In my humble opinion, January is the best month of the school year. The children are excited to be back, they now have a host of lessons from which to choose, and they are capable of calm, purposeful work. We had an AMAZING day today. Most, if not all, non-Montessori supplemental activities are now off the shelf (like puzzles and various activities), so the children can only choose from the original Montessori materials. I saw more children choosing the land and water forms, the number rods, geometric solids, and many chose to work with sandpaper letters today. I enjoyed seeing second and third year students exploring the work in new ways and first year students observing them with wide, curious eyes.
Many teachers choose to leave non-Montessori activities out all year and then wonder why the children don't touch the pink tower or the golden beads. I typically put out several non-Mont. materials during phase-in and gradually remove them throughout the fall. I like to see all of them gone by January, when the children are ready for their best work.
When Maria Montessori was teaching, she experimented by putting out common toys with her educational materials. The children looked at them, manipulated them for a moment or two, and then went back to their work. She noticed the children preferred to work with the materials that she created rather than the store-bought toys. I wonder what would have happened if she put out modern toys from today with all the lights, bells and whistles? I think the children would be confused with that type of distraction in the classroom. I don't feel they would respect the materials quite as much, either. In my personal experience, I notice my daughter G uses the materials in school almost reverently, then tends to toss her toys around at home. The children do seem to sense the importance of the Montessori materials and treat them with respect.
So I look forward to the rest of the mysterious month of January when children are peaceful, actively engaged, and enthusiastic about learning!