Many are impressed with the academic preparedness of a child leaving
a Montessori School. Typically, children entering first grade from a Montessori
school are significantly above grade level in reading and math. They tend
to know where major countries are, some compose music, and some know art
history. They may be accomplished little artists, musicians, historians,
linguists, poets and scientists. However, what the child learns is actually
quite ancillary to the true purpose of offering the specific content.
In truth, they may forget much of the facts they learn, but what remains
in them is the excitement of the process of learning. These children know
how wonderful it is to have a spark of interest and be able to explore
that interest to the fullest through the environment and a teacher there
to guide them. A child who happens to become fascinated with Africa after
a cultural presentation of Maasai tribal celebrations may naturally want
to explore the puzzle map of Africa, the flags associated with the countries,
or the art or music of a particular country on the continent. In time,
they will probably forget the facts, but they will always feel that they
"knew" Africa. Even more special, they have awakened the process and excitement
of discovery in themselves. Materials were present to capture that fleeting
interest and let it blossom. Purposeful work was available to allow the
child to accomplish a "great effort" and that sense of accomplishment
will forever be a part of him. It is not what they learn, but the fact
that their interests are supported so that they can face manageable challenges
and surpass them. They may forget the names of all the countries of Africa,
but they will never lose the ability to pursue an interest and they will
have always have the confidence to do so.
Between the age of three and six, the child loves everything about the world and wants more than anything to know how it works and so we set up our classroom to honor this curiosity and take advantage of every possible inspiration:
The child is a passionate artist, mesmerized by form, shape, colors, and shades. So we offer him history of art to understand how others have used these forms. We offer art experiences to encourage his own sensorial expressions and experiences and we present the work of the Masters to inspire a love and appreciation not only for the art, but for what other human beings have accomplished.
She is a scientist, always questioning, testing, poking, prodding and seeking. So we offer her hands-on science experiments. She explores sinking and floating, magnetic and non-magnetic, botany, zoology, physics and classification. Her scientific mind is linked to the sensorial stage she is in and so we offer her sensorial experiences to understand the abstract terms we throw around so casually: big and little, large and small, colors, long and short, rough and smooth, cold and hot and every comparative form of the adjectives (softer, hardest, hottest, brighter, lighter).
He is a poet, entranced by rhyme and meter, loving the way words roll of his tongue and giggling at alliteration and onomatopoeia. He wants to communicate in the spoken word and he desperately desires to understand that secret code of the written word. So we offer the mechanical tools of writing, but more than that, we offer the child the body of human literature to allow that innate fascination with words to blossom into a passionate creativity and appreciation for the past achievements of man.
She is also a musician. She wants to listen to sounds, to understand the parts of a song, and to create on her own. She wants to know the music of the world and to know the people of the world through their music. To this end our classroom is filled with music. The children sing songs from around the world. They compose music using our bell and scale material, and they listen to great works and hum favorite tunes as they work.
He is an anthropologist. People fascinate him and at this age different customs are simply interesting and creative. He drinks in the rich cultures of the world and gains appreciation of the diversity of the planet and the wealth of human achievement. This knowledge is empowering. We offer him knowledge of his physical surroundings through exploration of geography and land forms. We introduce him to pictures of people on different continents, to languages from around the world, and to customs and celebrations unique to those cultures. He also wants to know his role in his community and his family. He wants to understand his responsibilities and his abilities and so we offer him practical life activities from which he perfects his fine and gross motor coordination, his ability to care for his environment, for others, and for himself.
He is a social being. He wants to function in a respectful and appropriate way. He wants to help others and to form friendships. He wants to take care of his environment and to take responsibility for himself and his actions. In answer to this need, we provide him with a multi-aged classroom where he can help and be helped, form friendships, nurture and be nurtured, teach and be taught, and learn to function autonomously in a small community. We give him structure and freedom, purposeful work and time for free play. He learns what is is to be respected as his own person, not as a function of his role or place in his family, but because he is an individual who is striving to be the best person he can be. When he stumbles, he learns that he is loved and supported by the community of children and adults and this empowers him to help others as well.
In a word, the child between the age of three and six is a world explorer and so we offer him the world and sensitive guides to help him enjoy the discoveries. We offer a rich curriculum not to force the child to learn, but instead to honor and support his natural curiosity about the world. We firmly believe that the happiest child is one whose innate curiosity finds expression in purposeful activity and who stands tall after self-initiated discovery. Our children are not simply taught content. Instead, they discover and we see our role as providing the means to aide and inspire them in their own discoveries.