It is a special place for the child to work on the building of himself. It is a prepared environment, containing materials and activities that stimulate the curiosity of the children, allowing them to learn through discovery.
The children are guided by their own interests and periods of readiness, choosing the activities spontaneously themselves.
The work enables them to attain skills, refine muscular control, build concentration and work towards becoming independent within their environment.
The founder of the method, Dr. Maria Montessori, felt that young children learn by doing, and that they become self-disciplined by concentrating on purposeful activities.
The materials accommodate children of different age levels, with various levels of ability. The younger children emulate the older ones, and they are stimulated to work with more challenging activities.
Ideally, the children who attend the program will do so for the full three years. It is in the third year of the Montessori preschool that we can see perfection of all the skills and new knowledge that has been learned from the indirect preparation of the first two years.
INTRODUCTION TO THE MONTESSORI METHOD
The unique pedagogical philosophy set out after the turn of the century by Dr. Maria Montessori aims for the fullest possible development of the human potential, as a preparation for life. Learning is a dynamic process, in which the whole personality of the child must be actively involved. In order to educate the WHOLE child, the child must have freedom to develop his physical, intellectual and spiritual powers to the fullest. Dr. Montessori realized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child.
The Directress prepares the environment, directs the activity, functions as a guide and offers the child stimulation - but it is the child who learns and who is motivated through the work itself.
The Montessori method follows the natural planes of development, and builds upon “sensitive periods” occurring within these planes which facilitate learning. They are periods of development during which a child is particularly sensitive to a specific stimulus, ie. refining of the senses, developing language, satisfying the sense of order etc. The certain stages when the children have an aptitude for learning specific skills later fades and disappears, and it becomes more difficult for them to learn the same things.
Dr. Montessori's discovery of the "absorbent mind" of the child from 0-6 years of age, was a vital contribution to education. She realized that the child's mind subconsciously absorbs impressions from the environment. A good example is language - the child listens and absorbs his mother-tongue absolutely effortlessly from the first day of his life, without consciously making an effort to do so.
The Montessori classroom offers the child the structured experiences and activities that help the child's mind put in order and classify all of the impressions received. The environment promotes intellectual growth through self-education.
AN ORDERLY ATMOSPHERE OF FREEDOM
In the Montessori classroom for 2 1/2-6 year olds, there are no time-tables to regiment the activities and no fixed program to inhibit the child. Here, in an orderly atmosphere of freedom, the child works independently with his own choice of activities. He is allowed to work at his own pace and rhythm for as long as he needs or wishes, in order to fulfill his inner needs. From the foundation of sensorial experience, the child builds and expands his mind in the world of abstract ideas.
You might ask yourself; with all this freedom, isn't there confusion? The answer is no. The concept of freedom in the classroom, is a freedom within some limits. A child is allowed to work freely, as long as he does not disturb others. Actually, the children, having the freedom to follow their interests, are generally very happy and busily involved in their own work.
MONTESSORI'S EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
The Montessori child is free to learn because he has acquired an "inner discipline". From the start in the Montessori classroom, the child has carried out an ordered progression of tasks in an orderly fashion, and he has been stimulated and challenged by the materials.
Aware that it is his own initiative that leads to accomplishments, the child develops habits of concentration, perseverance and thoroughness that are truly his own. help themselves".A confident and competent learner in later years stems from that inner challenge, established in early childhood. We must “help the children to help themselves”.
THE NON-COMPETITIVE ATMOSPHERE
In the Montessori classroom there is complete freedom of movement, which enables the child to work on his own, or in a group at any given time. The prepared environment allows the child to develop at his own pace, according to his unique capabilities in a non-competitive atmosphere. The Directress watches over the child's progress. We find purposeful learning through discovery. The children teach themselves with as little interference from the adult as possible. The role of the Directress is to gradually free the child from dependence on her direction.
PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES
Practical Life exercises consist of tasks found in everyday life. They may be considered the link to the child's home environment, and thus an extension of the child's developmental process. They allow the child to have immediate and personal contact with his environment. This is a starting point for the youngest children, and includes exercises such as pouring, washing, dusting and general care of self and the environment.
The Practical Life materials involve the children in precise movements and allow them to work at their own pace. The children spontaneously and naturally seek order and independence through movement and purposeful activity.
The early Practical Life exercises are simple, and they are followed by increasingly more challenging activities, which help the children develop their own coordination of movement and lengthen their concentration spans.
The exercises are based on Dr. Montessori's belief that for a child, work is essential and meaningful for his growth. The activities also fulfill specific purposes in the everyday world of the child; the child learns how to button shirts, wash hands, water flowers, free from
adult help. This will increase his own self-esteem and give him a feeling of satisfaction and inner harmony.
Dr. Montessori recognized that children gather their first knowledge of the world from the senses. Though the child absorbs much information from his perceptions, it is necessary to provide the correct stimulus to aid him in the fullest possible way in order to develop his discriminatory powers. The Sensorial materials are especially designed to train the senses separately. They are divided into seven groups:
* visual sense (Pink Tower etc.)
* tactile sense (Touch Boards etc.)
* auditory sense (Sound Boxes etc.)
* gustatory sense (Tasting Cups etc.)
* olfactory sense (Smelling Bottles etc.)
* thermic sense (Thermic Bottles etc.)
* stereognostic sense (Stereognostic Bags etc.)
The Sensorial work helps to bring order to the child's perceptions by isolating the various qualities. The child will, for example, gain a mental understanding of large-small through work with the Pink Tower. He learns, through physical manipulation of the materials, the concepts of large, small, heavy, light, thick, thin, loud, soft, shapes and smells etc.
They offer as well, training in muscular memory, and help him to develop coordination of precise movements. After the child has had experience with a specific quality, we give the name of the particular concept, thus building a rich and expressive vocabulary.
The Sensorial activities are the keys to the World, and they form the basis for abstract thinking.
Mathematics is abstract, and thus can present great difficulty if basic concepts are poorly learned. The Mathematics materials presented in the Montessori classroom are designed for “hands-on” exploration. By manipulating simple objects such as rods, spindles, beads and number cards, the concepts of quantity and number-symbols are acquired with ease. Through beads, ten-bars, hundred-squares and thousand-cubes, we learn the basis for the decimal system. Through manipulation, we will experience combining, taking away, combining numbers several times, and sharing the beads. In this way, the children are introduced to the four basic processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
The start is very concrete, and as we go along the progression of activities, we move on to more abstract ideas. The great advantage of going through a full Montessori Math program, is that the child can progress through series of Mathematics materials in clear and simple steps, until he reaches abstraction, dealing with figures alone, and completely working the processes in his head.
Again using very concrete sandpaper representations of letters, the children are able to learn the sounds of the alphabet and their corresponding symbols. Exercises with the Moveable Alphabet involve the child in building words and sentences from the sounds, allowing the child to freely express his ideas. The child is given the vocabulary and the language of all the pieces of apparatus in the classroom. All the areas have classified cards, which help the child build and expand that vocabulary. He is now ready to explore the interpretive, as well as the mechanical side of language, the reading stage.
We work with reading cards, phonograms and puzzle words. The function games give the child a deeper understanding of the functions of words and their relationship to each other. The children in the classroom have a library to widen their vocabulary and help expand their creative and imaginative powers. This is so essential for good compositions later on.
History: The child is introduced to history by means of events charts and time lines.
Geography: The Montessori classroom offers the child the opportunity to explore the world of geography through work with the globes, puzzle maps and land & water form models. The child is
able to see and understand the world and the continents, and to have a better understanding of the part of the globe in which he lives.
Science: The children are introduced to some basic phenomena, and they are left with an inquisitiveness by these simple experiments of how things work. We explore the compass, the magnet, the electric circuit, magnifying glasses etc.
Art: Art is a very important part of the classroom and of the child's cultural education. Many interesting methods of using art materials are introduced. These include painting, drawing, rubbing and stamping etc.
There are classified pictures of famous artists and their paintings or art work to further stimulate his interest and awareness of art in history.
Music: There are many musical activities in a Montessori setting; songs, nursery rhymes, poems and listening exercises are incorporated into the daily program. Musical bells and rhythm instruments are also used. Again, there are classified pictures of famous composers and musical instruments, and we explore these both visually and by listening.
Botany: We have the children take care of plants in the classroom. They learn how to water and feed them. The children plant seeds and bulbs, and experience the thrill of watching the fruits of their labors grow. We introduce the names of plants and their different parts, starting with general terms and leading to the specific. We also explore different leaf shapes and their names.
Zoology: There are classified cards of wild animals, farm animals and other groups in the classroom. We learn the different names and where the animals natural habitat is. We learn about different groups, such as mammals, insects etc. and the names of the parts of these animals. You will often find a classroom pet in a Montessori preschool, that the children learn how to feed and care for.
In both areas of botany and zoology, we try to nurture a respect for all living things, and to develop a sense of wonder in life's many different manifestations.
We have a fairly extensive parent library, with books about Montessori as well as about general child development. You are welcome to sign out and borrow books at any time.
READING LIST - you can borrow these examples from us, or from the local library:
* THE ABSORBENT MIND
by Maria Montessori
* THE SECRET OF CHILDHOOD
by Maria Montessori
* MARIA MONTESSORI, HER LIFE AND WORK
by E.M. Standing
* TEACHING MONTESSORI IN THE HOME
by Elizabeth G. Hainstock
* MONTESSORI - A MODERN APPROACH
by Paula Polk Lillard