Keys of the Universe Elementary Videos

Keys of the Universe Elementary Videos

The premise behind offering Keys of the Universe (and later Keys of the World) was and continues to be to offer support to homeschool families and small schools looking to provide a Montessori-based education and life experience for their children – to support those who cannot yet (or never will be able to) take full training.

Keys of the Universe and Keys of the World are not about and never been about “selling albums” – but about providing support: mentoring. The mission was to build a community of support for those meeting the needs of their individual children. Not all people have joined the online support with its growing number of resources, including many who paid for it, preferring instead to purchase and utilize the albums only. This has always been a personal choice to meet the personal needs of each family and teacher who utilizes this resource.

To clarify recent confusion regarding the difference between selling albums and providing a mentoring relationship, Keys of the Universe is being restructured, with Keys of the World soon to follow. I do not sell my albums; I sell you a piece of my heart, my passion for education as an aid to LIFE.

  • As an online mentor, I am providing videos for presentations and some of the theory-based talks. See this Kickstarter campaign for more information.
  • I really want to require all people to join the discussion community, but I can’t do that easily without making the link to it more public. Thus, the online support link access will continue to remain a highly-encouraged option.
  • For those people working with children in a homeschool environment, child guidebooks are being made available as a way to fill in for the difference in a large-group peer-based environment.

The websites to access Keys of the Universe and Keys of the World:

Keys of the Universe continues to be the main site:
Once the platform is ready, individual albums and videos as well as individual chapters within the albums, will be available for purchase directly on this main site – for elementary and adolescence.
Downloadable and purchased materials will also be added soon.

Keys of the Universe Course Site:
This site will continue to offer access to individual albums OR all subjects – with the continued option for 2 monthly plans or a reduced-price full-pay/access.
Each course available on this site, will include all the pdfs for the various subjects with the corresponding video segments as the videos are ready.
*****If you are already a member of a course on this site, the videos will be added to the courses you are already in; the price is being raised a small amount to accommodate the videos and the child-guide books that are also in-progress. If you are doing the monthly version, the price is being raised for future months – so you get videos added into what you have already paid for and will only see the price difference going forward. If you have paid in full, you’ll have access to all.

Short story? What you have already paid for, you will soon see the related videos as well. What you have not yet paid for, you will see a slight increase:

  • 8-payment option is now $50 each ($65 for the first month)
  • 16-payment option is now $25 each ($40 first month).

Why the increase on the first month? Because with that month, you get access to the discussion community which has resources for the full gamut of elementary Montessori, as well as the videos that correspond with the album portions provided in that first month.

The discussion community link (“online support” – with downloadable materials, discussion forums, detailed scope/sequence, etc.) will continue to remain a private link (you gain access when you have paid for the online support at one of the various purchase sites).

Garden of Francis will continue to carry album options and the downloadable materials, with the additions of the video options as they are ready.

Keys of the World will be available in the near future to purchase primary (ages 3-6) albums and videos – and (in a few months) Infant-Toddler resources.

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Montessori – Culture Studies

Montessori – Cultural Studies

I receive questions from time to time about two subjects in particular:

Culture and Peace Education


The fact is that AMI integrates those aspects into the whole experience without creating arbitrary lessons.

Peace education: 

When a child has his own needs fulfilled, he is at peace – and can share that peace.

Key experiences in primary:

Language: conversations, good literature (with good moral lessons)

Exercises of Practical Life: preparing the materials for the next person, always finding the materials prepared for oneself; care of self, care of the environment; GRACE AND COURTESY

Sensorial: Keys to the world – for exploration, real life experiences, language for those experiences – if the child can express himself and truly experience the world using all of his senses, he will be internally fulfilled, able to express himself accurately and assist in peaceful relations with others.

Mathematics: a language onto itself and (the way it is presented in the Montessori environment) developmentally appropriate and constructive, so that the child has further internal fulfillment and confidence. His mind continues to develop, along with his emotional development with this confidence. Much of math is also communal in nature – so the children are having real life experiences working with each other on a variety of topics, cooperating, disagreeing, coming to agreements, etc.

These experiences continue into elementary and into adolescence. We also add in the Great Lessons, developing appreciation for people before us, responsibility for those who come after us and a desire for cooperation with those people with us now.


Cultural Studies: 

What comprises culture?

Anything that is more specific to a particular location or a group of people.

At primary we prepare the children for cultural studies through the globes and puzzle maps and climatic zones (so the children understand place and how ti affects people – geography is found in the sensorial and the language albums), through key art experiences (so they understand art techniques and tools used in other cultures – art is in the exercises of practical life album), through various exercises of practical life that start with their own culture and build into exploring other cultures.

Ongoing work includes art folders (exploring art of local cultures and further away cultures as well as over periods of time), studies of biomes, culture/continent folders (like the continent boxes we hear a lot about – but the objects are dispersed through the environment, while the folders hold 2-d images that invite discussion, stories, conversations and further exploration) — these are ALL in the primary language album.


In elementary, we add history which is entirely culture (history album), continued language studies across time and various places (language album), musical experiences (music album), economic geography section of the geography album, math and geometry history, and biology (continued biomes, ecology and classification of various plants and animals).

Separating those out? Again: arbitrary divisions of experiences that belong in language, geometry, geography, mathematics, music, history and biology. USE those subjects to explore the wide variety of options available – adding in more separate, distinct subjects only waters down the children’s experiences and stretches the adult VERY thin.






By keeping the subjects grouped into as few as possible, the inter-connections between subjects are not only maintained but highly emphasized. Separating these subjects out creates arbitrary divisions that lead to much less depth of true study.



Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | Leave a comment

Montessori: Child Refusing Presentations

Montessori: Child Refusing Presentations


Yep. It happens. Children refuse presentations. Some children even get angry about it.

And age doesn’t matter.

The factors remain the same – there is a mis-match between the invitation and the child.


The computer in the photo is part of the joke. He was playing Minecraft as part of an appropriate time usage of the computer and couldn’t stop smiling while posing as if he was refusing a presentation. He finds this post riotously hilarious.

  • the child is not prepared – tired, confused, bored, over-stimulated, under-stimulated
  • the adult read/observed the child’s readiness
  • the adult did not prepare the environment or provide allowances for the child to BE ready
  • the child is respectfully declining in lieu of a deep learning experience he is already having (or is resting from)

So what is the adult to do? 

  • Do not punish! Grace and courtesy lessons (when everyone is at peace) to show how to respectfully decline a presentation.
  • Look to the environment.
  • Look to the adult.
  • Look to the child.
  • Are each of these actually prepared AND ready?
  • Consider the Decalogue.

Meaning what? 

  • Does the adult know the proper time and readiness for the particular presentation that she or he desires to give?
  • Is the adult truly ready to present?
  • Has the adult thoroughly read and studied the appropriate theory album for the age of the child involved? These theory albums are not just a trifle! They are a necessary component of training a Montessori teacher who has to read all the Montessori books to boot, so again I ask: Has the adult thoroughly read and studies the appropriate theory album for the age of the child involved?
  • Is the child well-rested, well-fed – other physical needs met?
  • Is the child comfortable and capable of receiving a presentation in emotional readiness? (within the classroom, the exercises of practical life have been many purposes, one of which being the development of a relationship and certain rapport with the adult, a trust that the adult has useful and interesting things to teach the child).
  • Is the environment inviting? Montessori emphasized Beauty, Order and Simplicity. Short those things it is hard to focus and learn.
  • Is the child using the right part of his brain? If the flight/fight (survival mode) or “still figuring out the chaos of the environment/routine around him” is activated (the back of the brain), he is much less capable of utilizing the front portion of his brain to its fullest potential -and for some children, using it at all. This area controls self-control and learning… interesting these two go hand in hand.

So what practical things can you do? Without going into all the reasons why (a chapter could be written on each item below) –

  • Remove all computer and television screens.
  • Let’s repeat: Remove all television and computer screens.
  • Get outside. A lot.
  • Read books. A lot. Real books – on paper, papyrus, scrolls, whatever. Just NOT an electronic screen.
  • Get rid of the toys with batteries.
  • Hold your child. Routinely. Often. Throughout the day. Random hugs and kisses and pats and physical affection.
  • Kiss him some more! Even when he squirms and pulls away.
  • Teach him practical things in little blips when you do have his attention: exercises of practical life (see link for some ideas, build from there).
  • Chores. Part of family life. Help set and clear the table; help sweep and mop and vacuum floors. Take out the garbage and recycling. Routine clean-up times.
  • Hug him again.
  • What more can your child do for her/himself? Build self-confidence. So he’s not always fighting FOR his independence, but living out a balance of dependence and independence.
  • Get rid of those screens yet? I’m not kidding.
  • Take another walk outside.
  • Dig in the dirt. Plant a garden. Even one in pots by the window if needed.

Talk WITH your child – not to him, not at him. WITH him. Enjoy it. Even when it hurts (because it will hurt sometimes). We want their heartstrings, so treat him like the full human being he is, with all sorts of real, physical needs for REAL experiences.

Then, when he refuses a presentation, you’ll know it is because he doesn’t NEED that presentation in that moment. And if everything has truly been properly, he will say, “I’m not ready right now for a new presentation. Can I finish reading this book first?” or better yet – he comes to YOU asking for the next presentation.




Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | 1 Comment

Keys of the Universe Elementary Art Album is Now Available!

Keys of the Universe Elementary Art Album is Now Available!!

Keys of the Universe is now offering an AMI-style Elementary Art album. This album is not included in the AMI training but is written by the owner of Keys of the Universe in AMI style.
Focus on the key skills of art, without getting into the cheap craft projects that are quickly forgotten and minimize any skills learned. Yet the key experiences found in the Keys of the Universe Elementary Art album are perfect to get the children started on a wide variety of arts, crafts and handwork of all kinds.


Designed for homeschoolers, for schools, for co-ops and anyone who wants to focus just on the keys of art skills.


Find the album at the following locations:

Garden of Francis

Keys of the Universe – Elementary

and more locations coming soon as each site is updated with the new Elementary Montessori Art album!

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Economic Geography Stamp Sets

Economic Geography Stamp Sets

The Economic Geography Stamps are now available for pre-order at Garden of Francis. (click here)

They will begin shipping out prior to March 1. I am taking pre-orders to see if it is worth purchasing the tackle-boxes and the wood holders in bulk, or just buy a few at a time as I need them.

My son is so excited! 

(ok, I am too!)


I am so happy to be offering these for substantially less than the ONLY other set available anywhere online that I can find – and they correspond with our KotU geography album!


By the way, side-note: if, as we are using them, anyone wants a different stamp image made, the process I’ll be using can very easily accommodate this! In fact, after this first batch of these ones, I am going to look into making stamps of other images for other themes.


Montessori Elementary Economic Geography Stamps – corresponding with the Keys of the Universe Montessori Elementary Geography Album chapter on Economic Geography.

Each  polymer (not rubber, but like rubber) stamp image measures 3/4 inch at its widest; mounted on a 1 inch square cube – with the image imprinted on the top of each cube for easy reference.

Select which set you would like: the core set contains 26 images of mineral, plant and animal resources; the supplementary set contains 14 additional images in more specific items.

Each corresponding tackle-box comes with a cardstock print-out of the included images for that set.

CONTENTS CORRESPOND WITH AMI MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY TRAINING ALBUMS. And are most specifically designed for Keys of the Universe albums.

Purchase your own ink pads according to the color designations of your choice (see the elementary Montessori geography album for further details).


Posted in Adolescence, Elementary | Leave a comment

AMI is FREEing

AMI is FREEing


(WARNING! This post is blunt. And honest. I just sat down and spent 12 hours reviewing a myriad of albums based on the comments I mention in the next paragraph. I like many aspects of those albums; I would consider using portions of some of them and I can expound for several articles on their virtues. I just want to set the record straight regarding AMI vs non-AMI inclusions.)


I have read a few recent comments comparing different types of albums from different people and different affiliations.

One common thread:

The AMI (fill in the blank) album is missing (fill in the blank).

But is that blank ***really*** missing? Let’s look at this more closely.


AMI includes the “keys” – the essential core experiences that fulfill the universal child’s development stages at particular moments.

Anything else is getting into individual children – not the universal child.

Anything else added into the album unless VERY clearly identified as “optional for a child with this particular interest” will appear to the typical homeschool parent or Montessori teacher as a requirement. It becomes difficult to separate the “keys” from the “interest”.

And NO album can cover every single interest of any given child, let alone every interest of every child, worldwide.

THUS. True AMI albums stick with the keys and provide some guidance as to “what to do with particular interests of particular children” (hint: research, exploration, using real world resources).


Another thought:

Montessori is based on reality. Reality doesn’t come from a book. Reality comes from living life in relationship with other people and the rest of creation. Books are a small part of that.

Thus all of a child’s learning should not come from an album of lesson plans.


 Common “missings” at the primary level:

Particular Exercises of Practical Life. Solution: Add them in. Your child won’t need every EPL exercise out there; no album can cover every single situation; the AMI album provides the keys, with clear instructions to accommodate for cultural and local needs.

Language is missing all the multiplicity of steps to learning to read – AND we need to have graded readers. Solution: Those steps just aren’t needed. Children go from reading the languages materials as provided by the album to “2nd grade reading level” – they don’t need the intermediary steps to slow down this “Explosion into reading”.

Mathematics needs command cards for the operations, 1/11 through 1/20 for the fractions, and lots of worksheet-type paperwork to prove they are “doing” math. Solution: Adding in these extra things 1) takes away from the key experiences and the focus on what those key experiences provide (children should be working in the abstract when they get to 1/11 – they CAN do it – why give them a crutch?) 2) eliminates creativity and problem-solving skills (when children don’t create their own materials, create their own equations and find the patterns therein) and 3) they are experiencing math, not doing it – they don’t need all the paperwork (there is SOME paperwork involved). 4) Adding in some of that stuff is why children don’t get to the passage to abstraction when they should (between 5.5 and 6.5 if they started primary at age 3) — and then they start elementary at a lower level then they had the potential to do so.

Sensorial is missing the Power of 2 cube (don’t give this work in primary – it’s not necessary) but non-AMI albums have almost no extensions or follow-ups or games as compared to the AMI album pages.

In Conclusion:

So what we have then are a set of keys for the universal child. Few and focused. Essential.

Then we have a myriad of resources to fill in for particular situations, particular interests. Other albums could be used or just real life resources (real people, getting out into the world, other materials, books, videos, projects, relationships, etc.).

Instead of being tied down to trying to “do it all” or trying to sort out what is essential from what is for particular children, we can spend our time focusing on exploring the essentials and enjoying REAL LIFE.


Joy. True Joy. That is our aim.

Achieved through the freedom to truly Follow the Child.

Posted in Elementary, Primary | 2 Comments

Montessori Environment

Montessori Environment


I really like how the author of this post really gets down to the fundamental of Montessori – providing the rich environment and showing the “why”:

Another post of the same author’s – equally balanced:

To emphasize her points in Montessori terms – that rich environment is one which provides the “keys”. We don’t “worry” about mastery of math facts or of reading by a certain age – but we do utilize those natural ebbs and flows within a child’s development to provide corresponding sets of keys, such that the child can take them in most deeply at certain times in life — then USE them when he, the individual, is ready to do so.

So we provide the keys to reading and writing and mathematics (among others) – and then the child can “read” or “have those facts memorized” when it works for him.

This is very different from those who are strong proponents of “Better Late than Early” who see Montessori only as an “Enforced Early Academics”.

Montessori is about rich environment, sensory exploration, feeding a child’s interests — providing keys for the fun of learning. REAL life experiences above all else.

The academics come naturally and without fight or harm, when the keys are in place.

Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | Leave a comment

Montessori Theory

 Montessori Theory

Do NOT underestimate the importance of the Theory albums when looking for album sets that will work for your situation. Without the theory, the content doesn’t really matter.

Trying to use Montessori without the theory albums (even if you’ve read every single Montessori book out there), is like trying to do a puzzle without the frame. Don’t believe me? Ask the AMI trainers why a theory album is required of each and every trainee if all that reading is required as well.

In the past 3 months, 73% of the questions, inquiries and request for support I have received via e-mail are questions succinctly answered in a Keys of the World or Keys of the Universe theory album. 2 of the people submitting questions owned the appropriate album, just hadn’t read it. Every other person stated that they either consciously chose not to purchase the theory album because they thought it a frivolous purchase (but they would pay just as much to gain online support from me when their questions were straight-forward) – or were led to believe by others that the theory album was not necessary.


I am here to help in every I can. That theory album though? Only helps YOU.


See these Montessori Nuggets for further information.


doing a puzzle without a frame
(tessellations, that is the point; Montessori details without the “big picture” – not so much)
Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | Leave a comment

What Should be in an Elementary Montessori Environment?

What should be in a Montessori Elementary Environment? 


What physical things and areas should be in a Montessori environment, homeschool or otherwise?

For many of us homeschoolers, on the internet, we get overwhelmed – or we get bored – when we set up what we think is the perfect Montessori environment only to discover that it’s not working for us the adults, or it’s not working for the child(ren).


In that case, it’s not a Montessori environment 😉

The environment must meet the needs of the children. 


At all ages, there is a freedom of movement, a freedom of choice of work, a respect for the internal workings of the child… but how those needs are met vary with age. At infancy/toddler, we provide smaller spaces with various items to explore. At primary we have more “academic-looking” materials, and the child has few to no requirements for his 3 hour work cycle (keeping in mind that group dynamics help the classroom setting; at home the adult does need to provide SOME guidelines). Kindergartners are moving into the initial use of work-plans, so that by elementary there is a work plan or work contract, along with a work journal. Nothing prohibitive – this does not make it “school by choice” (meaning a child must do all typical school work but at his own pace or in his own order) – instead, the plan is worked out between child and adult, includes the child’s project plans, with some items to ensure proper foundation/framework and the adult helps guide the child in his project planning.


Yes, that’s right! Projects! Elementary children should be working on PROJECTS! Research; timelines; creating their own materials! OH! The FUN!


If your elementary children are not exploring their own interests (or they express an interest and you fill in too much, too fast for them), consider backing off for a bit. And examine your environment.

Start with the psychological environment – what nuances are you putting out there in your speech, your gestures, your focus during your child’s school time. Are YOU learning? Exploring? Connecting with the world? Asking questions and seeking answers? Using your own creativity to explore possibilities?


Then start to consider the tools you need to get there or remain there.

The most obvious inclusions in a Montessori environment will be the materials described in the albums of your choosing (and YES, you should have albums – pulling it together from the internet is not going to give you REAL Montessori – I’ve been there! I know!).

The one trouble with albums is that not everything is laid out so precisely when it comes to the physical and psychological nature of the environment, hence the emphasis by many about not really “getting” Montessori unless you’ve been trained. But even training doesn’t promise full understanding; I have many trained Montessorians come to me with videos of their environments and ask me, “What is going on here? It’s not working – what should I do to change it?”

The following is a list of items and areas that SHOULD be in a Montessori environment that may or may not be specifically delineated in your albums (but it IS there if you have a truly Montessori set of albums – and very likely is in the theory album (that if you don’t have – you have NO IDEA what you are missing 😉 ):

  • art area (some albums have art lessons, some don’t; some have it in practical life or in culture; but it is rarely in an elementary set of albums – because it is presumed that you have the supplies for the children to research and create their own projects)
  • project-making supplies (boxes for dioramas, posterboard, mat board, clay, etc. – while this area kind of goes along with “art”, consider this the “junk drawer” of creative art projects)
  • historical tools of the (various) trade(s) – you might rotate these in/out or explore them on Goings Outs to historical locations — in primary we like to teach the children to wash cloths on a washboard; in elementary we can use hand-mills, soap-making tools, combing cotton or wool and spinning it into yarn, and much more.
  • hand-craft work such as weaving, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch, sewing… in primary this is practical life; in elementary it is part of the child’s life.
  • Minimal tray work in elementary; minimal themed sets; we want the children to be thinking, imagining, creating – and to be building practical skills so that they can fulfill their imaginations. Too much planned out for an elementary child or too many (in this case, too many is a very low number) themed sets and the children’s imaginations are thwarted and/or are developed in an artificial manner. You provide the basic materials and LET them start combining stuff to create their own themed sets.
  • Science supply area (in elementary) – you want the generic supplies available, along with a few resources to generate ideas, so that if they have a question about something, they can work it out relatively quickly. Anyone using AMI-style elementary albums have an option to purchase their needed geography and biology materials at Home Science Tools – a kit with just about everything you need in one package! 10% off the price if you bought everything individually. (Keys of the Universe makes no money off this package – this is simply something I set up for those parents and teachers using AMI albums who are seeking the appropriate materials.
  • I cannot under-emphasize: STREWN BOOKS. Read a book yourself that you want your child to read; let him see you read it. Have a small book basket in each room with a small number of books you’d like them to read. Just this environmental touch provides a huge fuel for interest-led studies.
  • work-plan and work-journal – elementary. Accountability. Not something that hinders, but something that provides boundaries. It is interesting to note that the most creative artists will tell you they need boundaries in order to harness their creativity and create something beautiful. Totally open-ended? It just won’t happen. Framework and foundation.
  • Beautiful works of art – not just 2D work, but all forms – nice tables and chairs and furniture (or nicely covered!). Think “aesthetics”. When the mind is at peace, it can flourish in beautiful ways.
  • Space: your elementary child in particular needs space to spread out – he will get messy and look disorganized; while he still needs to be expected to put this things away properly when he is done, while working he SPREADS. Let it happen! 😉
  • Outdoor space – playing, plants, animals, air.
  • Phone books and other resources for locating appropriate Goings Out.


Consider that you WANT the children to be creative and have as many practical skills as possible in the creative arts, BEFORE they hit the emotional/hormonal times of adolescence. Trust me on this one. And if you don’t trust me, there was previously a Margaret Homfray video up where she said the same thing. 😉

(if anyone has a link to Homfray’s videos, please comment here and share!)


The above listed materials sound a lot like project-based learning, because PBL indirectly stemmed from Montessori.


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Wooden Hierarchical Material – Number Cards

Wooden Hierarchical Material –

Number Cards


Questions have arisen over the last few years in regards to elementary materials – more and more this is happening as elementary Montessori is extending out into the homeschool world and families are finding that some of the primary and elementary materials overlap – but which ones and how?

Partly, this depends on the albums you are using. Sorry I can’t be more specific about that!


A recent and ongoing discussion/sharing about the woodern hierarchical number cards though brings this situation of discrepancies to the forefront. Let’s look at this material:

At primary, the children can receive this presentation – it uses place-value colored number cards with spaces between the hierarchies, NO commas. These cards are available for download in a number of locations – free or for purchase – or can easily be handmade.

At elementary, the child should get this work again (or for the first time), because now, there is a new component: The Comma. The primary level colored cards can be used, just add a green comma after each number, such that when the cards are stacked in number formation, you have the following number:

1, 111, 111

Those of you who have been following the recent blog posts and various discussions may recall one more aspect: some elementary albums describe the elementary number cards as being written in black (and still with a comma).

In our homeschool and co-op, we used the colored ones.

In schools, I have seen both in use. I personally did not witness much difference in how the children worked with the material. There was something I saw in one of my student observations while I was in training, but I didn’t understand what the child was trying to do; when I attempted to re-create the child’s work during practicum time in my training, the trainers “got after me” and wouldn’t let me finish. I never did get back to it and now the nuances have been lost. I will never figure out what the child was pondering. It may have had something to do with the number cards and colors, or perhaps not.

A few Montessori homeschoolers have recently reported a strong preference for the color because it continues to emphasize place value – with the very concrete wooden hierarchical material (or not so wooden depending on your material of choice 😉 ), some children are discovering a conscious understanding of place value for the first time.


How great is that!


So primary: colored, no commas

Elementary: colored (could be black), with commas

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