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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why choose Montessori?

What is it about a Montessori education that makes it different than other preschools around town? Montessori classrooms take a whole child approach. The goal of a Montessori classroom is to help each child reach his or her full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. 

Wait a minute. Don't all preschools have this goal?

Of course. What makes Montessori different is the way these things are done. A Montessori classroom is specially prepared to assist the child in all of these developmental areas at each child's individual pace

The classroom is set up so that the students are self-directed learners. No, this does not mean the students do whatever they want with no direction from the adult. What it means is that students have freedom within limits. Students are encouraged to pick their own activities  during the day. They are provided with individual or small group lessons from the teacher when they are developmentally ready to receive the lesson. Once a child has had a lesson s/he is thereafter allowed to work with that material whenever s/he wants and for how long s/he wants. In this way the material is mastered and the goal of each material (fine motor coordination, addition, phonics, cloud formations, etc.) has been absorbed by the child at her/his own pace. 

Additionally, a Montessori classroom is made up of children within a three-year age span. Ideally students spend three years in the same classroom working independently through the materials as they are developmentally prepared. The three year age span also assists the children in learning to be respectful of others who are working at a different pace and developmental level than themselves and gives them self confidence as they grow and become leaders in the classroom. The older children take pride in assisting a younger or new student in learning a new skill like rolling a rug or putting together the binomial cube. The younger students look up to the older students and learn more naturally by watching and interacting with them then can often be taught by more traditional methods or any adult!

A Montessori classroom consists of several different areas:
  • Practical Life - These activities help the child learn to care for themselves, for their environment and for others. Activities involve learning to pour, transfer, sweep, dust, button, snap, sew, polish, set a table, prepare a snack and serve it. Children learn grace and courtesy in their social encounters. Practical Life activities are the basis for all other areas of the classroom. They provide the young child with a sense of order, concentration, coordination and independence. All of these are necessary in order to be successful in their future work in the classroom and in life.
  • Sensorial - The sensorial materials are designed to help the child identify and refine information obtained through the senses. Each material assists the child in ordering and classifying sensorial impressions like color, shape, size, texture,etc. By exploring with their senses, the children begin to classify and eventually name objects and attributes in their environment. This sensorial preparation leads directly into mathematical understanding.
  • Math - Children are fascinated by numbers and counting. Knowing how much or how many provides another dimension in understanding the world. The math materials and lessons help children develop an understanding of math concepts through the manipulation of concrete materials. Children learn not only number and quantity, but the decimal system and math operations.
  • Language - In this area we utilize the young child's sensitive period for language, both oral and written. In the language area the child has multiple opportunities to expand vocabulary, rhyme, poetry, literature, and through introduction of the sandpaper letters, phonics which is the pathway to reading. In addition, the language area includes opportunities for writing practice through materials such as the metal insets and sand tray.
  • Geography and Culture - The geography area of the classroom includes puzzle maps and globes to help the child learn about the earth and the different people who live here with us. Through study of the cultures within each continent, children learn that people are different and unique and this assists the child in learning to respect those who may live differently than they do but who all belong to the family of God.
  • Science - Children are natural scientists. The science area includes the study of plants and animals, basic physics (does it sink or float?), the human body, the earth and so much more! Care of plants and animals, when possible, assist the child in becoming interested in the sciences and to have an increased reverence for life.
  • Faith - This is an area that is not present in all Montessori classrooms but is especially important in our school. A prayer table, materials to help recreate the stories from the Bible, the geography of the Holy Land and the Life of Jesus, stories about the men and women who go out into the world to preach the gospel, celebrations of the church year including Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are all included. Although our faith is lived every day in the classroom, the children will spend one day per week in the atrium following the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program
  • Art, Music and Movement - These topics are typically incorporated into other areas of the classroom such as Practical Life or Sensorial. They are a vital part of the classroom. What is different, especially with art, in the Montessori classroom is that not all children are required to complete the same projects. While there are often special projects in the classroom, the children are free to participate in them or not. Also, artwork is not typically hung around the room. The children work for their own intrinsic growth, not to be on display. Movement is a vital part of the classroom. It is through movement that the young child learns. Movement is pervasive within the entire classroom. Children are free to move as they wish as long as they are respectful of others around them. Additionally, movement exercises such as walking on the line, walking while carrying a bell, hopping, skipping, jumping are all exercises that are practiced throughout the school day and year.
As you can see, while a Montessori school's and a typical play-based school's ultimate goals may be the same, it is in the philosophy about the way the young child learns and in the structure of the environment and multi-aged classroom that these classrooms diverge.

If you are interested in finding out more about Montessori, I encourage you to visit a Montessori classroom for yourself. You know what "they" say, "Seeing is believing!"