The preschool programs for children from three to six years old involve a series of sequential, manipulative, and sensorial activities that ultimately bridge the gap between concrete and abstract learning.
Children work at tasks that help master their motor skills and build independence in their daily lives. Sensorial exercises stimulate perceptions vital to growing minds, such as identifying and grading of shades of colors, shapes, weights, and smells, as children work with intriguing cylinders, geometric solids, and specially designed Montessori materials. As the child’s interest grows, he is introduced to sequentially prepared lessons, individually or in a group.
Full-day and half-day sessions (mornings) are available in the three to six year old program. Four and five year old (kindergarten) children attend full-day sessions to pursue in depth cultural, math and language studies.
The full-day program runs from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.
The half-day programs run from 8:30 am until 12 noon.
The all-day program runs from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and
includes extended before and after school child care.
Early bird arrival is available from 7:00 am to 8:30 am.
The Primary Montessori Program
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. Children in the primary class have what she called the absorbent mind. That is, the ability to absorb all aspects of one’s culture and environment effortlessly. Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural curiosity and desire to learn and grow. Montessori children learn by doing.
Through hands-on Montessori materials, children gain a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of math, geography, science, language, art, etc. Children receive individualized instruction from the teacher allowing them to go as far and as fast as they desire in each subject area. Multi-age classrooms allow children to learn from and to mentor other students, an essential principle of Montessori education. Younger children learn from the older children and the older children get to reinforce what they’ve learned by helping the younger children. Teachers act as “guides,” linking together all areas of study and directing students’ focus toward learning necessary skills. The Primary classroom consists of several types of exercises designed to cultivate adaptation and the children’s ability to think and express themselves with clarity. They include the following:
Practical Life Exercises help to bridge the child from home to the classroom as the child observes exercises that the grown up has demonstrated repeatedly in daily life. The different groups of practical life exercises include:
- Care of the person. The child participates in exercises that help him become independent in activities including getting dressed/undressed, taking care of his body, washing, bathing, or combing his hair, or things that concern his own person.
- Care of the environment. This consists of activities such as ironing, washing, gardening, sweeping, polishing, etc.
- Developing social relations; greetings, offerings, accepting, apologizing, thanking, etc. These are what we commonly call grace and courtesies.
- Control of movement. These activities help the child develop a sense of control and balance of his entire body.
These exercises allow children to engage their sense of sight, touch, hearing, smelling, and tasting to help them distinguish, categorize and relate new information to what they have absorbed since birth.
In the Montessori classroom, the individual presentation of language materials allows the adult to take advantage of each child’s greatest periods of interest. Before children learn the alphabetical names in order, they learn the phonetic sounds of the letters. These sounds are given first because these are the sounds they hear in words they need to be able to read. They first become aware of these phonetic sounds when they are introduced to them with the Sandpaper Letters.
When the child wants to know what a word says or when they show an interest in using the Sandpaper Letters, reading instruction begins. Writing or the construction of words with the movable alphabet then follows.
The math area contains concrete materials to represent all types of quantities. Maria Montessori observed that children who become interested in counting like to touch or move the items as they enumerate them. Children can combine this equipment, separate it, share it, count it, and compare it, to demonstrate to themselves the basic operations of mathematics.
After the child is able to count to 10 and can identify the symbols, they are then introduced to the golden bead materials working with the decimal system. They move on to concrete work with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There are a variety of materials that the children can perform similar operations. The variety helps sustain the children’s interest while providing opportunities for the necessary repetition. In the classroom there are many materials that can be used for counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
The Cultural Subjects include geography, history, science and nature, music, and art. Each of these areas has its own exercises and accompanying materials, some overlapping with from one area to the next.
Maria Montessori saw teaching of the cultural subjects as a great, important part of the whole education of the young child.
In Geography the wooden puzzle maps are very popular among the children in the classroom. The children use the maps as puzzles in the beginning. Eventually they begin to learn the names of the countries and information about climate, products, customs, food, music, language, and animals. Many of these characteristics are demonstrated through the geography pictures.
In History, the children work with time lines and pictures from the past and present. They may begin by making a time line of their own lives, starting with when they were babies.
In Science and Nature, the natural curiosity is stimulated through discovery projects and experiments. The children study plants and animal kingdoms in an orderly fashion to cultivate a love and appreciation for all living things.
Music is used on a daily basis through singing songs. The children also have opportunities to listen to different types of music and learn about famous composers.
In Art, children have the freedom to explore their imaginations in a variety of mediums including coloring, cutting, pasting, drawing, painting, and sewing, with exercises set up in a natural progression from start to finish as the child works with them independently.