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Montessori DVDs Review by Donna Campos

(Practical Life Demonstrations / Math Curriculum Demonstrations / Language Curriculum Demonstrations / Montessori Sensorial Demonstrations)
Educational Video Publishing
401 S. High Street
Yellow Springs, OH 45387

These four DVDs represent four areas within the Montessori educational philosophy for ages 3 to 6. The DVDs provide a glimpse into the world of Montessori classrooms, and although they are used to assist in staff training for Montessori environments, they are not meant to be a full training program. Full training in the Montessori philosophy takes approximately one year and includes classroom training with certified Montessori Directors. This fact is stressed on the DVDs. These DVDs offer demonstrations of various materials being used in a quality Montessori environment but do not include the materials themselves. The website offers a full transcript of each of these four DVDs and also offers additional DVDs.

The Practical Life Demonstrations DVD covers four content areas: Control of Movement, Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, and Grace and Courtesy. Within those four areas are sections such as Dusting, Pouring, Folding, Rug Rolling, Food Preparation, Sewing, and Paper Cutting. The intended environment is a multi-age group of 3- to 6-year-olds who make up a community of learners in which the older children help the younger ones master the various activities. The goal is to assist the children in gaining self-confidence, independence, self-esteem, and self-control.

As a parent of a child with sensory integration dysfunction, I was especially interested in this DVD. I'm always looking for new ways to teach self-help methods to my son. Several of the demonstrations seemed a bit outlandish to me at first, but I could see that the dexterity and precision demonstrated in the activities were valuable skills for my son to master. As seasoned homeschoolers, we found that several of the methods shown on this DVD were ones we have relied on for years. The concept of a specific quiet area would be helpful in just about any home where homeschooling is taking place. The Silence Game is a great way to calm children and to foster concentration. The Food Preparation demonstration calls for diligent preparation and guidance on the part of the teacher/parent, but it teaches a necessary skill. Rug Rolling instruction is a necessity as rugs are used frequently in a Montessori classroom. The use of a small rug to help define a work area for every child encourages respect of others and is a wonderful idea.

The 30-minute Math Curriculum Demonstrations DVD contains 28 demonstrations, some of which are fairly quick, but each offers at least a general idea of the concept being introduced. In addition to the demonstrations themselves, there is an overview as well as sections on Montessori Training and Products. The Training portion reminds the viewer that becoming a certified Montessori teacher requires more than the mere watching of any DVD program. The Products section highlights additional DVDs that are available along with their corresponding prices. The demonstrations reveal several Montessori "tricks of the trade," albeit in a limited scope, offering a glimpse into this unique program and its philosophy.

Several of the Montessori methods and materials could be easily implemented in a homeschool math environment. The Three Period Lesson is a great tool and is explained fairly well in this demonstration. A skilled woodworker could design and make the number rods for his own children, perhaps using the making of the item as a teaching moment in and of itself! The Cards and Counters demonstration offers an excellent way to differentiate between odd and even numbers. Our family implemented that one immediately. The use of Golden Beads provides a wonderful tactile version of math, and the addition chart, subtraction strip board, and multiplication finger chart all offer an alternative to traditional flash cards for the memorization of math facts.

The 30-minute Language Curriculum Demonstrations DVD includes 20 demonstrations. Many of the methods will probably be familiar to the homeschool viewer: sand trays for letter writing practice, manipulative letter pieces, and ideas for increasing vocabulary through conversational play. The program uses symbols extensively to teach parts of speech, often much earlier than the average homeschool would attempt to introduce them. Adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, and adverbs are practiced with manipulatives in such a way that children could remain engrossed in an activity for a long period of time. Special-needs children who work best with word and picture combinations would appreciate the Reading Classification demonstration as it could be used to teach a broad range of information.

The small word book created from the Phonetic Object Game and Phonogram Box Game will give a child a very personal and tangible way gain ownership of the words they have added to their vocabulary. The consistent color-coding of consonants and vowels is another idea that homeschools could easily implement if not already doing so. As in the Math DVD, the Three Period Lesson is demonstrated, this time in presenting "Puzzle words" (sight words that are not easily sounded out).

The Sensorial Demonstrations DVD explains the use of 23 traditional Montessori materials, several of which were shown in demonstrations on the other DVDs. The purpose of the sensory materials is to develop the child's sensorial perception and also improve fine motor skills for writing and other higher learning activities. Presentations are made with very detailed, deliberate movements as an example of correct manipulation for the child. In order to maximize the child's ability to absorb the information, material is always presented on the child's dominant side. All of the senses are addressed on this DVD in multiple ways and with different materials.

Several activities require or encourage the use of blindfolds. If your child is overly sensitive to that sort of thing, you may need to adjust accordingly. The Knobless Cylinders introduce the mathematical concepts of volume and circumference. The Superimposed Geometric Shapes show geometric relationships and increase the understanding of higher math concepts. The Decanomial demonstration introduces the square of Pythagoras and increases understanding of square roots and equivalencies. The colors used on materials for these higher math concepts match the colors of unit beads used in earlier math, so the child can more easily move from concrete materials to more abstract concepts. The amazing Sound Cylinders demonstration uses very slow, precise movements to increase the precision of the auditory sense. The Bells demonstration incorporates composition work; children learn to read music and eventually write their own music. The Baric Tablets increase awareness of weight, and the Thermic Tablets increase awareness of temperatures. Consistently, everything is taught in logical sequence with very specific movements.

I found these DVDs fascinating. They offer a glimpse into the Montessori world that will educate and inspire the viewer. The quiet, organized environment and the consistently beautiful materials are a wonderful reminder to us that our children will find it easier to concentrate and learn in such a setting. The ideas can be used regardless of learning style or homeschooling method. And Montessori methods allow for a Biblical worldview to be woven in as the parent sees fit and finds opportunity.

My one criticism is that the DVDs are incredibly short, given the purchase price of $59 each. Our homeschool could not justify a purchase price that breaks down to $1 for every 30 seconds of information. Although some of the Montessori materials could be manufactured at home or copied well enough for some educational value, most are best when purchased. So that only increases the expense. Perhaps an ideal scenario would be for homeschool co-op groups to purchase the DVDs for loan to their membership. An increased understanding of Montessori methods would certainly be a blessing to the homeschool community, but the cost would likely be too high for the average homeschooling family. I hope to see a more family-friendly price on this series.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2007