Essential Montessori Advice From Expert Karen Tyler

We have been ‘casually’ homeschooling our 4 year old preschooler and 3.5 year old twins for the past two years. Our approach is very nature based with influences of Waldorf, Reggio and Montessori. There is so much information around about Montessori and Montessori activities that in the beginning it was really quite overwhelming as to where and how to start.

Living Montessori Now is my first stop for any Montessori inspiration and it was on one of my visits that I came across KHT Montessori. And so began my journey into looking at Montessori courses available online. I had three criteria for choosing which course I would take:

  • It had to qualify as professional development for my teacher registration.
  • It had to be useful and able to be applied into our home.
  • I am already juggling many balls so it had to be a manageable workload.

Through my research I kept coming back to KHT Montessori for its price, what you receive for that price and it met each of my criteria.

KHT Montessori’s online certificate course is led by Karen Tyler, an AMS certified Montessori teacher who guides her students through 12 Montessori albums as well as several book studies. By the end of the one year course, students will have an excellent understanding of the Montessori method and will have received many extra downloadable resources for engaging children ages 2-6 in Montessori activities.

Essential Montessori Advice From Expert Karen Tyler

I highly recommend this training for anyone who would like to learn more about the Montessori method and who would like access to the 12 Montessori albums covering language, mathematics, sensorial, practical life, physical science, botany, zoology, ecology, history, geology, geography, and astronomy. This course is perfect for homeschoolers interested in Montessori methods, daycare providers and early childhood teachers who would like to add Montessori activities to their classrooms. You can get more details about this course on the KHT Montessori website.

There’s a course just about to start on the 15th September, 2014.

Karen is a fantastic source of Montessori knowledge and she is really lovely to chat to 🙂 She has kindly offered to answer your questions that you may have about the course, the Montessori Method or general Montessori questions. I asked on the Triple T Mum facebook page and got some fantastic questions. We are just thrilled to have Karen on the blog answering some of those great questions!

So grab a cuppa, get comfy and say ‘Hi’ to Montessori guru and expert Karen Tyler 🙂

{Katie asks} I’m looking into Montessori certifications right now actually. I’ve heard that KHT does not do videos. I’m very visual and have never been in a Montessori (yet), and I find online videos to be amazingly helpful. I am curious to hear if they are considering adding videos at any time.

{Karen says} Hi Katie! The KHT Montessori course has many visual aspects to it but we do not do videos….the course includes a set of 12 Montessori manuals…with step by step instructions for the presentations and how to put the activities together. I do post many photos of the activities and Montessori set-ups at home and in the classroom. I do give many links as we go along…to many blog sites of past students, etc. that show you how they have put the materials together for various activities. I also give you many do it yourself links so that you have many ideas about how to make many of the materials. I also give you many support forms so that all you have to do is print them off, cut them apart and use. I have included all (hundreds) of the nomenclature cards which are the 3 part cards that all Montessori teachers and parents use. The responsibility of the student is to read what I post on the classroom forum every week and to ask questions and/or make comments if you need to. I am very quick in answering your questions. I am a very visual person, so I am sensitive to those that are the same. The KHT course is very inexpensive compared to any Montessori course on-campus or online. For a total of $315 dollars you get a professional course, certificate, and a set of 12 manuals full of presentations in 12 subject areas. We have a top of the line classroom set up and the course fee would climb a lot higher if we needed to factor in videos. I can say that there is not another course online that will give you everything that you get with KHT. Even the AMS and AMI, etc schools do not ever give you a set of manuals like what you are given with KHT.

{Danya asks} I’m still getting the hang of what the definition of a Montessori-inspired toy or activity is. From what I can tell it is: simple & repetitious, something the child can do all by themselves, and something that they can self-correct. Would that be right? What other things would need to factor in?

{Karen says} Hi Danya! You are basically right about what a Montessori-inspired activity would be….I look at it this way. You can actually present (give a lesson) to a child on how to do just about anything in a Montessori-way. You can actually present any activity in a Montessori-way. It is all in the set up of the activity and the presentation. I love to show my student teachers and parents how to present building with Legos in a Montessori way. Legos, as you know, are not part of what is mainline Montessori material…but, if you take a 3 year old that has never built with Legos before and set it up this way it is Montessori-inspired! Take a tray and put on it 1 control card which you make. Let’s say you want your child to stack 3 bricks. So, on the control card you show the child a simple map of the steps needed. You don’t have to draw you can just take a photo if you would like. You put the control card on the tray (left side) and then to the right of it you place a bowl which contains the three Lego bricks. That is it! Later you can progress with the level of difficulty as your child becomes familiar with the process. So, you have taken Legos and used them in a Montessori-way.

Montessori activities are not considered “toys” because they are used for teaching a specific skill. This doesn’t mean that we don’t make the activity fun and engaging…it just means that we have “toys” which a child free plays with at any time, and we have learning activities which we present in an environment that encourages the child to learn a specific skill. As for repetitious….children do learn by repeating until they have internally mastered a skill.

Essential Montessori Advice From Expert Karen Tyler


{Bekka asks} Why should I choose Montessori methods? What are the benefits over other models and where should I start? Play, routines, skills etc.

{Karen says} Hi Bekka! Well, there are many reasons to choose the Montessori Method and in the KHT course we do talk about these…but for now, below I have listed the Goals of the Child in a Montessori classroom:

Able to be make choices
Able to concentrate
Able to make value judgments
Be free
Be just
Be rational
Control of body movement
Follow through with actions
Inner disciplined
Love to learn
Love to play
Love to work
Realistic response to external approval
Respectful of others
Respectful of the earth
Responsible for self
Self confident

Start with reading the book by Barbara Isaacs called Understanding the Montessori Approach. It is easy to read and will cover many of your questions. Then, if have 45 minutes per week that you can dedicate to reading, asking questions and making comments…I would love to have you join the KHT Montessori Teacher Training Course. About 65% of our students are parents working with children at home. Our next course stats on September 15th!

What are some of the best resources/books/blogs for beginners to Montessori?

{Karen says} I would absolutely start with one of my first online graduates that took my 2 year course, Deb Chitwood’s blog Living Montessori Now. She is fantastic and such a wonderful resource for you and everyone to follow! The book I recommended above called Understanding the Montessori Approach by Barbara Isaacs would be my first book to read.

{Kate asks} Does Montessori advocate for teaching/ correcting skills or techniques or should the children work things out themselves given the right tools? Eg if a child doesn’t use correct technique for operating tongs, should they be corrected or trusted to refine the skill themselves as they develop?

{Karen says} Hi Kate! I think we need to start with realizing that there are ways of bringing a child through their miss-steps that bring only a positive result. So many times the result of saying, “No.” or “This is wrong,” actually tears a child down and makes them feel bad about themselves. I know that it happens that way for me if someone points out a miss-step in a way in which I am embarrassed. Statements that are put in a positive way do not “tear down the child” and yet “gives them an awareness that allows for moving forward. For example if you can see that a child is working with one of the Knobbed Cylinder Blocks and he is putting them inside the holes but in the wrong order and at the end he can’t get the last two into the right holes. So, the child is getting upset because he can’t figure it out on his own. We do not believe in correcting the child and telling him that he is wrong. So, we say something like, “Soon you will be able to put each one of the cylinders into the hole that belongs only to it. I will sit by you and show you how to do this work so that that you will know.”

A statement like this draws the child’s attention to the fact that it isn’t working this way and it makes him aware that there is a problem at hand. Otherwise he might just keep getting upset and frustrated. Then, we are giving him hope that soon he will be able to do this. Finally, we show it to him again helping him “see” how to do this work so that through seeing again he has a better chance of discovering how to do this work so that he is successful.

A very young child often learns for the most part…through doing. So, they eventually realize something doesn’t work and they figure it out. It is important that we respect a child’s work and way of learning. However, like the example above, there are times we need to step in and how we do that is very, very important. There are many wonderful techniques that those of us that are Montessori educators use to help a child get through those times when they ask for or need us to step in…..

{Jackie asks} How can parents incorporate Montessori into the home?

{Karen says} Hi Jackie! Parents can incorporate the Montessori method throughout their homes in a more casual or formal way. I have spent 30 years in the classroom and also 7 years homeschooling two of my g rand children from birth to 7 years of age. What I did was more in how I showed the children how to do things…I re-framed the way I presented to them…I had various Montessori materials on shelves in different areas of the home. Then, I would 3 times a week have “school time.” During the school time I worked with Montessori materials. Most parents start out with just working with their children a few times a week and then the more they come to understand the “method” they start to look at their home and life from a different perspective. Then, slowly they make changes that are to the benefit of their children. Some of us have more space and can dedicate a room to the “classroom.” Many of us are in small apartments/flats, etc. So, in the KHT course we do talk a lot about how to make what you have work for you. Also, we all have different lifestyles and cultures and so we need to incorporate them in our planning so that the family works even better!

Click the picture to see how we’re incorporating Montessori into our home.

Essential Montessori Advice From Expert Karen Tyler

{Kate G asks} How does Montessori encourage pretend play during the early years?

{Karen says} Hi Kate! Well, you have hit on the hot button for Montessori discussions. I take a couple of weeks to get through this issue with my students in the KHT course. First, Dr. Montessori looked at “work” and “play” as being the same thing. When you watch children working with a Montessori activity, they are engaged and they love it. They are having fun! Pretend play is great and children naturally go there as they “try” on other rolls they might have later in life. It is just plain fun! In our world there are cute characters all over the place and our children grow up with them around them and for the most part they don’t have trouble knowing real from un-real. I do believe that we need to wait for the heavier fantasy until they are able to handle it and each child is different. At home you can follow your children and change it up when they are ready. In a classroom, we keep it out of the lives of 24 children because it isn’t necessary in an educational situation and the children are all different ages and at different places in development.

In one of my lectures on the Absorbent Mind, I have written this: Montessori considered fantasies for a child as illusion. The child is dependent and powerless with his position in life. She believed that fantasy stories only provide the child with impressions. The child becomes involved with fantasy; they are not developing their own powers to imagine constructively.
There is a lot of controversy in the “Montessori World” over pretend play and fantasy. I have participated in many “heated” discussions over the years. I feel it is important for each of you to make up your own mind as to whether or not to add fantasy to your child’s life. I think it is important that as you study this issue you keep in mind that during the time that Dr. Montessori lived, fairy tales were “not” cute or fun. They were told in her country as a way in which to “scare” children into behaving. In today’s world we have both scary fantasy stories and thousands of creative fantasy figures. Also, keep in mind that Dr. Montessori believed that children should be introduced to “concrete” examples and then “abstract” examples. She believed that children needed to live in the “real” world and to do “real” things.

I will share with you what I believe as a “progressive” Montessori educator. I believe that children need concrete first and then abstract. I believe that children of today have a different exposure to fantasy than Dr. Montessori did.
Since we believe in “following” each child…then it would seem that each child would have a different time table as to when you could introduce fantasy and pretend play into their lives. Our world today is colored with cartoon graphics and many fun toys that allow a child to be creative and to experience how it would be to be different than ourselves. This, to me is not “bad.”
I am against all the ghastly things like blood and gore and anything which frightens a child. I am against a child spending a lot of time in a “pretend” world. Having said all this…you should not be surprised to find me in the near future under a tent built with sheets pretending to be a pirate with my grandson Vincent! LOL!

Montessori believed that in order for a child to develop creativity, he needs the freedom to select what attracts him in his environment. He needs to relate to it without interruption…for as long as he likes. He needs to be free to discover solutions and ideas and select answers on his own…he needs to communicate and share his discoveries with others at will.

Next KHT Montessori course starts on 15th September, 2014!

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