The Pitfalls of Correcting Children's Work

It can be VERY tempting to correct a child's spelling, letters, numbers, and mathematics. Many of us who did not get to experience a Montessori education were even taught using this style from our own early years teachers. However, the Montessori Method really strives to allow children to correct their own mistakes, when they are ready.  


In the above photo, two of our students and practicing their Phonetic Spelling using some Common-Word Objects and the Movable Alphabet.

You will notice errors in their spelling choices; KEY is spelt "keu", CORN is spelt "kon", and FROG is slept "frag". This is completely ok!!! And there is NO need for adult correction!!

When your child is practicing their Phonetic Spelling Skills (which is sounding out words to figure out which letters are within), it is VERY important to remember the Aim of this work; it is not about correct spelling - it is about learning to distinguish phonetic sounds and letters within words!

So, as hard as it may feel in the moment, please hold back on correcting any spelling mistakes your child WILL make (and yes, I do mean WILL, and not MAY!) and let them know you are seeing the true accomplishments they are achieving - their phonetic spelling skills refinement!!

The Montessori Child will eventually see any spelling mistakes for themselves as a self-learner, and make the necessary adjustments moving forward. This could be at age 4, age 5, age 6 - and keeps going higher as the complexity of the words increase.

This is the same principal for inverted letters and numbers (which is a very common preschool stage - printing some, but not all, letters or numbers backwards). And the same goes for Mathematics, like Addition, Subraction, Multiplication and Division. Children will self-correct their mistakes when they are READY - this means when the connection forms cognitively, they see the error, and understand why it is incorrect.

So give them time, and fight back that urge to say "are you SURE ten plus eight is eighteen? Maybe count again..." Or "hmm... Is the bumps on the inside of the "B", or the outside...". As harmless as this may seem, it is derailing all of the hard work and foundations your child has built as a self-learner; because they will start to become dependant on an outside source (like a parent, teacher, etc) to check the accuracy of their work. Instead, be patient - and trust that your child will see the problem, when they are able! 

Because they have formed a solid foundation of self-motivated, self-correcting learning styles, this will evolve on its own organically!


Montessori Children are both Students and Teachers

Here's another throw-back IG Post from back in March 2015, that I wanted to share here too. 

Mixed-Age Classrooms hold so many benefits for all students! SJMS goes from 2.5 years to 6 years! 

Mixed-Age Classrooms hold so many benefits for all students! SJMS goes from 2.5 years to 6 years! 

Many people may look at this picture, and see two young students interacting at a table; and not see the many different types of skills being developed.

A huge part of the Montessori Method is "students leading students".

We believe that through encouraging and empowering students to be both students and teachers, there are amazing opportunities for both sides to gain skills development.

In this photo, one of our students is assisting another student with one of our Math Materials: The Fractions Puzzle.

The child stepping into the role of "student" is not only learning how to use the materials, she is also:

  • Learning that socially and emotionally, she can turn to her peers for guidance and support, without fear of judgement.
  • Forming a solid base of being comfortable going to a peer for help, which encourages life-long traits of how to work in a team, how to collaborate, how to work in partnership with another person, and how to function productively in collaborative projects.

Fast forward 20 years from now, and you can picture Montessori Graduates being the coworker that effectively leads high performance teams, mentors others but also accepts mentorship, and overall is successful in any team setting!

And for the student being the "teacher"; they are not only:

  • Helping to reinforce their own understanding of this learning material (as it is proven that teaching another person a skill assists the teacher in their own knowledge and understanding of that same skill),
  • They are also gaining incredible socio-emotional  skills!
  • They feel pride in helping a peer, in being a peer that others turn to for assistance, and in pride in their own knowledge and abilities.
  • They are also practicing their own skills of working collaboratively, expressing thoughts and directions clearly, and how to problem solve to reach a goal - the goal in this situation being to help a friend learn how to complete the Fraction Puzzle!

This core aspect of the Montessori Method - children being both students and teachers - is one of my favourite parts of the philosophy! 

Another core aspect that I love - that we as Educators are both teachers AND students.

I learn from my students every day - and what can be more rewarding than that. 

What is the "Control of Error?" in Montessori?

If you've done some research to see what the Montessori Curriculum and Methodology is all about, then you've probably come across the term "Control of Error" many times! 

A student working with a Numerals and Counters Lesson from the Mathematics Area. 

A student working with a Numerals and Counters Lesson from the Mathematics Area. 

Plainly speaking: it is an aspect built into many Montessori Learning Materials that enables the preschool child to check the accuracy of their work without the assistance from an adult or peer.

Let's use the Math Lesson picture above as an example for explaining the Control of Error. To understand how the Control of Error works, we need to understand the Purpose of this Lesson; what is it's goal for the student. 

Prior to working with this lesson, children need to have already Mastered their understanding of the concept "Zero", be able to recognize numbers 0-9, and understand that each number consists of the correct amount of "objects".

For this Lesson, the child first spreads their red wooden numerals 0-9 on the bottom of their work space. Then they begin at the number "zero", and add the correct number of wooden counters (in this photo, wooden ladybugs) above it. Then then move on to the "two", and place the correct number above that red number. They repeat this action all the way to "nine".

As we said, in Montessori almost every lesson has a built-in "control of error"; and that the control of error is a way for the child to self-check their work to see if they performed it correctly.

With this specific material, the child will know they placed all the ladbugs in the correct places if they have none left over when they are finished - and if they have some remaining unused,  they can see for themselves there is an error somewhere.

This is key - by seeing and recognizing there is an error SOMEWHERE, the child then learns to go back and check their work - it isn't a adult informing them of a potential mistake, or telling them how to fix it - it is the child himself. That concept is the foundation for a child learning they have the ability to learn independently. 

Then they can re-check their work (by starting back at "zero" and counting each line's total ladybug) until they find the error.

This Control of Error is a key part of the Montessori Method, as the philosophy teaches that children learn much more intrinsically, and are more advanced in their true understanding of the various concepts if they are taught how to check their own accuracy of their work - in short, that they do not need to rely on an adult to give them this feedback information. They are able to become self-directed, self-motivated learners!

And MANY key early learning studies have shown that children learn more when they have these skills, as well as translates into a true love of learning!

Parenting as Peers...

 This was a social media post back in January, that I wanted to share here on the blog too.

I hope this parent doesn't mind me sharing this! She shared a parenting story with me yesterday, and I wanted to share it here - because it is (in my opinion) a topic that needs to be discussed.

In recent years parenting has shown a trend in the desire to create bonds of peer-based friendship between a parent and their child; as opposed to having a parent-to-child based relationship.

The story she shared with me:

Her 6 year old daughter was listing all of her friends, then added "and you Mom, you're my friend too". Her mom replied "thank you, for saying I'm your friend, but you know (name), I'm your Mommy, and being your Mommy is my relationship with you - you are going to have SO MANY friends in your life, and only ONE mommy. My job is to be your parent and when you grow up, you will understand why that's more important than me being a friend right now. It doesn't mean I love you less or that we don't have fun together - it just means moms and dads are parents, and it's important for them to ONLY be their kid's parents, not their friends".

This mom and I then discussed our shared views that children NEED to have parental figures in their lives; and that there is an alarming trend in the preschool years where parents are instead choosing to interact and only relate to their child(ren) as peers - and the dangers this can have.

Of COURSE it is always ok to play/have fun with, be goofy/silly with, spend time with, have many MANY daily chit chats with our children; this is a vital part of parenting.

But the separation (in our opinions) needs to come into effect when there are discussions of rules and expectations, consequences, and overall family values.

Children often become very confused, which can easily manifest in a number of behavioural actions (power struggles, regression of milestone abilities, defiance, tantrums, etc) when parents suddenly switch from being a "friend" to an "authority figure".

Or worse, we observe more and more parents choosing NOT to become an authority figure, to ensure they remain "friends" with their child. Which leads to children not getting these critical socio-emotional skills developed.

KIDS NEED PARENTS. They already have now, and will continue have in the future, lots of friends.

Just my opinion!