Primary AMI Geography and Sensorial

Primary AMI Geography and Sensorial

Recently, it came to my attention that some people were looking for album pages not included in their AMI album pages. Despite the emphasis on “AMI does not change”, it does indeed change; thus there is some development over time. In this case, it leaves some people looking for geography, botany cabinet and a couple of other items. Everything is THERE, it is simply organized in a different manner (especially compared to AMS).


I have added two supplementary albums at Garden of Francis (I will add them to Keys of the World soon – I am revamping that site):

  • Geography: pulls together album pages from Keys of the World AMI LANGUAGE and SENSORIAL albums to cover geography in full; it includes two sample printable maps, materials list and scope/sequence for just the included album pages. If you have Keys of the World language and sensorial albums, you do NOT need this geography component because you already have all these album pages and resources.¬†
  • Sensorial Supplement: This very small file includes the botany cabinet and cards, sensitizing fingers, 12 blue triangles, complete scope and sequence for the entire sensorial album, complete materials list and a lovely document called “Language of the Sensorial Materials” (which covers the entire sensorial album). Some (even AMI) albums/trainings are missing these portions.

I chose not to include geography in the sensorial supplement, because if your AMI album does not already include geography, it probably doesn’t include the geography language components either – and you’ll want that geography album noted above. Thus you can pick up just what you need without overlap.


I am happy to provide any assistance I can; please feel free to contact me with questions or inquiries.





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Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling

Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling


Useful tips for starting a new classroom or transitioning in new-to-Montessori children as well.

Over the years, there have been numerous blog posts and other articles helping parents get started with Montessori homeschooling; most of these articles are addressed to the primary level; a few to elementary. None really get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Montessori intensely observed the child and his inner workings, observing what has been there since the moment of creation – and found a way to provide for what she discovered. On the one hand, nothing magical; on the other hand, so profound that it affects our very being – because that is what she observed – the depth of the human soul. Thus Montessori is about more than materials and lesson plans (album pages), more than the academics… it gets down deep and the environment MUST reflect this depth in order to achieve the true fulfillment of the child.

Elementary is compatible with primary, if you have children of both ages in your home; but it is NOT the same. The needs and tendencies are the same, the core response is the same (respect, follow the child), but the outward signs are different. Why? Because the elementary child is now in the second plane of development, which brings about a set of changes. A need for order? Yes! but order has now been internalized and the child no longer feels the need to keep order in his outer environment – now we must be very conscious about keeping our space cleaned up out of respect for the other persons in the environment and not for our own internal development. Among many other examples.

So how do we get started with Montessori homeschooling at the elementary level? What if your child has had no Montessori background or is even approaching the adolescent years. Let’s take a look at what remains the same. First some previously posted articles of interest that remain pertinent to our needs in this article – these apply to both primary and elementary, with my elementary additions:

Thoughts to keep in mind as you FOCUS ON THE KEYS: 

    • A set of Montessori albums (manuals, lesson plans) will be your “keys” – your academic teasers to get the children working on their own interests.¬†
    • The children should be exploring their own interests; and you will need to pull in resources according to those interests.
    • You do NOT need the most expensive manuals with every possible interest included. You want something reasonably-priced with the *keys* so that you have both time and money to do what you need to do with your child’s interests.
    • You WANT a theory album to explain all the background in every day applicable terms.
    • The elementary level is OPPOSITE the primary level in the following key ways:
        1. If the child is not yet reading/writing, reading will typically come first. (in primary, writing was first)
        2. We will now provide the BIG picture first; then go back and fill in the details. We will provide that big picture every single year of elementary – so there is plenty of time to come back to it; they don’t need to get everything the first year. (in primary, we start with the most basic) – Cosmic Education (everything is inter-connected) – the big picture is told via stories called the Great Lessons.
        3. It is NOT necessary to finish the primary albums before moving into elementary, if you have AMI (keys) albums that provide for what to do with children who didn’t finish or didn’t do primary Montessori.


So how do I suggest getting started?

(these tips are good regardless if you are new to Montessori altogether or are transitioning from primary to elementary or even if your children are nearing or even in adolescence)

  1. Follow the steps in the two articles above. This is just to get started in laying the foundation. Add in the book Volume 2 of The Advanced Montessori Method¬†(available free online through Google Books) – just the background portions to get a feel for things. Purchase your core set of albums, or at least the “theory” album. Hint: if the set of albums does not contain theory, it probably won’t suit your homeschool needs at this time; these other album options can be added later if you find your child has particular interests.¬†
  2. Focus on de-cluttering your home. Don’t get rid of anything just yet (you’ll end up wanting some of that stuff back) – just clear it out of the main living areas. Do get it out of the way – what is the purpose(s) of each room, just have what you need there. You do not need 5 tools to do the same job. You do want your children to have access to the tools they need. Consider placing strong chemicals in a high-up cabinet so that the accessible cabinets contain safe items. Consider replacing your cleaning chemicals with safe substances your children can use with you.
  3. IF you are transitioning from primary, you will be removing a LOT of trays (or keep the trays for your other littles). The elementary child now has things he needs in more logical places. Science experiments are only trays for the teacher demonstration, and when the child goes to the supply shelf to gather his needed supplies. He does NOT need everything laid out for him on a tray anymore. Trays at the elementary age, for the most part, are an insult to his intelligence. Yes, a nice basket of interesting items, requested by the child or presented once in a while by the adult is a great way to entice an interest, but that doesn’t look like primary ūüėČ
  4. WITH your children, make any necessary repairs on found items.¬†These practical life skills are HUGE to the foundation of an elementary child’s education. And a very strong preparation for a fantastic adolescent experience.
  5. WITH your children, truly clean the house. Same idea with the practical life skills. Use those safe cleaners (white vinegar, baking soda and citric acid go a LONG way; add some washing soda and borax and 99% of your cleaning is done). Use those large muscles and those tiny muscles. CARE about the environment and show them how to do so as well.
  6. On your cleaning breaks: Begin telling the Great Lessons. Just the stories, with the included experiments. You’ll pull your supplies from what you have, only buy what you ¬†need for these lessons.
  7. Work on remedial language skills IF needed. 5 minutes at a time, interspersed throughout the day – the needed keys should be in your elementary Montessori language album. The ideal is that a 1st grader can read at what the public schools consider a 3rd grade reading level. By 2nd grade, a Montessori child utilizing KEYS, will be reading at middle/high school level and your only concern from there is keeping up with maturity in regards to topics.
  8. Where do your children’s interests lead? Establish the pattern of hearing a story, exploring what we think about it, what entices us, what questions do we have (write those questions down and expect them to find answers, sometimes with your help), what do we want to DO with this new knowledge (write that down too). The children can copy the chart, re-create the charts in another way, repeat experiments, seek out further information on a key point of interest…. If they have more than one idea, write down the other ideas to save for another day. Encourage a point of completion – write down the question and the answer found; draw pictures; collect ideas in a notebook; create a poster; etc. Around this time you will also be starting to work on work plans and journals – as you are comfortable and find the need for accountability, it will come more naturally. Not every story or presentation will lead to self-designed follow-up; be ok with that, but also be encouraging of the child asking questions, going further, and EXPLORING.
  9. (this step might be a month or more in) With your chosen set of albums, go through the early math lessons to find where your child is. Keep it fun and interesting – let your child show you what they know. Let them know this is what you are doing (show a material, state its purpose and say, “show me what you know, I’ll fill in the rest”). Do NOT worry about the age on the album pages when you are starting – just focus on finding where your child is since the sequence is very different from every other math option out there. Begin where needed and move forward from there. Hint: Good elementary math albums include a section on what to do with children who have had no (or limited) primary experience. Do not start a typically developing elementary child in the primary math album.
  10. Getting into the rest of the albums. By now, you should find that you are using most or at least half of the subject albums based on the child’s interests (geography, music, biology, history) and the basic skills (math, language, geometry). Add in the remaining subjects when appropriate for your family.

There you have it: 10 Steps to Elementary Montessori Homeschooling.




Posted in Adolescence, Elementary | 2 Comments

Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic Table of Elements

A question often asked by parents of older elementary students, but more frequently of late by parents of lower elementary, is, “When do we introduce the Periodic Table of Elements? Why is not showing up anywhere in the AMI albums?”

There are a few reasons, and a few ways to approach this topic.

If your child is interested in this topic, by all means, go for it! Interest over-rides any “universal child” observation.

But it’s not there for everyone, because it’s not a key. The periodic table of elements is actually the end-result of a process. A process that the child needs to go through as well in order to fully appreciate it and learn the most from it.

It becomes a key later – in adolescence! After they have experienced it!

How to approach the periodic table of elements – all of these are found in the primary and elementary albums:

  • Primary and Lower elementary: sorting objects by observable characteristics (color, shape, size, sinking/floating); explore the states of matter; explore magnetism; describe the characteristics of various objects; measure and compare using a variety of tools; explore substances vs. solutions
  • Upper elementary: continue looking at characteristics that are less obvious; consider volumes of solids; magnetic fields; affects on non-magnetic objects; which objects are good/poor conductors of electricity (electricity is not explicit in the elementary albums, but is something to be explored at the time a child expresses interest; and it *should* come up as the child explore each key further); in the final couple of tellings of the Story of God With No Hands, highlight those particles – those basic substances that make up all of creation. You can have resources in the room that share information about the elements; but try to avoid the “official chart” for now if at all possible.
  • Adolescence: Now we start to look at chemical properties, if the child hasn’t gone there already; start sorting various substances by their chemical properties; build atoms and molecules; use the term ‘elements’; pull out a set of cards that has information on the elements for sorting purposes. Don’t show the periodic table until the child has created a few different organizations of it himself (based on magnetism; based on atomic weight; based on other characteristics of the child’s choosing) – what are the patterns? What are the similarities and differences? Then pull out the chart itself; but also pull out (or pull up online) samples of other methods of organizing the elements – there are MANY! And they are BEAUTIFUL!

When an elementary child has an interest in this area of study, just pull out those cards and go from there.





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8 Principles of Montessori Education

8 Principles of Montessori Education

To highlight the different approaches to the first and second planes of development, let’s take a look at teach of the 8 Principles of Montessori Education as outlined in¬†Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.


1. Movement & Cognition

Movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning.

This one is pretty straight-forward and similar at both planes. 

Primary: We have walking on the line and the silence game. There is a lot of individual work at this age, but with other people around. The materials are real and concrete Рthere is nothing abstract here. We focus on reality. 

Elementary: Walking on the line and the silence game continue, but in a different pattern; as they approach adolescence, walking on the line takes on a new depth of need, centering their hormonal development (which begins as early as age 8 Рseveral years before outward signs begin). Now we have group work. The children are moving into abstraction and will have more and more abstract-like materials, including a good deal of work for which no materials are required (and materials offered for these presentations should be shunned because they are inconsistent with the Montessori approach). 


2. Choice

Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives.

Primary: Free choice as long as respect is maintained. Children can also choose to observe. 

Elementary: Now free choice with respect includes a sense of responsibility Рit is still showing respect because now it is respect for the growing young person before us. The elementary child is showing respect to himself when he follows a child/adult planned work plan and notes his work in a work journal. Children at this age do not have the choice to just observe unless the observation is truly constructive. They have a responsibility towards productive work now. In our homes, we have MORE time to spend in learning, so this rule is a bit more lax at home versus schools where the children are in attendance for a limited number of hours. 


3. Interest

People learn better when they are interested in what they are learning.

Primary: Primary level we present the keys and the children continue to explore. 

Elementary:¬†With the developing responsibility to balance out freedom, the child takes ownership of planning out those interests, no longer relying solely on the adult – it is now a team effort to create one’s own materials, own work choices, own extensions, own follow-ups and own conclusion. We still present the keys ¬†particularly to entice new interests, but also to lay a foundation of knowledge so that all possible interests will have the fullest possible experience. Think projects.¬†


4. Extrinsic rewards are avoided

Tying extrinsic rewards to an activity, like money for reading or high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.

Primary: No grades; progress can be noted, but should be limited to attention, focus, concentration, interest, JOY. 

Elementary:¬†We still don’t give grades, but can work with rubrics in some situations. We have work plans and journals. And we have the 3rd and 6th grade public school requirements outlined for the children to check into (during those years).¬†


5. Learning from & with peers

Collaborative arrangements can be very conducive to learning.

Primary: There are limited groups at the primary age Рthe focus being on individual development. However the young child can observe peers and learn through observation. 

Elementary: The elementary child is expected to work during work-time and not observe just too much. 


6. Learning in context

Learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts.

Primary:¬†At this age, we are presenting keys to the world – seemingly disconnected pieces that the child wants to focus on; remembering that the child is typically in Children’s House for 3 hours a day (15 hours a week), thus the keys we present are part of their bigger life.¬†

Elementary: Now we present keys to the universe; the children are in school for more hours and we have timelines that pull everything together in big overviews. We are now connecting all those individual pieces together and allowing them to explore the individual pieces that are of most interest to them, while always emphasizing where/how those pieces together with the big picture. 


7. Teacher ways & child ways

Particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes.

Primary: Our adult presence is more environmental; setting the atmosphere and the physical environment, while also being present for the emotional needs of the child. Parents spend time with their children and all work together to help the child gain skills of independence. 

Elementary: Now we move to focus on interdependence. The child knows he can stand strong on his own AND he has a solid home base Рthus he can trust enough to give himself up for others in group project dynamics. The adult and child work together to form the work plan for the week and follow-up later in the week. The adult is a guide and a mentor for the child. The adult trusts the child and the child trusts the adult. 


8. Order in environment & mind

Order in the environment is beneficial to children.

Primary: Order is external at this age; the environment should be beautiful, neat, uncluttered and inviting. 

Elementary:¬†Now order has been internalized and the outer work of the child is messy; he has it straight inside of himself, so all is well. That is the ideal. More often than not children in our age and time maintain issues due to NOT having this need properly fulfilled at the first plane of development. In either case (ideal or less than ideal), the child needs continued guidance to responsibility for the external¬†environment¬†and respect for others’ use of the space.¬†


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Adolescent Montessori: Montessori Beyond Elementary

 Adolescent Montessori: Montessori Beyond Elementary

Keys of the Universe is building onto the adolescent portion of the Keys of the Universe Discussion Community (private link).

The glitches with the weekly reading announcement have been overcome (sort of – they’re just going to be manually sent out now, instead of the auto-sending that didn’t want to work).

And now there is a place to share adolescent resources. YAY!

Current Topic Headings


So what is it about adolescence that makes it SO tricky!?

  1. Maria Montessori had limited time in her life – she was intense and did a LOT; no-one since then has been as intense so it’s taking more time to make the same discoveries.
  2. Personal interests and personal growth. It starts in primary – we have core materials and then we create a few language materials based on personal interests; we encourage the children to creatively apply what they have learned; we have experiences to expand their horizons as well deepen their interests. In elementary we have the core materials, but now the child’s imagination takes off and within the framework/foundation of elementary, the child can explore SO MUCH! Now, in adolescence, the child has a strong foundation and is ready to take on the world – but is dealing with the emotional and hormonal changes of adolescence. Now, we want to take what they know and *apply* it in a very practical manner, in a manner that places him within society. In a way, the adolescent is back to first plane of development. By high school, the not-so-child is ready to take some typical high school lecture-based courses, along with apprenticeships and other real-world experiences.
  3. (really “2B”) The needs of every adolescent will be different – interests, personalities, foundation, environment….
  4. Thus we are working on what that framework looks like (NAMTA has some great publications we are studying over at the Keys of the Universe adolescent study group) and then we utilize a variety of resources that meet the needs of the particular child before us.


Come join us!

If you are part of the Keys of the Universe Discussion Community, you already have free access! It is part of your Keys of the Universe course participation (anyone who has purchased the full set of albums with full support has access to the complete discussion board).

Or join just the adolescent portion at this link (scroll down for “Montessori Adolescent Support”). You will create two accounts – one for payment; one for the group (security purposes). Then you will have access to the adolescent portion of the discussion community.


Have you purchased individual elementary albums and just want to add support? That same link will cover you. Just select the support options you would like.


cross-posted here at Montessori Trails

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Montessori and Common Core Alignment

Montessori and Common Core Alignment

Common Core is the buzzword of late. This site does not intend to get into the positives or negatives of these standards. Simply to share some information for the Montessori homeschooling community. This article is not particularly pertinent to the Common Core; indeed it can be applied to any of the local educational requirements (public school requirements) that we have around the world.

The stance of AMI Montessori is for the 3rd and 6th year children in Montessori to be made aware of any local education requirements and take it upon themselves to assure they have met the requirements.

And what does that mean in practice?

There may be an area of study (such as local national history) that the child has not yet embarked upon, but the child will see this on the local educational requirements (public school requirements Рtypically the local state standards) and will develop a study of his/her own (with as much or as little teacher guidance as needed). On very rare occasions  a teacher should create a material to help a child learn something on the standards Рhowever, it is always best to start with trusting the child and work from there, providing as much assistance as needed, and only as much assistance as needed.

  • where does this requirement align with a current presentation, for which said requirement could be a natural extension – guide the child that direction with words, or provide cue cards/work¬†
  • check the albums to see if there is already some guidance there for how to go about a particular type of requirement
  • consider particular key experiences that will entice or enhance interest
  • do the study with the child
  • most importantly, show the 3rd and 6th grade standards to the 3rd and 6th year students and see what creative ideas they come up with to master a particular requirement – or to prove they already know it.

Please note: while we typically post the 3rd and 6th grade requirements for just those children and this is typically found to cover most areas of study, it is a point of interest to look back at years 1, 2, 4, and 5, where a local educational standard may have a particular area of study being covered, such as local national history, or a specific area of science. This note applies more to non-common-core standards, of which a few remain in the United States; as well as areas outside of the United States. Add these particular topics into the appropriate 3rd and 6th mix, if they are not thoroughly covered by the Montessori presentations already; or these may be areas that a teacher does indeed develop materials as a typical part of the classroom experience.


Common Issues:

A common danger with any of the standards is to align Montessori to the Standards, rather than pointing out where the standards are already fulfilled within the normal Montessori experience; then noting what the local educational authority requires that are not specifically met by the core Montessori experience.

For MOST children in a fully functional Montessori environment, they will have met many of these standards anywhere from a year to 4 or even 5 years “ahead” of schedule.

This does not mean we “dumb-down” Montessori and hold off several years to give a presentation just because the public school children don’t learn it until then… For example, there is a natural window for learning to read, so use it! Don’t wait until it’s a requirement!

Another common danger is to look at the standards (common core or otherwise) and simply plug in which materials help the child meet this standard, with no or very little care to noting in which year they likely met that requirement, thus causing it to appear that a child will work with those materials in that year. For example, a 3rd grade chart of the Common Core standards is presented, with a column indicating the materials utilized to meet each of those standards; but some of that work the child had already done back in kindergarten or 1st grade. It is handy for the child to see which materials he will need to get out to double-check he has the requirement met,

Results of the Common Issues: 

And this is how we come to have a variety of Montessori albums with work placed at varying locations – some albums have been adapted over time in response to the above experiences, among others. Keys of the Universe is largely AMI and trusts Dr. Maria Montessori’s own observations, as well as my own observation and work over the last umpteen years confirming her observations of natural windows of learning opportunities. If I find a child needs more time, he has more time; if I find a child is ready to just fly ahead, I have the tools on hand to do so. Neither I nor the child are bogged down by teacher-presentations that are not “keys” to the child’s educational and life experience, thus he has time to pursue his own interests in depth and still practice responsibility assuring those local educational requirements are fulfilled.

We must never teach TO the standards; we must provide a rich experience for the children that they can fill in those needed requirements at the appropriate times, naturally and gracefully because we have otherwise provided such a fulfilling experience that they can take on any challenge we send their way!

What We Actually Provide the Child:

What we provide the child is not going to perfectly match what we provide adults, authorities, etc. – they need the background and other information. The children just need the facts.

In actual practice, we will take the 3rd grade and 6th grade standards; organize them so there is a list of easily understand “requirements” in one column (delete all the philosophy, background and other information that comes with typical files on the standards) – and perhaps a second column indicating that “you’ve probably already done this, but review if needed.”

(add in any specific areas of study from the two grades lower – such as in our area, certain areas of science are covered by all the schools in the same grade)

Let the children come up with the materials they will need to use.

Let the children come up with the projects and the desired method of proof of learning.

Think of the whole thing as more of a check-point; a touch-stone; NOT a checklist. This is hard to do in practice by us adults, but is easy for the children if we LET it be easy for the children ūüėČ


(by “normal” here I mean the observations and discoveries made by Dr. Maria Montessori in her time and with the children in all the various countries she observed; all of which observations apply to all children today)

Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | Leave a comment

Montessori, Curriculum, Common Core

Montessori, Curriculum, Common Core


I wrote the following as part of an upcoming post on the aligning of Montessori and Common Core, but I thought it was a point to make all on its own: 

Non-Montessori curricula are all different, presenting concepts at different times, in different ways; and teachers in regular classrooms routinely do not finish any given text in any given year. Hence, no curriculum or classroom experience can actually meet every standard, especially for every child.

Interestingly enough, Montessori strives to go above and beyond – to ensure that every child exiting the elementary experience at the end of either 3rd or 6th grades, has indeed met every requirement on the local educational standards. Very interesting, given how much flack Montessori takes for simply following the child and not providing “enough.”

I understand every school is different, I am thinking here of AMI schools that truly follow the child, which ends up meaning following their albums and providing for the child’s interests and learning opportunities at every turn.

Posted in Adolescence, Elementary, Primary | Leave a comment

Keys of the Universe Articles

Keys of the Universe Articles


Welcome to our new articles page!


It is here I will post interesting bits of information from time to time which pertain to the use of the Keys of the Universe albums, common questions about the benefits of AMI albums, and other pertinent timely information.

One such upcoming post is on the common core standards, aligning them with Keys of the Universe AMI albums, and how this project is different from other Common Core/Montessori alignment projects – and why there are SO many such alignment projects going on!



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