The Montessori Method
"What Preschool Education should be."
Dr. Montessori characterized the Montessori Method as a "means to free the human personality from the oppression of old prejudices regarding education."
What was it that made her aware of these prejudices regarding educating the child? It started with her scientific observation of children as a treasure house of unlocked potential,in which the child has a natural disposition to develop. In her careful study of children, Dr Montessori let the children show her the course of fundamental development, also known as "The Montessori Method".
Dr. Montessori described her work as "an aid to developing a full life". She never pretended to be developing a teaching curriculum encouraging rote learning. Instead, she saw her work as teaching a life-long love of learning.
Dr. Montessori realized from her medical training that we go through Four Planes of Development from conception to maturity. They are of relatively equal length: 0-6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24 years. She described the intellect of early childhood as the "absorbent mind". Within this mind she speaks of the "unconscious" absorbent mind working in the child from birth to 3 years of age and the "conscious" absorbent mind, that continues from 3 to 6 years of age. Her research showed that ages 3 to 6 years were particularly critical to the development of a successful adult.
In the first 3 years of life children develop tendencies for exploration, orientation, order and communication within the environment of their immediate family. The unconscious absorbent mind of the child builds his or her own psychic pattern of behavior. The family provides the guide to the customs of society, to its way of life, to food habits, religion, ideals and language. Nature gives children an intense desire to copy society, but a child cannot do this until he or she has a chance to study his or her surroundings.
Around the age of 3 years, when the "conscious" absorbent mind takes over, the child needs an environment in which these tendencies can continue to flourish, using the actualized potentials which result from the previous 3 years. According to the Montessori Method, we present the child the "Prepared Environment". Dr. Montessori spent the early part of her career developing the teaching aids that are a critical component of the Prepared Environment.
In the Prepared Environment there are simple daily activities which the child can access without the assistance of an adult. We present these simple daily rituals as the Exercises of Practical Life, in which children learn the basic skills required for daily functioning in society, such as pouring a glass of water, dressing themselves, and how to interact, courteously, with others.
The world is full of sensations: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. It has dimension: height, width and depth. We present the child with specially developed sensorial materials. The solid cylinders "materialize" the 3 dimensions. Other learning aids are the Pink Tower, Broad Stairs, Long Rods, and Knobbles Cylinders. The quality of color, the primary and secondary color concepts are taught with the first and second color boxes. We then give to the child a sampling of the shades of these colors with the third box. These materials become the "keys to the world" - when we play sensorial games with the child and finally when we help them develop language.
In the Prepared Environment language is not limited to reading and writing. Language is the realization of one's imagination which enables him or her to create. Language becomes the essence of communication of ideas, ideals and fantasy.
This language becomes the teaching method for the number system. We give the child the sensorial material of mathematics. We crystallize the abstraction of mathematics so the child can see, touch, hear and manipulate it and generate his own understanding of mathematics including numbers and geometry.
Each child progresses at his or her own pace. Children are given greater autonomy over their daily schedule. It is the job of the teacher to make sure that the child feels independent, yet covers all areas of development over the course of a school year.
Dr. Montessori believed in mixing children of various age groups, as a reflection of a family. The older children become the leaders, teaching the younger ones, as they were taught by earlier graduates. The younger children learn by example.
It is in this environment with well designed learning tools, the ability to set their own pace, and mixed age groups that children exploit their natural curiosity and find that learning can be fun. It is here that the child lays the foundation for his or her personality for the rest of his or her life.
At Evergreen Montessori House we take great care in designing the Prepared Environment. We carefully select the learning aids. We allow our students to learn at their own pace. We gently guide them into areas where they may be less comfortable. We mix ages to provide socialization, typical of families and society in general. We have the training and experience to make this work for your child.
The proof this works: Our children love to go to school.