Over the past 5 years, I’ve found that many educators dedicated to providing an excellent, authentic Montessori education are exhausted. This includes parents – homeschoolers and others. This realization is the reason I’ve chosen the topics of the next few episodes of our online TV show, Montessori for Everybody, the first we’ve filmed since last year. If we are going to serve the children, and have a life, we have to figure out some way to manage all Montessori education requires.

In episode 25, I focus on avoiding the pitfalls I’ve found trip up many people. I believe in helping people try on ways of thinking about things rather than telling them what, or how, to think. Learn to look out for the pitfalls. Here are questions I suggest you ask yourself before you make a new material, buy any Montessori items or materials to make them, or undertake a project to improve your own abilities as a Montessori educator.

Opportunity Cost
What am I sacrificing to do or add this material or project and is it really worth it? The idea of opportunity cost means that whenever you do one thing, or your children spend time doing a thing, you and they have given up the opportunity to do anything else during that time.

Do No Harm
What do I know about the benefits and dangers of this choice? To do Montessori, you are choosing not to do many things that Dr. Montessori, and others since her, found harm children. Montessori is as much about not correcting, not interrupting concentrated work, and not intruding on the child as it is about anything you do.

Know Your Motives
Is this addition important or just intriguing? Is the interest I’m following mine or that of the children? (After considering this one, be sure to cycle back up through opportunity cost one more time. Just because something attracts you or your children it may not be the best or most rewarding use of your time.)

Specific Montessori Attributes
The possible list here is long, but here are a few that are always worthwhile. Does it promote independence and independent work? Is it challenging? If the only challenge is manual, does it actually improve manual skills? (These are particularly important to ask before adding to your practical life area.)

I suggest you think deeply about these questions before you spend your time, or guide your children to spend their time by placing things in the environment or giving presentations, on anything new.

Some things worth questioning:
• Materials not used in traditional Montessori classrooms
• Screen time of all types for children
• Assembling giant Montessori albums
• Paper record-keeping systems
• Practical life activities that aren’t practical
• Anything you consider buying without a use in mind – especially at thrift/dollar stores
• Any preparation work that takes time from self-care

This post, and some of the next few episodes of Montessori for Everybody TV, will discuss these “potential pitfalls”. To tie these together, each related post will end with a running list of those brought up so far – and maybe some you add in our comments section.

Running List of Potential Pitfalls

  1. Starting off too abstract
  2. “Montessori-inspired” add-ons
  3. Opportunity cost of less useful classroom activities

Sticking to Montessori Essentials I – Avoiding Pitfalls, #25

Links related to MFE TV, Episode #25
Margaret Homfray video –  art near the end