There are arguments for making your own materials as well as against.
Of course, when you have your Montessori teacher training, they give you blackline masters to make quite a lot of material (like the Landforms & Water Features three part cards, the Who Am I? Animal Stories/Riddles, and so on). And in some teacher training programs, instead of buying your binders, you watch actual lesson presentations, take detailed notes, and then write your own binders. I know people who hand-drew and hand-colored their wall charts for The Timeline of Life and The Timeline of Early Humans!
However, I do not agree with handmaking any of the Math materials since they have to be machined quite precisely to be accurate, and any inaccuracy would confuse the concepts (10 unit beads equaling a 10 bar, for example). And I think that things like the Puzzle Maps are best left to the professionals.
In theory, however, you can most certainly use the Montessori method without buying any of the official materials. It is a concept, not a shopping list. The idea of having the hands-on material and letting the children learn independently through manipulation of it is one. (Note: The way of manipulating it you teach them beforehand... it's NOT a free for all).
Here is an example. Here's the Thermic Bottles official classroom material (this is used in Early Childhood, ages 3-6, as a Sensorial material) and a Thermic Bottles how-to blog post from Carrots are Orange. Check it out and you can see that, while having the exact material would be nice, you can easily replicate this concept at home. And save yourself $210.00!
Other Montessori ideas include having the control of error provided so that children can check their own work. Letting them plan their own day. Having work on a mat or a tray to delineate your work space from another's. Freedom with responsibility. Child-size authentic tools. Not doing something for a child that he/she can do on his/her own. Using the correct vocabulary for something from the beginning. These ideas can be universally applied.
Often you can also be quite frugal and purchase simply the control chart for something (Botany Cabinet, Geometric Cabinet, Biome Puzzle Maps) or the stencil (Grammar Symbols), and have that be enough to add a great deal of new content to your homeschool curriculum. I'm happy to help anyone who is puzzling over what is a must-have versus a nice-to-have material.
Geometric Cabinet Control Chart
The special circumstance that I am facing here is that the official Reading / Sentence Analysis Set has been found to have some flaws. I began with the Mandala Classroom Resources Sentence Analysis Template and Making Sense of Sentence Analysis ($55.00) set of lesson plans. The description stated
If you've had difficulty teaching sentence analysis with the traditional charts and boxes, you're not alone. To help you enjoy this important part of the curriculum, we've eliminated the grammar discrepancies in the charts and modified the content of the boxes to match the revised charts. We've keyed in on the essentials and prepared the sentences--to make it easier for you. Everything is organized clearly and is in photocopy-ready format for your permanent use.
So, I was intrigued. How did they change this particular material and why?
When the lessons arrived I discovered that they had made four changes to the teaching of Sentence Analysis, including unifying the symbols and dropping some of the charts. Most importantly, they eliminated the diagram with ten orange circles and the arrows which go to them. Orange is the color for Adverb in the Montessori Grammar work, and only four questions modifying a verb (why? how? when? where?) actually yield adverbs. These four (Cause, Manner, Time, Place) arrows I just finished dyeing orange.
The six eliminated orange arrows have questions which actually lead to Prepositional Phrases, which are not adverbs
- with whom? with what?
by whom? by what?
by means of whom? by means of what?
from what? from where?
of whom? of what?
Here is the traditional working chart for Sentence Analysis, where you can see the long list of questions (click to enlarge):
Sentences which have prepositional phrases as the indirect objects, such as "She gave the ball to the baby," are confusing to the children, since "baby" is the object of the Preposition and not the indirect object of the verb. If you write, "She gave the baby the ball," "baby" can now correctly be identified as the indirect object. I think that clarifying this makes a lot of sense!
However, if most of the working charts for Sentence Analysis can no longer be used, I'm left with no choice but to create materials for our shelves. The people at Mandala have done a tremendous amount of work in creating new charts, new sentences for analysis, and so on. I do recommend it! But they have not created a correspondingly revised hands-on material, since Montessori teachers can simply remove the now-unncessary components from the boxes they already have on their classroom shelves. I, however, hadn't bought it yet and I am NOT willing to purchase something expensive from Holland and then pack up half of it to be never seen again!
Since we were so fortunate in receiving a donation of wooden pieces last week, I've simply dyed the appropriate shapes the appropriate colors. The questions are written on the classroom charts and on each child's personal charts, so I'm not actually writing the questions on any of the arrows. I did dye more pieces than we needed, just to have them, but the bare minimum needed to accompany the Mandala material is
- black (Noun color):
one large circle, one medium circle, one small circle, three arrows
red (Verb color):
one large circle
blue (medium blue, Adjective color):
three triangles, three arrows
orange (Adverb color):
four small circles, four arrows
The full tutorial with dyeing instructions will be next. And, of course, photos!