Montessori at Home by Heidi Spietz is a very slender volume with large font and the occasional illustration and/or photograph that sketches how someone can incorporate Maria Montessori’s teaching methods without having to send your child to an expensive Montessori school, especially when not everyone has access to one of these schools. What the method does wonderfully, and why it continues to be so popular even to this day, is to incorporate all of the senses in teaching. Letters are taught not only by appearance but by how they sound, feel, etc.
(Before I go any further, this book is out of print. I would not recommend spending more than a few dollars on this. Either borrow a copy from your library, a friend, or find a copy in a used bookstore. Do not pay an arm and leg for a book that is only going to offer you very little insight.)
Pros of this book:
1) It is very short. I read it in a single day and a busy one so a parent can read this book in a single sitting, even with a distracting toddler around.
2) Resources are listed in the book (although these are somewhat “dated” as no websites are suggested).
3) All of the information is kept to a bare minimum so a parent is not likely to be overwhelmed with too much content.
4) The examples are concise and there is not a lot of clutter of information to distract from the simplicity of Montessori’s method.
Cons of this book:
1) Perhaps the book is too short. The reader will have to bring a lot of imagination to the suggestions given to understand how to take what the author suggests as a way to start and move forward from there.
2) A lot of the resource recommendations will require an investment of some sort. If homemade then the parent will have to make stacks of flash cards, buy many sheets of poster board in a variety of colors, etc. As time consuming as it would be to make these resources, it could be fiscally prohibitive for some parents.
3) This is really a bare bones look at Montesorri’s theories and methods and someone really wanting to apply how to use Montessori’s ideas will want to read more books than this one.
4) The book is poorly edited with inexcusable typographical errors one would absolutely not expect to see in a book on education let alone find. One such error I might have overlooked but I lost count. I know there were more than five and possibly less than ten but given the amount of content even “so few” feel like too many.
Frankly, I don’t think the “cons” outweigh the “pros” because investing in a child’s education is going to take both time and money. If you can find a way to make the resources for yourself, great. If you don’t have the time or inclination, ordering online makes access to Montessori resources ridiculous uncomplicated. However, there’s something to be said for making the items yourself, the child watching as you cut out the letters or shapes, curious about what is being done and why.
The logic of how a parent can use the preliminary suggestions in this text to move forward into more information is obvious. I would imagine some readers criticizing the book for not giving a better outline of where to go. Spietz obviously didn’t intend to write a thorough resource and is justified in thinking that the reader can use a little common sense to take her bare bones or first step suggestions to begin a long list of activities. How hard is it, really, to imagine what the next step from “The cat is fat” and “The pig is fat” to “The pig is very big and fat” and “The cat is very small and black”? The use of a white board would reduce although not get rid of altogether many of the recommended resources. A parent can write the simple sentence on the board, erase the one word and replace it with another or, better yet, use prepared flashcards with certain words to fill in or exchange one noun for another, one verb for another, etc.
But this is not a book trying to offer a ready laid out plan for teaching and that’s okay. A parent with a little imagination can easily take this book and hit the ground running. After all, Montessori urged her teachers to allow the individual child to learn at a natural self-paced rate and were the author to create an outline too many parents would interpret this as a timeline. For the parent who wants and needs more there are many books on Montessori but I’ve read other books that recommend far more expensive resources than this one and I would suggest that for this reason alone this book is worth looking at because expensive is not necessarily better.