Children are generally accepted into the program between the ages of 2 ½ and 6 years, and benefit from the experience of remaining in the same classroom through a three year cycle. At this early age, the child is developing the intellectual skills of concentration, perception and mental organization. The personal skills of physical coordination, social awareness, independence, initiative, self-confidence and self-discipline are also learned at this time.
The children are placed in classrooms with multi-age groupings of 2 ½ to 6 years, enabling them to interact with each other, becoming at once, learners and mentors. A Montessori program is most advantageous for the child who attends school on a regular basis. This consistency allows the Directress to design the curriculum around the child's individual needs and stages of development.
The culture subjects in Montessori terms are the areas of knowledge that enrich the child’s understanding of all aspects of the world in which he lives. The various branches of science, history, geography, music, art, craft – any subject that may enrich the mind of the child – are included. Dr. Montessori expected that the prepared environment would provide the child with the stimuli and the opportunity to explore any aspect of these areas of knowledge that appeals. It is the responsibility of the Montessori teacher to facilitate the child’s absorption of knowledge in such a way that the child acquires a truly global perspective.
Our goal as teachers is to give the child the keys to the world. The motivated child will wish to explore the places where people lived and how they lived. It is important to remember the stage of development of these children when they are interested in facts and reality. Their need for sensorial exploration is strong and so is their need for movement and activity. They are at the sensitive period for language, which should be satisfied with interesting short stories and poems that will capture the imagination and voluntarily hold their interest.
Note: although the culture subjects are divided into specific sections, the Montessori teacher presents them to the child as an integrated whole. The Cultural Montessori Curriculum includes the following areas: Geography, History, Biology (Botany and Zoology), Science, Music, Art and Creativity.
The child has an innate ability to develop language and communication skills. The child has a unique quality that enables this language acquisition. Language is a uniquely human phenomenon. In fact it is sometime referred to as a mystery. Other animals communicate, but only humans have this remarkable language. To speak, children need to grow up in a linguistic environment. To read, children need to grow up in a reading environment.
As a parent you can, and should, involve the newborn in conversations from the earliest days and included a lot of reading in daily life. Address the child directly, while maintaining direct eye contact, as this helps the child to have a larger vocabulary. Children whose parents spoke more, it is reported, scored higher on IQ tests. It behooves the parent, therefore, to expose his or her child to a greater range of words and sentences.
A good rule of thumb when making one’s selection of reading material is that, the younger the child, the more realistic the content of the books should be. Illustrations help the child to work out what is happening in the story. The parents and Directress should choose content that is life – affirming as that helps the child to explore and understand their world.
For children up to the age of three (3), they should be exposed to stories that center around what happens in the home and that reflect their environment. This helps the child with predictability, reliability and security. For those children that are in the age group three (3) to four (4) years old, the stories that they are exposed to should be based on the child’s interests, emotions and experiences. Such stories will help to support and stretch the child’s knowledge. For youngsters between four (4) to five (5) years of age, they should be reading stories that open windows into other people’s lives: how they live, what they do and such aspects. Simple but well written language is ideal for this age group. Humour is important and reference books can be introduced. For our five (5) and six (6) years old children, stories should generally be longer, and chapter type books can be introduced. Children start to enjoy the tension of suspense and adventure. They have a great feel for the ridiculous. Responsible parents and informed Directresses should be sure to limit the fantastical and the grotesque until the child is over six (6) years old.
As the child progresses with the various exercises in everyday life i.e. the exercises in Practical Life, a new stage emerges, when the hand is involved in the sensorial exploration of the environment. Various materials are attractively displayed to attract the attention of the child. These act as a call, inviting the child to come and work with them. The observant Montessori teacher will sense this moment and will respond by inviting the child to prepare for a lesson with a particular material e.g. to find a suitable mat on which to work and to remove the material carefully from the shelf and place it on the mat. The length of the lesson will depend on the child’s attention span.
The use of the various materials involves the precise movement of the hand as it co-ordinates with the eye in choosing, matching, and building, pairing, tracing, and gripping the particular piece of material. Working with the sensorial material develops a particular sense to its highest point while experiencing concretely the basis for future abstract learning especially in the mathematics area.