Each Montessori classroom, from birth through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs – respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials may be introduced to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery within small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The multi-year span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation – language experience – in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education setting
The Primary Program
Children ages 3 – 6
8:00 am – 11:00 a.m. (Half-day)
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Full-day)
Dr. Maria Montessori characterized the 3 – 6 year-old child as possessing an extraordinary capacity to absorb information from his or her environment – an ability she termed “the absorbent mind.” A young child can learn his or her native language without the formal instruction and conscious effort an adult must make to learn a foreign language. They are like little sponges, using all their senses to soak up information from their environment. The Montessori method of education allows children in this sensitive period to learn to read, write and calculate in the same natural way they learn to walk and talk.
A typical three-year primary program begins when a child is about 3 years old and is toileting independently. The mixed-age classroom provides an opportunity for younger children to learn from older peers, while older children learn patience and nurturing as well as gain great satisfaction in teaching a younger child how to complete a “work.” Ideally, the child will then remain with the same teacher in the same classroom for the three-year program, which includes completion of the traditional “kindergarten” year. This allows the child to work at his or her own pace, learning from others along the way and to finally become the older child who passes on knowledge to the younger children, thereby reinforcing his or her own knowledge and boosting confidence.
Children who are 5 – 6 years old and academically ready may take part in the Extended-day program. This program offers your child instruction within a whole group experience as well as the opportunity for the sustained independent work that is the core of the Montessori Method. This program prepares your child for the transition into the Elementary Program.
Elementary School Program
Parents who have made an investment in the Montessori Primary Program may choose to continue the experience with the Elementary Program. Elementary-age children who have been home schooled or who have attended a public, private school also may make the transition to the Montessori Elementary Program.
In the Elementary classroom, children use hands-on materials to continue to explore math and language concepts. At this level, research into sciences, the arts and the universe intensifies as children follow their natural interests and abilities to make associations between themselves and the world around them. The environment — with its spatial timelines, zoology displays, collections of natural specimens, maps, and movable alphabets — maximizes independent learning. Children may spend several years in this classroom, and the regular order of the room allows it to maintain its history, thereby allowing the child to easily relate new information with previously introduced concepts.
In this mixed-age classroom, the children have freedom of movement and verbalization within boundaries of respect, which enhances not only their social development but also facilitates the free exchange of academic facts and discoveries. Younger children often learn from older children. The older children benefit by reinforcing their knowledge and gaining self-confidence. The children learn to work cooperatively with others in the classroom. Teamwork, conflict-resolution, and social skills, in addition to academic subjects such as mathematics, science and history, are all integral parts of the class curriculum.
The Integrated Curriculum
The Montessori Elementary curriculum begins with the evocative story of the Universe. From this story, the interrelationship of all science evolves. Each aspect of the story — from the earth’s formation and the Age of Volcanoes to the origin of the solar system to the origin of life itself — initiates study of the sciences of detail such as geology, astronomy and biology.
The cosmic view is emphasized through the use of timelines that introduce geological time, human time, civilizations, History and more.
Art is integrated into the curriculum in a variety of ways. For example, a child may choose to produce a drawing, make a mask, construct a model or paint a picture that reflects an academic theme introduced in a discussion of science or culture. Computers are also used to enhance learning.
Music, movement and language are also part of the Elementary curriculum.
Social awareness and environmental stewardship are important aspects of the curriculum as well. Community service projects allow the students to make meaningful connections with members of their local and global communities.