The Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education is based on her theory that all children display within themselves the person they will become. The Montessori classroom provides the environment and materials that the child needs for his/her personal development, which allows the child the freedom to choose their activities according to their own personal interests and readiness in a non-competitive environment.
Dr. Montessori believed that every person must educate himself: that a teacher is merely there to provide information and to guide a student through the learning environment. She felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should be to create a child's curiosity, a love for knowledge and a strong desire to learn.
The Montessori curriculum is set out into five areas of learning:
Practical Life - The exercises for practical life are designed to teach the child to function in their own environment by teaching them how to interact with the things around them. The practical life area prepares the child indirectly for all other areas of the curriculum with order, concentration, coordination and independence. Activities are designed to be child-sized so that they can become confident in their life skills. The repetitive motion used within the works lead to a deeper concentration level, which is essential for later learning Practical life exercises include pouring, sorting, food preparation, care of self (hand washing, teeth brushing), care of the environment (table washing, sweeping the floor, dusting, polishing).
Language - The language exercises train the child to focus on sounds and noises and to discriminate between them. Writing is included in the language area of the classroom. Work with the Sandpaper Letters ensures that the child develops phonic awareness through tracing the letter, seeing the letter and hearing the sound. The Insets for Design ensure that the child is developing accurate pencil control for later writing skills. The Large Moveable Alphabet encourages the child to begin simple word building. All other materials help to support and develop basic grammar, language and reading skills.
Sensorial - The sensorial exercises deal with developing the five senses. By developing the five senses, the child develops intelligence and independence. The sensorial materials develop and refine the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. They provide the child with the basis of pre-mathematical and language skills. The Montessori Sensorial area uses concrete means to refine the child's senses. To distinguish between big and small, the child holds the Pink Cubes (Pink Tower) to feel the difference between the two dimensions of size. Short and long are taught when the child holds the red rods at the ends. The sense of sound is enhanced as the child first learns sound/no sound, then matches the sound cylinders. The sense of touch is enhanced with the touch boards. 3-D shapes are held in the hands, 2-D shapes are traced with fingers, then created out of triangles. Skills mastered here allow the child to better appreciate their world, while also preparing them for later math studies.
Mathematics - Montessori math is all hands-on. Children learn quantities by physically holding those quantities in their hands and looking at how long counter rows become. Bead bars that represent 1-10 are used when creating larger quantities, to aid familiarity and memorization. The golden beads represent 1, 10, 100, and 1000, and clearly demonstrate the difference between them. All of these bead bars and golden beads can then be used to teach children as young as four how to create and read quantities up to 9999. They are also used to teach children as young as five how to add, multiply, divide, and subtract. Special units use manipulatives to teach fractions, time, measurement, and money.
Cultural - Cultural subjects include history, geography, art, physical science, cosmology, music and physical movement. The aim of studying culture is to allow the child to experience their place in the universe. They begin by exploring similarities between their culture and others, and then have appreciation and respect for differences. They learn how all beings are fundamentally related and discover ways to feel they are significant beings in this world. Through topic work the children will also have an opportunity to explore foreign languages and different cultures.