I have been using this book for a few years now but re-read Part I (Montessori in the Home) in preparation for our preschool activities this year. I was struck most of all by how Montessori methods are child-centered and activity-center based after recently reading Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform by Diane Ravitch. I am not interested in letting my children decide what they'll learn and when through our homeschooling years (I can use the plural now that we're starting first grade, right?), but I do think it's an appropriate methodology for the preschool years. There is plenty of time ahead for First Daughter to learn letters, numbers, logic, Latin, and all sorts of other things, but now I am most interested in encouraging her to develop her own interests and build a solid base on which to place her later "book learning."
Maria Montessori's methods include a "truly good and sound education for the preschooler" but that education is one based on thinking and moving rather than reciting letters.
A young child's curiosity is insatiable, and he should have unlimited opportunities for observation, movement and exploration--in his home, in his garden. Let him discover himself and the world around him. Encourage him to be active and to follow his natural urges, for that is necessary for the development of his character.In addition to the more structured activities described in the book, Ms. Hainstock encourages lots of time outside (playing and helping in gardens or other outdoor chores) and plenty of opportunities for art (like painting and clay). She also encourages parents to read aloud and often to children. (Does anyone today suggest not reading aloud to children?)
The author likely overstates the importance of a specifically Montessori preschool education, but that's partly to be expected in a book of Montessori preschool activities. I'm also not likely to introduce the activities exactly as Ms. Hainstock suggests. I do not intend to set up our classroom (which is also our living room and First Son's first grade classroom) only as a Montessori preschool classroom. We will have activities at different levels. I will often keep the preschool materials locked away in the cabinet so Second Daughter does not destroy them. We will also not be having "preschool" for up to two hours a day.
Not that I've quite figured out how the preschool activities will be incorporated. We're supposedly starting school on August 23rd and I've set aside a bit of time each day for preschool -- though my schedule doesn't actually have any times on it. I anticipate an evolving routine for the first few weeks. Second Son will only be one month old when we start and, at this point, he's not anxious for me to do anything besides feed him. I'm trying not to set my expectations so high that I feel like a failure after only two weeks of first grade!
I have not read much more on the Montessori methods and philosophy than this book. It is only the smallest of introductions, but I think it's enough to get started with some preschool activities with your children. Personally, I think the Charlotte Mason and classical approaches will better suit our style as First Daughter grows (and already for First Son), but I just love how these little activities seem to lead children to more challenging ones like reading and writing. Also (confession time), Montessori materials are beautiful (at least the ones you can buy). I would love to fill my home with them.