Discover Montessori

Far more than a method of education, the Montessori philosophy is an attitude and approach to children and to life.

Its aim is to assist in the total development of a child’s social, emotional intellectual, physical, cultural and spiritual growth, so that the child will be better prepared for life and able to adjust to the changing conditions of their environment.  The Montessori approach to education is child centered and is based on mutual respect and operation.  A Montessori education offers children the opportunity to realize their potential and seeks to promote the following:

  • Self-confidence and self-esteem;
  • A sense of responsibility for themselves and their actions;
  • Independence;
  • Cooperation with others and a sense of community;
  • Initiative and self-motivation;
  • A joy of work and love of learning; and
  • Creative intelligence and imagination.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MONTESSORI EDUCATION

The success of a Montessori education for any child will, to a certain extent, depend upon the degree of consistency and cooperation between home and the classroom.  Parallel with the development and learning of the child, a process of growth for parents can occur as a greater understanding of their role in their child’s education develops.

Both at home and at school, a child is treated with the same respect that adults would accord to another adult.  Self-confidence is encouraged through showing appreciation, acknowledgement of attempts and achievements, without judging.  Through the order and routine of both home and school environment, the child will acquire a sense of security.

Children work with concrete materials, which isolate important concepts.  Many of these materials are self-correcting.  Activities are self-directed so that children have a sense of control over their own learning and are able to follow their own interests.

The Montessori approach allows an unfolding of each child in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competition, according to his or her own true nature.

The role of a Montessori Directress is in constructively guiding children in their learning rather than teaching them.

CLASSES HAVE A VERTICAL AGE STRUCTURE
SPANNING THREE YEARS

Classes have a vertical age structure spanning three years.  Younger children have the opportunity to lean by observation and absorption of the work of older children, while the older children have the opportunity to teach the younger children.  The older and younger children thereby acquire a greater depth of understanding, as well as, acquiring confidence and competence.   The classroom is a society in itself, fostering equal opportunity for all where the child can develop socially.

MARIA MONTESSORI

Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy in 1870.  She died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.

Maria Montessori was one of the most influential educators of the twentieth Century.  She saw the need for a “new education” from birth onward and believed that education must be reconstructed and based on the laws of nature and not the preconceived notions and prejudices of adult society.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Maria Montessori based her approach on the belief that real learning must take place through the spontaneous activity of children in a non-competitive environment, which promotes a joy of learning and the development of self-discipline.  Such an environment would develop children’s intrinsic motivation and lead children to become the active force in their own education; a discoverer in their own environment able to learn through their own experiences and knowledge.

Believing that the environment should aid and foster a child’s development throughout life, Maria Montessori designed the “Prepared Environment”.  A classroom to satisfy each child’s different needs.  At school, children work spontaneously in a prepared environment.   Within limits, they are free to choose their own work and work at their own pace.  The children are free to move around and communicate with others in the classroom.  The limits imposed are in relation to the collective interests of the classroom.  This means, that children learn to have respect for the rights and safety of others and for the environment.  This is the Montessori approach to self-discipline.  The children learn to use care with the materials, to help others, and to become a cooperative member of the group.  This enables each child to enjoy the freedom which is offered, while displaying a developing discipline.

THE CURRICULUM

The Montessori curriculum is an integrated one where all aspects of a child’s learning (e.g. music, writing, reading, mathematics, science, art, culture, and physical activity) are presented as part of an interrelated whole.  Many of the activities performed by the children at an earlier age are an indirect preparation for a later skill.  The environment is designed to allow the discovery of new and exciting things about material often worked with throughout their developing years.

THE ROLE OF THE DIRECTRESS

The teacher in the Montessori classroom is called a Directress.  Her role at all levels is a particularly sensitive one.  Specially trained to observe and respond to the needs of each child within the environment, the Directress does not teach in a traditional sense, but rather guides the children who learn at their own pace.  The Prepared Environment together with the Directress’s attitude of respect and love for the children develops within children an enthusiasm of love, learning and life.

THE MONTESSORI PRE-SCHOOL CLASSROOM

Pre-school classrooms are designed to allow the children to move, touch, manipulate and explore.  This gives them the freedom to choose their own activities with some guidance from the teacher.  The environment encourages the children to work independently using their own initiative in building self-discipline and concentration.  Throughout the day, students receive lessons in language and mathematics individually.  Cultural presentations are usually given in small groups.  The pre-school classroom is a “living room” for our children in which furniture and materials are scaled to fit the pre-schooler’s physical dimensions.   The classroom is divided into five distinct areas:

  • Practical Life
  • Sensorial
  • Mathematics
  • Language
  • Culture

These distinct areas represent different parts of the curriculum.

SENSITIVE PERIODS

Maria Montessori observed that children pass through successive stages of growth during which their physical and mental development is guided by special sensitivities.  These sensitive periods are recognizable by the intense interest a child shows in certain experiences in his or her environment.  Maria Montessori believed that these sensitive periods indicate needs in children, which need fulfillment.  One of her goals was to make known and meet the development needs of children at different ages.

MONTESSORI PRE-SCHOOL MATERALS

The use of concrete materials to learn abstract concepts and operations is fundamental to the Montessori teaching method.  In the pre-school classroom, the materials play a significant role in the learning process.  The materials include bright arrays of geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, metal insets and various specialized rods and blocks.  They are designed for use by the children rather than as aids for teacher presentations.  All of the materials are arranged on low, open shelves, which provide easy access.

The materials have been specially designed to attract the child’s interest while, at the same time, teaching important learning concepts.  Each material isolates a concept the child is to discover. For example, the Pink Tower is made up of ten pink cubes of identical color and texture in varying sizes.  The tower isolates the concept of size.  In mathematics, materials represent concepts such as sequence, place value and fractions.  These materials can be used for performing mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  In geography, children work with puzzle maps, which have continents and countries as puzzle pieces.

Moreover, the materials are self-correcting.  When a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error.  There is no need for “correction” by the teacher.  The children are able to solve problems by themselves, building independence and analytical thinking.  The children thereby receive satisfaction that comes from true accomplishment.

PRE-SCHOOL SENSORIAL: EXPLORING THE WORLD

In the sensorial area of the Montessori classroom, children develop and internalize concepts of qualities, similarities, differences, serialization with regard to length, width, temperature, color, shape, sound, etc.  The sensorial materials also enhance development of other skills, such as language, mathematics and music. For example, by tracing a sandpaper letter with his finger, a child feels the shape of the letter while at the same time learning its sound.

PRE-SCHOOL MATHEMATICS

Montessori mathematics materials allow pre-school children to begin their mathematical journey from the concrete to the abstract through manipulation, experimentation and invention.  The Montessori approach to mathematics is logical, clear and very effective.  The pre-school child internalizes math skills (number, symbol, sequence, place value, arithmetic, operations, memorization of basic facts etc.) first, by using concrete materials and then through memorization of basic facts.  Rods, spindles, cards, beads, and cubes are some of the tools used to symbolize mathematical concepts.  The children experience the thrill of discovery when using these materials to perform mathematical operations.

PRE-SCHOOL LANGUAGE: FROM SPOKEN TO WRITTEN

The Montessori pre-school classroom emphasizes and encourages spoken language as the foundation for linguistic expression.  The child hears, learns and uses specific vocabulary in all activities, thus developing clear and articulate expression.  The child is introduced to the phonetic alphabet, begins reading simple words and progresses to sentence building, spelling and composition.  Reading and writing skills are often acquired seemingly spontaneously, promoting excited declarations of: “I can read!” and “I can write!”  Other skills, such as pencil control, handwriting and the fundamentals of grammar are also emphasized in the classroom.

PRE-SCHOOL CULTURE

Geography, history and world cultures are presented to all pre-school children.  The unique multi-cultural school community provides an environment in which these topics come alive.  Studies include the earth and the forces shaping it, geography, time concepts and the natural sciences.

PRE-SCHOOL ARTS, MUSIC AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Art and artistic creativity is an integral part of the pre-school program.  Children are encouraged to express themselves artistically, whether painting or drawing in the classroom within the routine work cycle.  This is supplemented by regular art classes where the children are introduced to a variety of media skills, art forms and traditional art from different cultures.

The physical education program is designed to enhance skills such as balance and coordination, while at the same time aiding social development through integrative activities and group games emphasizing cooperation.

The music program develops skills such as rhythm, melody, harmony, singing, ensemble playing and critical listening.  Special attention is paid to musical styles of cultures worldwide.  Emphasis is placed on self-expression and joy.  As an extension of the music program, each year the children participate in a musical performance for their parents. Through performance they acquire the important presentation skills they need, as well as, developing greater self-confidence.