The Montessori approach to education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
A Montessori class operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others.
The teacher relies on their observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials they may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community. Montessori is a philosophy with the fundamental tenet that a child learns best within a social environment, which supports each individual’s unique development.
While a Montessori classroom is designed around the child to develop their independence and creativity, it is a carefully prepared environment. The child is free to choose their activities and move around the classroom but not at the expense of their welfare or their classmates. Ground rules ensure harmony and social cohesion.
Furthermore, the teacher serves as a guide to present lessons to the child so that they may understand how to use them properly and take them out at will. The teacher also acts as an observer to guarantee that the materials of the classroom continue to challenge the students in it.
Attending school five days a week gives the young child a concrete sense of ownership and place in the classroom culture. The routine also fosters the child’s sense of order and consistency, which contribute to the positive growth of a Montessori classroom.
Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development and education at home. Look at your home through your child's eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. "Help me do it by myself" is the life theme of the preschooler. Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child's self-esteem.
Although New Zealand children typically start primary school at age 5, we encourage children to complete the full 3 years to reap all the benefits from the initial 2 years.
The 3rd year brings the experiences of the previous 2 years to their final stage where understandings are made, relationships are linked and knowledge is consolidated.
The 3rd year is often referred to as the “Ah-ha” year – where all the work explored with the concrete materials comes together for the child who is now able to understand the fuller abstract concepts.
During the 3rd year, children develop a new level of confidence, independence and autonomy through a sense of completion and mastery of the classroom environment. Being an older child in the classroom also develops leadership and brings opportunities for greater responsibility.
Furthermore, by age 6, the child is more robust in mind and body and is emotionally more capable of making a successful transition to primary school.
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“The classroom has a peaceful atmosphere and children have opportunities to concentrate without interruption, to develop self-control and to explore the things they are interested in”
– Parent Testimonial