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To Correct or Not?

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I can still recall some of our first school days after we fully invested in Montessori.  I understood my albums and the environment was meticulously arranged.  I invited my daughter to a presentation and was delighted as she watched with great anticipation.  Success!  We were achieving Montessori.

And then came her turn...

Nothing could have prepared me for the internal conflict that arose as she failed to recreate my efforts.  I did the the most Montessori thing I could think of.  I told her she was doing it wrong and proceeded to fix it for her.

No, really, that's the exact wrong thing to do.  So how do you respond when your child incorrectly attempts a work?

No matter what happens say "thank you".  Then simply put the work away.

Yes, it's really that simple, at least on the outside.  If you're like me then there's so much more you'd like to say and do to resolve the situation.

If this becomes a recurring theme, it may be time to investigate why this could be happening.  

Does the child simply need practice?
When a child is presented with a new work that's correct for their readiness, he/she will not be able to get it correct at first.  The control of error present in the material allows the child to have his/her own "ah-ha" moment.  Practice is needed to achieve this.  If an error is continually being repeated, consider giving the presentation again the next day or a few days later.  The need re-present works has been far more prominent that I initially expected. 

Is the work too advanced?
One of the hardest things to decipher is whether a work is too advanced or if a child simply needs more practice.  My stance is that as long as a child isn't frustrated with a work and is making reasonable attempts then I will allow him/her to continue.  I re-present the work each time.  If frustration or excessive confusion arises simply put the work away and try it again in a few weeks.

Is the child uninterested?
Sometimes when a child is not interested in a work they will purposefully complete it wrong, although I find this to be rare and short-lived.  We all have bad days.  Ensure that you are inviting children to sit through a presentation.  Sometimes I have to sit across the room and give a presentation to myself to strike up genuine interest in something.  If else fails, try another day.

Are the basics covered?
Sometimes the problems we see within a work are more about general normalization.  Normalization is the process by which a child learns to focus and function within the prepared environment.  If you're newer to using Montessori, your child will need time to adjust to the basics such as using work mats or carrying trays.  If the problems revolve around how the materials are handled then it's best to work through some grace and courtesy lessons.

Are your expectations too high?
I'm a details person.  When my album says the child should carry each piece individually with two hands, one on each side, then that's what I expect.  Well, that's ridiculous.  Yes, you want to demonstrate all aspects of the presentations.  They are there for more reasons than I can list here.  At the same time, your child will most likely not hit every single point.  I may take flack from the purists but I look mainly for the primary objective to be accomplished.  We work towards the details but they are not the make it or break it points for me anymore.

Thank you for your work!


As mentioned above, when all else fails thank the child for his/her work and move on.  I know how hard it is to avoid correcting on the spot but it will drastically improve your experience in the long run.

-Bess