find a Montessori curriculum that provides ongoing support. 

You want a system that is easy to understand and implement, and that engages your children right off. Through the use of manipulatives, kinesthetic activity, and engaging, hands-on learning, the right curriculum will ensure your children’s sense of wonder and curiosity. This will instill a lifelong passion for learning and self-directed exploration of their world.

In addition, you want a Montessori curriculum that doesn’t suggest you invest in expensive equipment that is often not necessary and can actually be counterproductive for a small homeschool. A complete system will have product recommendations, supply lists, DIY solutions, and printable manipulatives, at a minimum.

Invest in a curriculum that helps you deal with record keeping in a simple, easy-to-follow format. This way you’re not overdoing it, or stressing about reporting.

Finally, your curriculum should have ongoing support. M3 by Multisori offers all of these things, plus a connection to the creator and a vibrant community of Montessori homeschool families. Our M3 curriculum is the first step towards Montessori homeschool success, and a lifetime of successful and passionate learning.

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