When Things Are Not Working

This week, Little Mama and I started going backward.....in order to go forward.

I have mentioned before that we do a partial Montessori, partial traditional homeschool method at our house. Part of that is because we are still 'in transition' and it is just taking a while for me to learn everything, and make/purchase even some of the most basic authentic Montessori materials.
Another reason why we are still doing some traditional style is because that is what I had. I had books, and books, and worksheets, and .... BOOKS!

 We have been doing school very traditionally since Little Mama was 4. That was 4 1/2 years ago.  Considering the fact that I only started researching Montessori about 7-8 months ago, there is a big chunk of our history in homeschooling that is traditional based. Add to that the fact that my husband and I were both public school grads, and you understand  why it was so easy to choose to do things the same way we always knew.

The only problem was - it wasn't working. Oh, it was in some areas. But the more I compare the differences in concrete vs. abstract ways of thinking, the more I realize just how hard it is to learn abstract from the beginning, and that is basically what I was doing from the start. 

Which was becoming a problem - my little Mama was HATING Math. Which I can relate to - I was never good at Math, and had to have a very good, very patient teacher to be able to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, I didn't have that every year. It's funny how different children are - my husband finds math very easy to understand, and Hoss takes after him - he has no clue why in the WORLD his sister wouldn't enjoy it. But if you want an immediate frown and mind shut down from my oldest, just tell her that we are going to do Math. Even with me there, she dreads it. 

 So I started first just trying to show her to get manipulatives any time she is doing her work and use them. This helped, but she was still dreading her Math time. Now if I suggest anything else, like Reading Comprehension, History, Cursive - anything that she can read, write, draw - she loves it and will gladly go to it. But Math has continued to be a very hard bridge to cross with her. Once she understands what she is doing, which doesn't REALLY take much in the big picture - she is very smart, and that may or may not be a bias opinion, but I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? :) She just hasn't been excited about it in way too long. Which meant it was time for a change.

So this is what we did:

First, I quickly introduced the large number cards that I printed for free from here at Montessori Print Shop. I knew that this was not a challenging thing for her to understand - remember, we have been doing abstract thinking from the start and right now she is able to add/subtract large (7,8,9 digit) numbers, multiply 3-4 digit numbers, and do short and long division. The point was not to make it challenging, but I actually wanted to opposite. I wanted it to be easy, temporarily - so that she would enjoy it and relax.   

Then I introduced the stamp material from the stamp game, also printed from the same link above, Montessori Print Shop. I quickly showed her that the units (we have always called them 'ones' and probably will continue to do so, at least with the older two, because they are used to that terminology), and that they were the same as the large number cards, and made sure she understood the same for the tens, hundreds, and thousands. 


The last thing she did was some simple four digit, static addition. Nothing complicated - just an introduction to the materials and stamp game addition. Of course, I may not have presented it EXACTLY as I should have - I have not as of this point watched a video for the presentation of this, although I plan to. But I loved the end of this lesson - I showed her how to record the addition problem and sum on graph paper, which is another great free printable from MPS. She decided she wanted to do just a few - I'm sure she was trying to soak everything new in, although it was not a new concept - just a new way to do it. When she was finished, i smiled, and said that was her Math for the day. And it happened! Her eyes lit up, and she SMILED and said, "Really?"

She wasn't frustrated, overwhelmed, IN TEARS!!! She was okay and still in a good mood about doing some more work in another area, whereas before, when she would finish Math, she was mentally done for the DAY, even if it was only 10 in the morning.

I understand that this is probably not at all the same way that someone would do this with a younger child, just starting out. I may not have explained it all just right as I would had I first found a video on the presentation. But I am working with an 8 year old, 3rd grader, who up to this point has used an advanced Math curriculum (Abeka) which may not be the most advanced out there, but is way ahead of what a public school child is doing. I am going to try to quickly move her through addition, subtraction, and multiplication, slowing down there and letting her work with the stamp game through division as long as she needs to. I will probably also add in some mulitiplication charts and memorization materials when we get there, to make sure she has those in her head very well. Will this work? I don't know. I hope so, but she may never enjoy Math as much as her brother. That's okay with me - it's part of who she is. I just don't want her to cry over school work, dread it, and let it ruin her day.    If this gives her any help at all, then it is worth it! Meanwhile, we are going to have some fun with it.... :)

I would welcome ANY advice on what others think might help in this situation, or if there are some materials that you would highly recommend I work on making/purchasing to help gain excitement and joy back in this area.




  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too am in the transition period of switching to Montessori Method. My kiddos are 6,4, & 3. I've done really well making trays etc., but I don't have the official Montessori Materials yet.

    I'm not sure if you have a Montessori School near you, but I contacted the one in our town and they were SO HELPFUL! They let me come and observe all of their classrooms and offered a library type exchange for materials, until I can purchase my own. The director was willing to teach me as much as I wanted to learn. Good luck!

    1. Well then, we are not alone! There are atleast two of us working on making the change :) I do actually live in an area where there is exactly ONE Montessori school, and I was pleasantly surprised last Fall when they whole-heartedly agreed for me to come visit and observe the classes, and I got the change to talk quite a bit with one of the head teachers about the lower and upper elementary classes, and have kept in contact with the primary teacher, who had me come in on an 'off' day to get some hands on looking at the materials and answer my questions. I am glad you had the chance to do that, as well - I loved it! What do you find is your hardest thing to get past in making the switch? Is it the lack of authentic materials, or the learning process of how to teach the 'Montessori Way'?

  2. This is a beautiful post! I love what your doing with your daughter's feelings toward maths.

    Thank you for sharing/

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and I am glad you enjoy it, but most of all, I hope it works! BTW - I enjoy your blog (The Work Plan) as well :)

  3. Hi! I just found your blog at What DID We Do All Day. I love your posts :)

    Have you taken a look at Keys of the Universe for elementary? I just transitioned my nephew into elementary Montessori this past semester, and the lady who offers them is so helpful with all my crazy questions. Just sharing another resource that might be help to you.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I am blessed that you stopped by! I have heard of Keys of the Universe from My Boys Teacher, but have never been able to check it out very much - I will do that! Thanks for suggesting it - it's a push to look around and see what I can find.


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