WHAT IS THE MONTESSORI WAY?
"It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.”
- Dr. Maria Montessori
We believe that what a child experiences during the first years of life shape the human being they will become. As a parent, finding the right preschool and elementary school is important for the development of your child.
A Montessori preschool/elementary school is a unique environment. The essence of Montessori is surrounded by profound respect for the child and the important work of creating the right environment for personal advancements in learning.
While there are innumerable ways in which Montessori preschool and elementary school contrast with other educational approaches, here are three fundamental differences that may help you as a parent decide whether you’d like to explore the Montessori way.
Multi-age, family-like classroom communities.
In contrast to traditional preschools or elementary schools, which group children by age and provide different teachers every year, Montessori children build a multi-age, family-like community. The children stay with the same teacher for three years. For example, our Children’s House preschool classes combine 3 to 6-year-olds. Our elementary school program currently combines 1st – 3rd graders in the Lower Elementary. For our Upper Elementary, there's a growing group of older children in the 4th – 6th grade. This family-like environment offers many benefits:
Lasting relationships between teacher and child. A Montessori preschool teacher meets a child at age three. Over the next three years, they get to know the child, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and carefully guide their long-range development. Only 1/3 of the class is new each year, lessening the friction of transition, and optimizing learning.
A strong, supportive community of children. Coming into a new classroom, the younger child is motivated by the older children's actions. Later, when they become older, they have the opportunity to also become a mentor to their younger peers. They relish sharing new leadership skills and gain immeasurable confidence from that experience.
Individualized pace of instruction, not one-size-fits-all. All children have their own interests whether it is in languages, numbers, or art. They do not develop at the same pace in all areas. The multi-age classroom allows 4-year-olds to work with 6-year-olds on arithmetic into the thousands. A 5-year-old can also continue perfecting their fine motor skills with some practical life activity alongside a 3-year-old.
BUILDING LEARNING HABITS
Follow the child approach.
BUILDING A CURRICULUM
A carefully sequenced curriculum that supports accelerated, joyful learning.
In many traditional schools and preschools, adults lead the day and direct all activities. In non-Montessori environments, the adults are in power and determine what is done by the children at any given moment. The Montessori way is the opposite. We believe that children learn best when they can make choices and act autonomously in a carefully prepared environment. This means our classes are different in many ways:
Children learn independently with the Montessori materials rather than being taught by a teacher. Children discover the concept of length by working with the red rods, learn how to write with Sandpaper Letters, and absorb the decimal system from the Golden Beads.
Our schedule has 2-3 hours of uninterrupted work where children freely choose from the materials they have been introduced to. Montessori children build concentration and get engrossed in their activities. It starts in our toddler class, where 18-month-old children may spend 20 or 30 minutes cutting vegetables, drawing, or solving puzzles. In elementary, 6 or 7-year-olds make weekly work plans and then execute their complex projects that could include writing a ten-page story and then illustrating each page with a picture.
Parents who observe at AIM often comment on how amazed they are at the level of academics our students achieve. An AIM Kindergarten student may be doing math into the thousands, or reading a chapter book to a group of three-year-old peers. A 2nd-grade student can do multi-digit multiplication and write a multi-page essay in beautiful cursive handwriting.
It is important to note that these advanced academics are not the results of drill. Montessori students are able to advance academically because they are exposed to a carefully sequenced curriculum, and are drawn in by enticing activities that make the most of their early years. In contrast to many preschools, which equip their rooms with the same type of toys a parent might have at home—blocks, legos, pretend play costumes, train sets etc.—Montessori preschool classrooms are equipped with a unique set of materials. Every piece of equipment shares a few characteristics:
Multiple, clear learning purposes. Knobbed cylinders, for example, help the child develop gross motor control as they carefully carry the heavy wooden block from the shelf to the table. They learn to observe carefully and differentiate width (or length) as they place them into their holes. They learn to problem-solve when they misplace a cylinder and have to retrace their steps. They strengthen three writing fingers in preparation for writing as they grab the cylinders by their knobs, and so on.
An ability to draw the child in to entice them to repeat activity to perfect their skills. The activities you find in a Montessori classroom were chosen and refined over decades, based on observing thousands of children in hundreds of classrooms and the same objects they picked up. Dr. Montessori theorized that the reason children across the world consistently chose the same materials is that working with these materials fulfills a clear developmental need of the child.