Title: Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook: A Short Guide to Her Ideas and Materials
Author: Maria Montessori
Publication Year: 1914
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Review: I’ve already read one of Maria Montessori’s other books, The Secret of Childhood, so I was prepared for her writing style (a bit antiquated and wandering) and found it more understandable (and tolerable) in this book. My biggest problem with is that there are no chapters and very few section headings or really breaks of any sort. (To be fair, this was her handbook and not a book she was intending an audience to read.) I’m the sort of person that reads a chapter at a time, or at the very least, if I need to stop somewhat suddenly, I try to find an appropriate break in the text. I read this book in 3 sittings, because each time I started reading, I could never really find an appropriate place to take a break.
What this book contains is a summary of her overall teaching philosophy and a description of the various materials that are used in a Montessori classroom, with an emphasis on the preschool level. Since I’m already fairly familiar with the material, what I found most useful were some interesting points she made that helped clarify and understand her overall method. For example, I’ve never really understood the purpose of the sand paper letters other than as a way to help ingrain in a child’s brain the association between the shape of a letter and the sound.
However, Montessori makes the point that if a child can trace a letter with his finger and is separately able to practice pencil control by tracing geometric shapes, then the child can write. Also, I’ve never been exactly clear on how much praise is given in a Montessori classroom, or if it’s considered entirely inappropriate and counterproductive. On page 132, she states, “Let us wait, and be always ready to share in both the joys and the difficulties which the child experiences. He himself invites our sympathy, and we should respond fully and gladly.” Personally, I really like this description, as I always felt the description of a Montessori directress seemed a little too aloof and distant in my opinion.
One final point that I found interesting was an unintentional comparison between a Montessori education and a totally free “unschooling” homeschool environment, both of which give the child the freedom to take control of their own education. On page 189 she makes the following statement, which implies that the difference, if there is one, would lie in the “preparedness” of the environment.
“It is the perfect organization of the work, permitting the possibility of self-development and giving outlet for the energies, which procures for each child the beneficial and calming satisfaction…Freedom without organization of work would be useless. The child left free without means of work would go to waste…”
Overall, this is not a book that I would recommend to a parent casually interested in the Montessori method. However, for someone whose curiosity runs deeper, this short little book might be worth a read. (Personal Rating: 7/10)