Montessori is almost a foreign language. There are so many people who try to understand it, but walk away, completely confused. Kind of like when I went to France, thinking I knew the language, yet every time I asked for tap water, in french, the waitress brought me a bottle of water. Confusing. Truth is, I knew the language, but understanding it was another story. My sister and I met a Parisian. He walked us around the city and spoke french to us. As we slowly strolled through the famed fashion district, I studied him and his interactions with the Parisians. I started to understand that knowing how to speak french and speaking french were not the same thing. The same holds true for Montessori. Knowing about Montessori is not the same as experiencing Montessori. I invite everyone to experience it, If only for one day. Before you make a visit, here are some simple, yet comprehensive, explanations to the World of Montessori for Preschool Age Children
Primary (3 – 6 years)
Children in the primary program (combined preschool) possess what Dr. Montessori called the absorbent mind, the ability to absorb all aspects of one’s culture and environment without effort or fatigue. The primary classroom is made up of children varying from ages 3 to 6 years old. The mixed age group exposes the children to a variety of lessons in many ways at different times. It balances and completes the youngest through the oldest as they set the example and help all those around them. These young children are exposed to various lessons found in four main areas of the classroom – Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math.
As an aid to this period of the child’s self-construction, individual work is encouraged. The following areas of activity cultivate the children’s adaptation and ability to express and think with clarity:
· Practical Life exercises instill care for self, for others, and for the environment. Through the Practical Life exercises, the children gain OCCI order, concentration, coordination, independence and the will to learn more while completing purposeful daily activities. Activities include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily routine in their home, such as preparing food and washing dishes, along with exercises of grace and courtesy. Through these tasks, children develop muscular coordination, enabling movement and the exploration of their surroundings. They learn to work at a task from beginning to end, and develop their powers of control and concentration.
· Sensorial materials serve as tools for development. Children build cognitive skills, and learn to order and classify impressions by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, and exploring the physical properties of their environment. All of the child’s senses are enhanced and sharpened through the exposure to the Sensorial materials. It is through the isolation of each sense and the work with the Montessori materials that this is made possible.
· Language development is vital to human development. Throughout the classroom language is heard and expressed constantly. The Montessori environment is rich in oral language opportunities, allowing the child to experience conversations, stories and poetry. The primary teachers take note of each child’s state of language and will then fill the inadequacies and deficiencies, correct mispronunciations and wrong usages of words and will enlarge the vocabulary already learned. The sandpaper letters and moveable alphabet help children link sound and symbol effortlessly, encouraging the development of written expression and reading skills. To further reading development, children are exposed to the study of grammar.
· Geography, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art and Music are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about people and cultures in other countries with an attitude of respect and admiration. Through familiarity, children come to feel connected to the global human family. Lessons and experiences with nature inspire a reverence for all life. The comprehensive art and music programs give children every opportunity to enjoy a variety of creative activities, as well as gain knowledge of the great masters.
· Mathematics activities motivate children to learn and understand the concepts of math by manipulating concrete materials. In Montessori, the children work from the visual to intellectual, from the concrete to the abstract. They begin by handling and manipulating “real qualities” in different ways until the abstraction is reached. This work gives children a solid understanding of basic mathematical principles, prepares them for later abstract reasoning, and helps to develop problem-solving capabilities. This joyful process is part of the child’s inner development and creation of him or her self.
· Abstraction, in the Montessori sense, is not taught directly to the child. The children are given the tools necessary to arrive through their own struggle to understand.