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Traditional Montessori and Technology

I am not a Montessori teacher, nor do I have Montessori training. What I do have is a love of learning and passion for teaching my children.IMG_7165-2

The first few years I was blogging (starting way back when we were still etching our posts on the walls of caves back in 2006) I was completely against technology and preschoolers. I believed it had no place at all for kids this age. Then someone gave us a LeapFrog alphabet toy and after playing with it a few days, Mordecai has suddenly learned his letters and sounds. Another friend gave us some LeapFrog videos her kids had outgrown (a video! for kids! even worse…) and after just watching it a few times he had them all down solidly. It’s hard to argue with success like that, you know? So slowly, bit by bit, technology began to edge its way into our home.

How to combine Montessori and technologyChuck and I are huge fans of the traditional Montessori method. We love the simple approach of teaching things step-by-step, giving children real tools to work with (not toy tools) and creating a prepared environment. We love the method so much so, that thirteen years ago when we found an ad on Craigslist about a woman selling all of her Montessori supplies after closing down her school, we bought the whole lot. All of my children (except for Keziah, Ezra, and Boaz who were adopted as teens) have benefitted from that purchase. They have learned the alphabet with sandpaper letters and learned to count with spindles.

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Now Apollo is four years old and in the pre-reading stage. He knows all the letters of the alphabet (and the sounds) and can scratch out a pretty good approximation of his name on a piece of paper. He knows that reading is really just combining letter sounds and is getting very close to making the leap into reading. Apollo can count to twenty (and beyond with help). The relatively big age gap between Apollo and Tucker (4.5 years) means all of our preschool materials have long since been given away or packed away.

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I have recently set up a “school table” for Apollo where I can spread out a  variety of learning activities for him to do. He loves having the prepared environment and I love that he has something constructive to occupy him. I have also found that combining Montessori and technology has been easy and seamless. Putting the sandpaper letters out with the LeapReader means the materials are self-correcting (something Maria Montessori considered essential). 

Here is Hezekiah using. the sandpaper letters back in 2007! Hezekiah went on to learn to read independently at the age of four years old.

When Maria Montessori was doing her original work, the idea giving kids hands-on activities was absolutely cutting edge. At that time kids were taught everything (including reading) by rote memory. Many people doubted her method could work. Technology for kids has been a bit like that for me. Over they years, I have come around to see its value (especially our technologically driven culture).

Apollo, like most four-year-olds, loves hands-on activities. He can’t resist his little table set up with learning activities. I’ve found, for us, the answer is balance: some hands-on activities, some Montessori activities, and some LeapFrog activities. They now go hand-in-hand in our house.

You can read more of my thoughts in this Mercury News article I was interviewed for recently.

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72 Comments

  1. CANDY SMITH

    I would love for my 3 yr. old to have this, we have a WII for the older kids but this seems much more suitable for pre-schoolers.

  2. Melpub

    Some things I loved for homeschooling: The Calvert program’s pre-school stuff–mine loved the connect-the-sounds and also the phonics books. I also loved the (now vintage) Electric Company–it’s something to see a young Morgan Freeman teaching kids their sounds and letters. I really think Apollo would enjoy that.

  3. Kaite

    Very cool! Liam (5) and Della (4) would love one of these. Della is also right on that cusp of understanding how the sounds make the words. She loves books and I can’t wait for that switch in her! So exciting!

  4. Anna

    I’ve also had to find peace with my Montessori dreams and the kids’ technology. There can be balance! My 4yo is a screen lover and is one of those kids who learns best from them, as much as it pains me 😉

  5. Margaret W.

    This would be wonderful for my grandchildren, who are all going to be homeschooled. They are still young, 3 and under, but learning begins at birth 🙂

  6. Katie

    My 4 year old would love this! I am able to work part time instead of 2 jobs for the first time in his life. I would love to have these tools to share with him!

  7. Sara

    I felt the same way about electronics and young children. Then my son came around. He has blossomed so much using our kindle. I would love to have products designed for children and educational.

  8. Liz

    I would love this for my just turned 4 year old son Noah. He loves language. Constantly rhyming outloud on his own. He can count too, write his name and spell it out loud. He does not have his letters down however

  9. Heather Robinson

    Would love to be able to use this in my preschool classroom with my 4 year olds as a special treat! Big fan of Leap and their educational products!

  10. Emily G

    For my own baker’s dozen in the making, ages 5, 4, 2, 1 and 1 and another on the way!

    I also very anti technology and am still working at finding the balance of how much we’ll allow in our home and home school. I’m very curious about the Leap stuff because you endorse it so heartily.

  11. kerainew

    We LOVE Leapfrog products. On your previous recommendation, I ordered my five year old the Leapfrog Letter videos. The Leap TV would be for her, too, though I expect my son would play it when he gets a little older.

    I mix technology with Montessori, too! My children attend a local Montessori school, and the school’s so against technology that they won’t even put in digital clocks. We use technology (mostly leapfrog and apple products) at home with the Montessori math materials I had as a kid.

  12. Erin

    My 2 little ones would LOVE this. Your review was honest and helpful and I’ve almost got my DH convinced that it’s worth the money!

  13. jessilee

    We too started off anti-technology for kids but things have come so far from where they were 14 years ago. I think this would be fun for my 4 year old and was on our christmas consideration list.

  14. Julia

    I’ve come full circle on the technology. Some of my kiddos excelled in the classic Montessori environment, but my 6 yo daughter gravitates towards technology and we are always exploring new ways to teach her.

  15. Stephanie K

    We have found similar results with one of ours who struggled learning to read – using a fun phonics program got through where using traditional print formats at school and home did not. We love the LeapFrog videos and use them frequently.

  16. Heidi Jayne

    My LD daughter could benefit greatly from this and when she is done my 5gragrandchilren would be blessed to have it. My keyboradd is malfunctioning so i hopemyouncan read this. I havw had a weekmlike your day.

  17. Shawna

    My girls would love this! My daughter Ella had DAA surgery in July like Apollo & loves learning! He baby sister loves to do anything she does & at 2yrs old she loves books and counting!

  18. Carrie G

    Our 5 year old suffered from an undiagnosed hearing loss and is still struggling to catch up! We’ve just started watching the LeapFrog videos from the library – thanks to your suggestion. Thanks for your very real, helpful posts!

  19. Mary-Lynn Snyder

    I first saw this on your website and would love it for my pre-readers along with my children that are already reading. Thanks for offering this!

  20. StephanieG

    This would be great for my youngest son. He is 7 and still working to read…he has some special needs and this would be great fun for him to learn this way.

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