Montessori classrooms are strikingly different from traditional settings. The materials used to teach reading, writing, mathematics, geometry, geography, science, biology, music, and social studies are all unique to the Montessori classroom. Classroom materials developed for our youngest students, for example, take abstract ideas and put them in a concrete form that makes sense to their developing minds. Unlike other schools, your child will also share his/her Montessori classroom with older and younger students. This way, students learn from their peers, and respect their own and each other’s ability to be a teacher as well as a student. Finally, Directors observe their students, stepping in when they see a child needs assistance or ready to learn a new skill.
Montessori children are free to choose within limits and have freedom to choose only what they can handle with responsibility. The Montessori director and assistants in the class ensure that the children are directed to appropriate work at their own developmental level and work at their own pace without interfering with the work of others.
The Montessori philosophy emphasises the need for mixed age groups over three years; classrooms have children aged between zero to three, three to six years, six to nine years, nine to twelve years, twelve to fifteen and fifteen to eighteen years. The children in each class work cooperatively and harmoniously sharing their discoveries and knowledge with their peers.
The older children take on the role of mentors to the younger children and reinforce their learning by demonstrating their expertise to their peers as they share their experiences and skills. The younger children look up to the older children for help when needed and are inspired to work toward the more complicated work of their mentors.
“The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.” (Montessori: The Child, Society and the World)
Children develop social skills more readily in a mixed age, learning how work and develop social sensitivities in a group, which builds a community. The older children enjoy helping others and learn to be sensitive to the needs of others by giving help to their peers in a positive way.
Each child perfects and refines skills naturally throughout the three-year cycle and learns to use them in different contexts. The child synthesises his/her knowledge throughout the third year and builds on this to make new discoveries.
As the children work cooperatively and respectfully, the younger children look up to their older peers and emulate their mentors. In the following years, the younger children become the leaders of the group and share skills and caring for the younger children in the community. This positive and collaborative atmosphere within the three-year cycle helps to shape the character of the children for life.
Yes, Montessori classrooms encourage deep learning of concepts working from the concrete to the abstract rather than just rote practice of abstract procedures. The child understands concepts through the three-dimensional materials he/she works with and moves to abstraction when the concepts are clear.
The Montessori classroom also provides education in a wide variety of subject areas to give the child both breadth and depth in learning.
Yes, children learn a variety of individual and team sports and sportsmanship through physical education classes and have the opportunity to play outside much of the year at lunchtime.
The Montessori approach emphasises cooperative learning both in sports and in the classroom environment. Children are encouraged to enjoy all physical activities, do their personal best and encourage their peers with good sportsmanship and respect.
The arrangement of a Montessori classroom follows the differences found between Montessori and traditional education. The Montessori classroom is set up to show a child-centred approach where the teacher or director is not the focal point of the class, the children are. The children are not dependent open being fed the teacher’s knowledge but are given presentations and then explore the materials in the environment independently, discovering concepts for themselves. They are assisted by the director only when they need it and work at their own pace until they complete their work, thus building concentration skills.
Montessori classrooms emphasise competition with oneself: self-monitoring, self-correction, and a variety of other executive skills aimed at continuous improvement. Students typically become comfortable with their strengths and learn how to address their weaknesses. In older classes, students commonly participate in competitive activities with clear goals in which students give their personal best while simultaneously encouraging peers to do the same. It is a healthy competition in which all contenders are content that they did their best in an environment with clear and consistent rules.
Increasingly, the world of modern education and business are looking for creative thinkers who combine personal initiative with strong collaborative skills; these are the characteristics which Montessori education nurtures. Entrepreneurs such as Julia Child and the founders of Google have spoken of how their childhood experiences in Montessori gave them not only the ability to work cooperatively in existing settings, but also the skills of confidence, creativity, and communication needed to make innovative and ground-breaking changes.