There are two main Montessori “styles” – one was developed by Maria Montessori, is described in her books (not entirely in detail), maintained by AMI for all languages, and summarized in a booklet by Muriel Dwyer.
The other is the pink/blue/green.
Based on my educational background (I started college with the intention of being a special ed teacher, but this was years ago so I am probably fuzzy on some of the details) —- the pink/blue/green is VERY phonetic-based.
The “AMI- Montessori – Dwyer-summarized” style is neither phonics nor whole word. It is its own style, but has similar components of both (we give 40-44 key sounds so children can start writing without worrying about spelling or without worrying about needing guidelines within the parameters of what they have already learned (as in pink/blue/green or any of the phonics-based leveled readers available) —- we also give a SHORT list of“puzzlewords” which are akin to sight words, but also have a different intent than just being sight words – I can discuss those separately for anyone who wants those details). With this style, when the sound games have been done (in the AMI style), then all the 40 sandpaper letters (individuals and double-letters), then the child has had lots of writing practice with the movable alphabet (while slowly adding in the remaining spelling variations), we find the child can immediately (when the child is ready!) jump into 2nd grade reading level or higher with ease.
(we are also giving rich vocabulary, lots of real life experiences to expand the child’s mind and to provide writing fodder and also leads to reading comprehension —- among other preparations —- and we have the full reading classification card sets (3-part cards are just one stage of them!) that allow children to read whole wordsthey have already heard many many times over)
So no need for leveled readers, phonics or whole-language approaches. We are ‘child-approach’ we could say.
The puzzle words are a list of less than 100words that are taught via a 3-period lesson so that children can read/write more fluently before those particular “rules” are learned (most of the time, these rules are ones that are based on etymological origins – thus more elementary-level suited)