What to do with children joining Montessori schooling, after 4 and a half?

I’ve had the great pleasure of reading Paula Polk Lillard book again, my second time.  It’s called ‘Montessori in the classroom‘,  She journals her one year, where she has 4/5 year olds and how she uses Montessori to teach and guide these children, even though they don’t have the essential 2 years before.

What I love about this book, is all the hints and tips.  Like how she finds she needs to discipline this age group, so that they slowly understand the responsibility of their freedom.  I was really surprised by this.  And it helps me to understand how the structure of freedom works better in an Montessori environment.  How she balances when to insist on work being done and when to let go.

Pace of teaching – What really surprised me was, she only has 9 months  – and as she is journalling you notice the dates and what is being achieved.  It’s incredible, such an eye-opener.

Within a month, in language, she is onto the phonetic objects, already having done the moveable alphabet with most of her children.  Even though sensorially beyond the sandpaper letters and moveable alphabet, she still uses these.  They are doing world maps in this first month, as in tracing, colouring and labelling them.

In maths, for the first two weeks, she goes through all the first materials, to assess their understanding of numbers – Numerical rods, spindle boxes, cards and counters, memory game.  Then she starts the golden beads.  After a month and half, she has started short chains and Bank game.  At this time of showing the chains, she emphasis’s that this is multiplication.

Within 2 months, in language – she is introducing phonograms, the children are writing them – so their writing is up to this level.  The noun is introduced.

In maths, the numerical rods are used extensively, as well as cuisenaire rods.

Within 3 months, the verb is introduced.  Some children are reading alone and to each other at this stage.  None of the children could read when they entered the class.  she also documents those who are struggling and just plain forget things, even though they knew it ages ago.

In maths, children have already started working on the strip boards!  I’ve taken so long to introduce this to my boy – should have started earlier.  I found I just take too long to introduce new items, but this is what keeps the momentum/interest going.  Multiplication has also been introduced.

At 5 months, she introduces the stamp game.

By 7 months, in language, there is a hubbub of grammar work happening and sight words.  They are doing the Grammar boxes.  Children are being introduced to realistic books that they can read, instead of just readers.  There is also a lot of story writing.

In maths, the multiplication board is introduced.

By 9 months, she introduces the Dot game, before she has to say goodbye.

Practical life – in homeschooling, I often read about how this is lacking.  But practical life is used quite a bit in her class, especially for when the children are feeling restless.  She instills in them that when they feel this way, go off and do work from this area.  This includes:

– Floor Cloth, Dust pan and Brush, Broom, Dust Mop, Wet mop and bucket

  • Cleanser Tray
  • Mirror Polish
  •  Wood Polish
  •  Silver Polish
  • Flower arranging
  • Plant care

I’ve been wanting to set up polishing for ages.  And with a 3year old approaching, I know I need to get this sorted out – find a place, reorganise the kitchen to facilitate this.  My 5 year old needs to also be introduced and encouraged.  If anyone knows how to set up a cleanser tray, I’d really like your ideas, please?

Art materials

It was lovely to read how the kids constantly were interested in the art materials.  These were:

  • The clay (wooden bowl with wooden cutting board and pallette knife) – so simple!
  • The markers
  • Color paddles (plastic paddles of the primary colors). No idea what this is?
  • Painting tray
  • Collage tray
  • Pasting tray

I would so have loved pictures of these.  I have ordered her next book, which explains a lot of the topics in the book, but sadly seems to reflect more on language and maths.

I loved how the collage was based on what she was teaching at the time, like planets, there was items to make the planets and labels.  I loved this idea!

Science material

Her list of science materials and reading through the book, I’m encouraged now to actually buy a microscope and start getting that interest going.


Sensorial is not forgotten and I believe it’s so good to have this guide on what sensorial to do, when you think you’ve missed this sensitive period.

She had the:

  • geometric solids
  • constructive triangles (please read my post where I explain how I make these, so gorgeously!)
  • binomial and trinomial cube
  • metal insets
  • solid cylinders (quite surprised by this one)!  I’m actually planning to miss it out for my almost 3yo due to cost).
  • knobless cylinders

Truly an amazing book.


Constructive triangles – a revisit

Constructive triangles
Busy constructing.

Sometimes I’m really surprised at the need for repeating old work.  We needed to rush off somewhere and a few minutes left of work, so I asked Izaac to look for work to do.

Out he pulled the triangle boxes – a first in over a year!  He worked on these for half an hour, just enjoying trying to make a design with them all.  I stopped rushing!

It got me thinking, ‘need to find a way to mark each one, so that he knows which boxes to put them back in.’.  I only had little dots at the back for myself, which is not clear enough for children.

From my last post about the Montessori Album, I noticed children had free range to explore with all large manipulatives – why not the small ones too.  Or one often sees the knobless cylinders being worked on together.  It’s the first time I’ve seen it done with the triangles.

Here is the finished work – was so proud of him.

Finished work
Finished work. He was so proud.

These triangles are my first big homemade set that I made and I must admit, am really proud of them.  They turned out awesome.

This is how I did it.

I get free framing board scraps from my wonderful local framer, Eddie!  I visit him, fortnightly and he just packs his scraps over to me.  I have done SO much with this board.  I give him banana bread or other things I’ve baked as thanks!  🙂  So make friends with a nice local framer – you’ll never regret it.  I use this board for pasting work, for hard surface when kids are drawing on the floor, making my calendar, pictures and manipulatives – so much.

I got the idea for working with this board to make manipulatives from the  Montessori by hand website.  So I

  • cut it out on my guillotine, therefore I can only work with straight lines with this board.
  • Then I paste of my paper or picture.  For the triangles, I got my template from MontessoriMaterials.
  • Then I “laminate” with contact paper, as explained in  the above link tutorial

Just a hint on saving ink – if possible, get paper in the colors of the triangles, namely, green, yellow, red, grey.  The above templates you can choose just to print the triangle with the black lines.  Print these onto the respective paper.

Here are some close ups:

Front and back of triangles
Front and back of triangles
Beautiful, neat and doesn't bend. Lovely smooth feel