What is Montessori?
The Montessori approach in the preschool years is based on the fact that children under six have the extraordinary ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings and want to do this. Dr. Maria Montessori called this the “absorbent mind”, more capable now of learning certain skills than it ever will be again. Montessori’s vision for education was that children would choose activities from an environment that was prepared to inspire movement and provide multi-sensory learning.
A child’s love of learning and desire to explore are encouraged by opportunities to choose spontaneously and engage in meaningful activities either independently or as a group. Through their own efforts, the children develop concentration and self-discipline. Active and curious, they excel in the Montessori hands-on curriculum, progressing at their own pace. The Montessori trained teacher acts as a facilitator who connects the child with well-designed learning materials and activities. She guides the student during a three-year cycle of learning in a carefully prepared class environment filled with materials that cultivate independence and self-motivation.
The role of the Montessori teacher is to prepare and organize the environment to meet the needs and interests of the students, then to introduce each child to interesting activities which he or she can chose to work with again and again. The children learn from their direct experiences and interactions. Activities promote social skills, emotional growth, and physical co-ordination as well as cognitive development. The curriculum, under the direction of specially trained teachers, allows the student to experience the joy of learning and the time to enjoy the process.
Montessori education ensures the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge. Children go beyond learning skills to cultivating their abilities to express themselves and think clearly. In a multi-age setting, they learn both from each other and because of each other through helping and peer-teaching. Classroom activities build a community where the children are treated with respect and dignity
Unique 3-year Cycle of Learning
Children can enter MSC as toddlers and depending on their age, may attend for one to two years in the Toddler program. At age 2.5 to 3.5, students go into the mixed-age grouping of the Montessori “Casa del Bambini” (Children’s House) of 3, 4 and 5 years old. They stay in the same classroom for 3 years. Younger siblings are frequently enrolled into the same class as their older brothers and sisters, since parent and child satisfaction is high.
Each student is guided to experience the learning materials over the three-year cycle. Teachers are able to follow the child’s interests and enthusiasm since the child will have three years to explore the curriculum – which consists of hands-on materials that appeal to a child’s senses. Students are encouraged to make choices of what they will do and when. However, the materials are generally sequential in nature and the one ground rule is that you need to have a “lesson with the teacher” before choosing any given activity. Children are also able to observe the activities of others to preview lessons to come. Later they may assist other children with a lesson and by doing this, review their learning.
Wealth of Learning Materials
Dr. Maria Montessori and her son designed materials which they called “motives to activity”. Being a scientist, Montessori observed children to see how they reacted to the materials she would try out in the classroom. Only the ones that were consistently appealed were retained over time. The Montessori learning materials have helped children to educate themselves — the only real education! —since 1907. The activities-based materials have proven to be universally appealing and effective across cultures. The multi-sensory activities are designed to assist children in:
- Refining their sense discrimination;
- Developing hand-eye co-ordination and self-help skills;
- Vocabulary, writing and reading;
- Learning numbers and math concepts and building an awareness of the world – knowledge of plants, animals, geography and science.