The Montessori philosophy of education is a 100+ year old curriculum that is more relevant today than ever before. Children learn to engage in a specifically designed classroom environment, that is organized with purposeful and hands on Montessori materials. Eight subject areas of the classroom offer children plenty of opportunities to learn foundational academic skills. Above all, children learn to think independently and work collaboratively with their older and younger classmates.
The Montessori curriculum is captivating.
Dr. Maria Montessori founded the Montessori educational philosophy, curriculum, and classroom environment. The Montessori classroom environment, or known to Dr. Montessori and Montessori teachers, as the “Prepared Environment”, is a classroom that contains specific Montessori materials and embodies Dr. Montessori’s philosophy of education.
The Montessori classroom environment is designed to facilitate independent and small group learning and exploration for the child. Low shelves are strategically arranged throughout the Montessori classroom. Each shelf has a series of Montessori lessons, or “works” as children call them. Montessori teachers present individual, small group, and whole group lessons and students have the freedom to choose whichever works they have received a lesson on. This environment allows for a variety of activity and movement.
Over time, children develop into a “normalized community,” where students work with high concentration and few interruptions. Normalization is the process whereby children move from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused, through work in the Montessori classroom environment. This process occurs through repeated work with Montessori materials that captivate the child’s attention.
In a Montessori preschool classroom, a three-year-old may be spooning items from one bowl to another bowl, while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the Moveable Alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing addition using specially designed beads. In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori Prepared Environment, children work on lessons of their choice and at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom with limits in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.
The Montessori classroom environment includes eight distinct areas:
Practical Life: Enhances the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and coordination of physical movement.
Sensorial: Enables children to order, classify and describe sensory impressions in relation to length, width, temperature, mass, color, pitch, etc..
Math: Makes use of manipulative materials to enable children to internalize concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations, and memorization of basic facts.
Language: Includes oral language development, written expression, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics, and children’s literature. Basic reading and writing skills are developed through the use of sandpaper letters, alphabet cut-outs, and various presentations allowing children to link sounds and letter symbols effortlessly and to express their thoughts through writing.
Geography: Children learn about each continent and its different countries through specifically designed lessons and presentations, which incorporate language, art and music. Students learn to appreciate the unique characteristics of each country and culture.
Science: Earth science, botany, zoology, and astronomy are examples of subject matters that are covered in the Science curriculum. Science lessons and experiments are often presented in our garden.
Music: Students learn to listen and appreciate music, song, and dance from countries across the Globe. In the classroom, children use their voices and experience the beauty of various musical instruments.
Art: Artwork takes on many forms in the Montessori classroom and is intertwined into each Montessori subject. Children create art that highlights the seasons, holidays, and celebrations throughout the year.
Mixed Age Classrooms
The Montessori classroom is a living environment with different aged children. The Montessori toddler classroom has children aged 2 years old to 3 years old. Whereas, the Montessori preschool classrooms contain children aged 3 years old to 6 years old.
The mixed age Montessori classroom environment creates a sense of harmony, respect, and trust amongst all learners. Younger students look up to older students and older students guide younger students. Oftentimes, an older child will help a younger child with a particular classroom task or a lesson. Students of all ages learn to work, play, and collaborate with others, which creates a beautiful community of young children.
Montessori materials invite activity. They include bright arrays of solid geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, and various specialized rods and blocks. Each set of objects in a Montessori classroom isolates one skill, which conveys a single concept. For example, the Pink Tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. Children construct a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on the top, which isolates the concept of size only, because the cubes are the same color and texture. Other materials isolate different skills and convey different concepts.
Montessori materials are self-correcting. When a piece does not fit or is leftover, the child easily perceives the error, without need for adult correction. The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment. As the child’s exploration continues, the materials interrelate and build upon each other. For example, various relationships can be explored between the Pink Tower and the Broad Stair, which are based on matching precise dimensions.
In the Montessori classroom environment, Montessori materials are arranged on low and open shelves to encourage children to explore each set of materials. Students are free to select materials of their choice and may work for as long as the materials hold their interest, and then return them to the shelf.
The most important task of a Montessori preschool is to provide children with an early foundation that will enable them to acquire more specialized knowledge and skills throughout his or her educational journey.