Thursday, June 5, 2014

Keys of the World Primary Albums

In my first post, I talked a bit about my planning stage at that time.  I have read all of the books I listed there and more since then, but I decided not to take the KHT Montessori training program as I thought I would.  Although I do believe, based on reviews I've read that it is a quality program, there were a couple of key aspects that led me to an alternate choice.  A couple of months ago, I purchased instead the Keys of the World Primary Albums (currently available via Garden of Francis).

Before I go any further, I'd like to clarify that this post is NOT a review of this product for two very important reasons: 1. I am not qualified to truly judge one set of albums over another.  I have no Montessori training and no experience.  2.  I'm only just getting started.  I have read through nearly all of the albums, but I'm only at the beginning of implementing them, so I can't speak to how well they are going to work for us.

Having said that, I will talk a little about why I chose them.  There are three main reasons: AMI based, not PBG based and there are elementary albums available from the same author.

AMI Based:  There are two main branches of Montessori philosophy in the US today, the Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society (AMS).  There are differences between the two styles with pros and cons of each, but in a nutshell I have learned that the AMI style is more traditional and stays truer to the original teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori.  The AMS tends to be more flexible, changing with time and including extras that were not in the original plan.  I felt more comfortable having a guide that included only the basic necessities because there is A LOT to get through in the 3 primary years and I didn't want to get lost in extras that I thought were important but weren't truly required.  We'll probably do some of those extras depending on DJ's interests, but I'll know they are supplemental to our core work.

non-PBG Based:  This has to do with the AMS style as well, which tends to teach reading via a Pink, Blue, Green (PBG) series of word studies.  This series was developed by Americans who had to alter the original Italian language lessons to meet the needs of our COMPLEX English language.  But I've read in many places such as here and here that PBG is way too complicated and labor/material-intensive for a homeschool.  A lot of work to prepare, potentially difficult to implement and possibly not the best way to teach reading to a preschooler?  Doesn't sound like the path I want to take.  So instead I've chosen the AMI style, which on first reading seems very logical to me.

Elementary Albums:  My plan is to homeschool indefinitely and as you can see from my posts so far, I'm fairly sold on the Montessori method for preschool.  But for months I was really uncertain what our elementary curriculum would look like.  I'm still not entirely certain we'll still be doing Montessori in first grade, but when I learned that there were both primary and elementary albums from a single author, I was very happy.

So, now that you know why I decided to purchase the Keys of the World albums, those of you in my family that aren't knowledgeable about Montessori are all saying, "Ok, but what are albums?"  Basically, they are what you might think of as lesson plans or curriculum that cover all of primary (3-6yo).  But at the same time, they aren't truly lesson plans as you know them.  In Montessori, the guiding focus is to follow the child.  So, the lessons are never planned out to do these three chapters this week, and following a certain pace we'll be in that section of the albums by next month.  Instead, you start at the beginning and follow the interest of the child as to when you present new information and how long you spend on each lesson.  This is called the "scope and sequence".

The Keys of the World are divided into five albums (actually 5 pdf files on my computer), Theory, Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math.  Cultural items such as science, history and geography are included in the Sensorial and Language albums.  As you've seen from my other posts, DJ is focused mostly on Practical Life and Sensorial, which is completely appropriate for his age.  In the coming months, he may show more interest in Language but he probably won't start the Math sequence until closer to 4 years old.


  1. Hi, thanks for coming by my blog recently to say hello! As you know we are in the middle of a huge transition and hope to settle somewhere near the end of August. I am using this "limbo" time to read my albums carefully and find a good set of AMI albums for my little one, D. (He just turned 3.) How are the KotW working out for you? I just PM'ed Jessica about these and I am thrilled that they are affordable, digitally available, and there is message board support for them. BUT, I thought I'd ask someone else who owns the albums their opinion. (I never took Tyler's course b/c it is AMS, and I have some experience with AMS b/c that is the training the teachers who taught my oldest did.) I have Montessori By Hand, some of Montessori R&D (more AMS style), Papandrea, and I think a set from Monaco?? (I could be mistaken about the last one.) After reading all of these I just don't feel that any of these give you the background that Jessica's Elementary albums give. So I am still looking. :)

    1. Hi Abbie! Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm still a novice and I don't have real experience with other albums but so far I'm really loving KotW. I really like how the AMI style focuses on presenting the core principles to the child and then encouraging them to learn more through their own exploration. An example of this that I just came across are the Land & Water forms. The Keys albums have you prepare the forms for lake/island from clay with the child during the first presentation. Then the clay is left out for the child to make their own forms for all the others (peninsula/gulf, straight/isthmus, etc). I had been prepared to make the models myself and just give them to my son already prepared, but doing it himself is so much more engaging. Also, the online support is great because Jessica is SO responsive to all the questions. It's like having a personal mentor and that gives me a lot more confidence.