What is Montessori?
Montessori is an approach to the education of children. It is a way of looking at, and understanding, children. It is a view of how children develop and learn which has been translated into a systematic method of education based upon scientific study. The Montessori educational programme is unique in that it has successfully undergone continued development for over eighty years and has been effectively used with normal, gifted and talented, physically and intellectually disabled children around the world. Perhaps the most significant reason for its success is that it is a comprehensive method of education resulting from the integration of research on development, learning curriculum and teaching.

Why should I choose a Montessori education for my child?
Between the ages of 2 1/2 and 6 is when most of your child’s intellectual and social characteristics will be formed. This is also a time when your child is most receptive, imaginative, curious and excited about exploring his or her environment. A Montessori environment nurtures that curiosity by offering a variety of activities and specially designed materials that engage, stimulate and intrigue children of this age. The Montessori teacher is trained to recognise when your child is ready to learn a new skill, and to foster his or her natural interests and abilities. Montessori is an approach based on the principle that education should work with the nature of the child not against it. Children are encouraged to make their own choices and become independent thinkers. Learning should be fun, empowering and designed to meet the unique needs and learning styles of each child.

 

What are the key aspects of the Montessori environment?

Calm, peaceful environment ~ Whilst there is always a buzz of conversation and activity, it is not to the extent that one child or group disturbs another. This atmosphere arises naturally when children are provided with an environment that meets their interests and needs. Children are encouraged to listen and use soft sounds/voices when indoors.

High level of concentration ~ when given opportunities to engage in activities which interest and engage them, children can concentrate for long periods of time without the need for rest.

Love of repetition ~ on their own children choose to practice tasks they are trying to master over and over again.

Love of order ~ Montessori found that children have a natural inclination for organisation and order-liness. This inclination is assisted in the classroom by the pleasing, orderly and inviting way in which the activities are arranged.

Freedom of choice ~ children like to choose the things they do. If materials are set out so that the children have easy access to them, they will choose, work with and return them to the shelf unassisted by adults. They can choose to work by themselves, or with a friend, or group of friends.

 

Children’s activity is referred to as ’work’ ~ If given a choice children prefer to do ‘real’ work using real materials rather than play or pretend ones. They want to help prepare a meal, to bake, to clean the house. Children have a natural drive to work in order to develop. Within the classroom children work with concrete materials which help them to learn through an active process. They prepare food, do carpentry, learn to tie shoes, use a zip, sing, dance, sew, count and make words. They can look at the globe and find different parts of the world and then relate these to photographs and objects they have in front of them.

No need for reward or punishment ~ Montessori discovered that children are intrinsically motivated to work. They do not need external rewards or punishments. What they need is help. The adult can carefully show the child how to do what he or she is trying to accomplish. ‚Help me to do it myself.. Accomplishment, competence and being able to contribute are rewards that each child attains in the Montessori classroom.

Individualised lessons ~ each child is presented with lessons in the way that best suits their learning style. For example if the child is a visual learner then the lessons are given with verbal dialogue that gives vocabulary to visual clues and details they are receiving. Only one degree of difficulty is presented at any one time. The child has the chance then to repeat the activity as many times as necessary to internalise that step before moving on to the next.

Small group work ~ Often small groups of children will receive a group lesson.
Activities that relate to for example cultural or language development are often presented in a small group. This allows for discussion and the sharing of knowledge whilst giving the children the opportunity to learn about turn taking, listening to others, asking questions and being part of a group. This also prepares them for taking part in a larger ’circle time’ which involves all the children sitting together.

How will my child adjust to public Primary school after going to a Montessori preschool?
Experience and research both indicate that children attending Montessori schools tend to be competent, self-disciplined, socially well adjusted and happy. They choose to work hard and concentrate well. They treat materials with respect and display patience towards others. They are friendly and the classroom is a cheerful community of children happily helping and teaching each other. They usually love to go to school. These children are therefore well prepared for the transition to Primary schooling and are often the more well-rounded, self directed students.

If my child is left to choose his own work, won’t he do the same thing day in and day out or sit and do nothing at all?

Montessori teachers are trained to observe the children as they work. When a child has mastered a skill and is ready to move on to the next level or task, the teacher will give him/her a lesson that is more challenging or moves the child into another area of the classroom that might interest them. Teachers are knowledgeable about child development and planning is individualised to meet the needs of individual children as well as the group as a whole. They act as guides and mentors giving children the opportunity to make their own decisions. The Montessori environment on its own is stimulating and inviting to the child and as a result children seldom ‘do nothing’ as they get ideas from the work others are doing around them.

 

Why do children stay in Montessori until they are six years old?

When parents can send their child to a local public school at 5 years of age, why would they choose to keep them at Montessori for another year? Often this decision depends on where each family places its priorities and how strongly parents feel one school over another matches the needs of the child at that time. Montessori believed that the development of an individual involved phases or planes. Each lasted approximately 6 years and at each developmental plane the individual manifested different characteristics and needs. Research indicates that children learn by observing and manipulating their environment. Montessori materials are manipulative, and engage all the senses. They give the children the concrete sensorial impression of abstract concepts that become the foundation for a lifetime of learning and understanding. At 5 years of age this hands on foundation work is now consolidated, and conscious understanding and a sense of learning independence occurs. This is the year when the child ties everything together and reaps the benefits of his past work. He becomes confident and is able to concentrate for longer periods of time, focussing his attention on a task to completion, deriving a great sense of achievement and well-being for a task done well.

The 5 year old also provides a role model for their younger classmates. They are able to teach skills and explain the process of an activity to another child, which in turn consolidates their own learning. They take on responsibilities that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience. They develop strong relationships with their peers and teachers. At around six the child is sturdier in body and mind and is emotionally more capable of making the transition to school and can adapt to all kinds of new situations. At six they have hopefully spent three years in a school where they have been treated with respect and honesty. They have an understanding of the need for ground rules and a sense of order and know that their opinions and ideas are acknowledged and valued.

Local primary schools both private and public are visited by the team at Koru to establish their expectations of the six year old entering the school so that the children can be well prepared for the transition.