Saturday, October 25, 2008

Montessori Research & Development Teacher's Manuals

If you've never browsed the materials at Montessori Research & Development, press pause on reading this article and go there to see their products. They offer high-quality teachers' manuals, curriculum materials, and books pertaining to Montessori teaching method.

Thus far, I've discovered that there is one thing that even surpasses the excellence of their products: their customer service. Albeit, I only dealt with one of their representatives, but I was extremely impressed with how accommodating she was, going far away and beyond the call of duty.

The best example of this had to do with shipping to Canada. International buyers beware: contact the company directly via e-mail or phone when placing your order because their on-line shipping calculator is utterly daft. When I tried to place my order through their online check-out, the price of shipping was greater than the cost of my entire shopping cart! It was clear that something just wasn't right, so I e-mailed the company and found out that shipping to Canada had a flat rate of $32.85 per box (that being the least expensive option). Since my order didn't fill the box completely, their representative and I fiddled around with the contents, adding and subtracting manuals until the box was as full as it could get!

In the end I bought the following Early Childhood teachers' manuals:

What actually arrived in the box included the above manuals, plus CONTINENTS, FLAG PARTS, and PICTURE MATCHING- ORCHESTRA INSTRUMENTS. Naturally I was impressed and very pleased.

In addition to my order directly through Montessori Research & Development, I have purchased several of their items used from other Montessori parents. These items were:

Of all the products I have from Montessori Research & Development none of them have been less than excellent quality. The manuals are available either bound or in loose leaf. I opted for the bound when buying them directly, but the Geography Manual came in loose leaf. There are advantages to having the loose leaf: once you've hole-punched it and put it in a binder you can add in regular loose leaf pages between lessons to add your own notes. Having the manuals bound means that there's no chance of pages disappearing into the fourth dimension, which would be entirely too likely in my case! At any rate, I have no problem with writing directly in the manuals, since they are mine and now that baby #2 is on the way, I'll be re-using them rather than selling them.

The lessons themselves are generally short, clear, and rather easy. Naturally the manuals assume full access to Montessori materials, so I try to keep reading a few lessons ahead so I know what will need to be made. Thus far, I am making the most use out of the Mathematics, Language Arts, and Sensorial manuals, though I am branching further into Geography and am planning out materials for Zoology. Until then we're continuing with human anatomy - more on that later.

Initially I had thought the cost of manuals at Montessori Research & Development were too high (at least for my budget), but as I searched for other teachers' manuals I began to realise just how reasonable their prices were. For example, the Mathematics manual was $30.00 American. Even after having placed my order I still thought that particular manual expensive - until I received the parcel! Then, as I hauled out the Mathematics manual, which proved to be much heavier and was indeed much larger than any of the other manuals, I understood the higher cost. In fact, the Mathematics manual will not only be used during the preschool years but the lessons run for children from age 3 to age 8! In my opinion, that's value.

In trying to decide which manuals to order, I found reading the table of contents very helpful. They are available for almost every teachers' manual on the website and can be invaluable when trying to decide which level of Language Arts will be best for your child.

A couple of the wonderful consequences of having concrete teachers' manuals are that I can spend a lot less time online trying to find out what the appropriate next lesson will be after Ella absorbs the current lesson, and that I can carefully pick which materials I will most want to have at hand.

For example, the breadth of use of the Montessori bead material for mathematics in the Mathematics manual made it abundantly clear that having real beads as opposed to images of beads or stick-lengths coloured to represent the bead material would be worth the cost, time, and effort of getting real beads and making all the math materials. Having looked over the lessons I can see that they will get a lot of use and will be used for a lengthy period of time - at least into middle elementary.

Essentially, having the actual manuals makes it much easier to prepare lessons, figure out what is worth making (or buying, as the case may be), streamline your resources, and minimize the hassle of printing up hundreds of lessons from online and then having to sort and order them. The manuals make Montessori homeschooling easier - both for you and for your child. That is really worth it!

Please note that the photographs displayed in this review are copyrighted to Montessori Research & Development and each is linked to it's original source on their website. (At least I hope they are - I tried to link them properly!)

Questions and comments on this post are welcome and further discussion as a result will probably end up happening in the "comments" section. If they are too numerous and/or require more depth of discussion, I'll post a sequel to this blog with more details.

Happy Teaching!

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At 11:04 a.m. , Blogger Jennie said...

Very helpful post - thank you!

At 7:03 p.m. , Blogger southerncross said...

Hi -- this is a really timely post for me as I'd just been planning to purchase some of the manuals and checked this blog before doing so to see what your thoughts on them are! Thank you -- and I hadn't noticed until you mentioned it that the Tables of Contents are available -- great tip.

Did you pick up your used materials locally or have you found sellers of used Montessori materials/manuals online?... (anyone with experience in this department who's reading... also feel free to answer!) Many thanks for your fantastic blog.

At 9:00 p.m. , Blogger HomeSchooler said...

My used manual and curriculum materials I bought through a Montessori group on Yahoo called "Montessori_Swap." It's been helpful. I've tried through e-Bay and a few other used-items sources, but used Montessori materials as tough to find!

At 7:01 p.m. , Anonymous sheryll said...

I just wanted to add that I asked for some sample lessons to better make a decision on whether I wanted to purchase manuals. They quickly responded with some sample lessons from several manuals in pdf format for me to look at. Now I am trying to decide whether I want to 3-hole punch and put in binders or just go with bound!

At 8:11 p.m. , Blogger HomeSchooler said...

I'm so glad you found their customer service as helpful as I did! It's the mark that cares about its sales and its customers - making sure that what you need and/or want is actually what you get!

At 8:42 p.m. , Blogger Sara said...

I have a 6 month old and really want to teach the Montessori way. I really having a hard time figuring what activities to do and when. I just feel lost as to where to start. Maybe these manuals will explain in more detail. I feel like I would go broke trying to buy or make materials for every activity.


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