Today I would like to share my experiences with purchasing Montessori materials for homeschool. Normally, I do not like to review stores/items that I am not happy with because it gives them advertisement that I feel they do not deserve. I have decided that I would write a review including some stores that I was very unhappy with, in the hopes that it will save my readers the same trouble.
If you are homeschooling using the Montessori method, you already know that the materials are expensive. There are so many materials and its often difficult to move on in the lessons if you do not have all of your materials ahead of time. In my experience, shopping for materials is quite stressful. There are very few brick and mortar stores that carry Montessori materials (I'm not sure there are any that are open to the public). We as homeschooling parents rarely have the budget to buy the top of the line materials from places like Nienhuis. We rely on discount Montessori suppliers because they offer the materials we need at a fraction of the price and the quality is usually good enough for a few children to use, even if it would not be the best for a large classroom of students. There are not that many discount suppliers out there but it is still difficult to know which one to purchase from. I would like to share my experiences with you.
First, I would like to share my #1 tip for buying Montessori materials for homeschoolers. Look for used materials first! Check your craigslist or garage sale listings for individuals or schools that are selling materials. I was able to find two different Montessori schools who were selling used items at a huge discount. One of the schools had closed due to the owner retiring, she had an entire primary classroom of high quality materials to sell, all about half the price of even the discount suppliers. The other school was still in business, but they were trying to clear out the storage of materials they no longer needed. Some materials were brand new but they had multiples of and they didn't have shelf space for them. Other materials were old and worn had been replaced but still worked fine. I was able to get items that were almost all Nienhuis, Bruins, Boston, etc, top of the line for so much less. If you don't see listings, call around and ask your local schools if they have items to sell (or donate) to your homeschool. Also, check online swap groups for used items, sometimes they will live in your area and you can save on shipping. I found a homeschooling mom who's kids had moved on to upper grades and she no longer needed her manuals or materials so she sold them discounted and I saved on shipping since she lived in my area.
Now I know its not always possible to find these good deals. I didn't find all of these when I really needed them. I had to buy quite a bit new because we needed it. I'd like to share my experiences with some of the online Montessori suppliers and the quality of their materials. I will not include the top of the line suppliers because I do not feel they are relevant. I do love the quality of Nienhuis, Bruins and Boston in the used materials we have but I would not spend the money to buy them new, since we could not do it financially.
My top choice:
My first experience with purchasing Montessori materials was from this store. I didn't really know what I was doing or what we needed at first. I actually bought more primary materials that my older child was mostly done with (luckily I have a little one who will use them). I was happy with most of the materials I purchased. The wood used at KidAdvance is softer than Alison's and several pieces developed chips in the paint soon after we started using them. Our puzzle maps came from here and I think they are ok but not the best. The boards warped quickly, which I think could have to do with the style cabinet we got to put them in. They have two styles, one that has shelves and another that is open in the center and the maps rest on ledges on each side leaving the center of the map hanging. I think if we had the full shelf under them, they wouldn't have warped but I can't be sure. All in all, I was happy with the quality for the price of the materials I purchased from KidAdvance. I did have to send back our bead cabinet because one of the cabinet pieces was not drilled properly and I could not assemble it. They were very easy to work with in the return and they provided return shipping. I ended up buying our bead cabinet used instead. The beads from KidAdvance are not as nice as our Bruins cabinet, and they aren't quite as nice as the Alison's golden beads we have but I am happy with the ones we have in some of our other math materials. I would buy from KidAdvance again.
(also known as montessori equipment)
This store is dead last! I will never order from them again and I would urge my readers to stay away from this store! This is definitely the where NOT to buy Montessori materials store!
I purchased a fairly large order from this company this past fall. We were in need of a large amount of math materials and I was searching for a store that had all of them in stock at the time. I was planning to purchase from Allison's but they were out of stock of a few of my items so I decided to try out IFIT. BIG Mistake! I ended up with a big box of unusable materials. I order 7 items and some spare beads and the spare beads were the only items that were not defective. I was shocked at how bad it was! A large bead frame and a golden bead frame BOTH had missing beads. Every piece that was wooden and painted had chips and dents straight out of the box. Several items had missing pieces. Some measuring devices were misaligned. It was horrible! Their customer services was worse yet. They accused me of lying about the condition of the items and asked for pictures. Once they got pictures they told me that I expected too much for the price. I spoke to the owner every time to make things worse. The owner of this company is well aware of the horrible quality of his merchandise but he feels that the discounted prices makes it ok to sell them. I had to open a credit card dispute to get my money back and it took almost 5 months. I am not that picky about materials, I expect them to be useable and to not arrive already damaged. The materials from this company are far, far lesser in quality than Montessori Outlet or KidAdvance and yet the prices are fairly close. Please, stay away from this store!
I hope this review of Montessori materials suppliers helps others when choosing which store to make your purchases from. I have not received anything in compensation for my reviews from any of these companies. I have shared only my honest experiences.