The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. The activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination, as well as cognitive preparation. The qualities and skills that children learn may be applied in all areas of their lives. Learning to concentrate, stay on task, and to problem solve are components of the thinking process that are essential to all learning.
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Dr. Maria Montessori, discovered in her search over 100 years ago that children don’t have to be forced to learn — they actually want to! And they learn best when given the opportunity to explore according to their own interests.
An emphasis is placed on the concrete with progression to the abstract over time. Children, using many of their senses, work with materials which are presented in the prepared environment. The prepared environment fosters independence in the child because it is child-centered. Materials on the shelves are readily accessible and chairs, tables, and other furnishings are child-sized. The prepared environment is orderly and provides a framework of discipline. Materials have to be returned to the same place, ready for the next child to use.
Discipline becomes self imposed as children follow their own inner directives to learn and to adapt to their environment. The child learns at his own pace because the curriculum is geared towards the individual needs of each child. Freedom from interference allows the child to work for as long as required with a piece of material until such time as the child feels satiated. Repetition of key concepts through the use of different materials ensures variety for the child. Respect for each other and for the environment creates a sense of joy and peace in the classrooms. “Grace and courtesy” lessons engender in the children sensitivity towards others.
The three hour uninterrupted work cycle protects the children’s time from interruptions and scheduling. The children are able to develop powers of deep concentration as a result. The teacher or “directress” plays an unobtrusive role. Children are directed by an “intrinsic motivation” to learn and to discover, not by a desire for rewards or recognition.
The prepared Montessori environment allows students to explore freely on their own initiative and meet their individual needs through spontaneous activity.
The children learn to work quietly and intently on their chosen tasks with the teaching material. The teachers respond to the essential needs of the child, giving lessons when appropriate, allowing the child to make creative choices and repeat activities in order to reinforce the knowledge of materials. The emphasis is on the child’s own work cycle, allowing for periods of work without interference or interruption. Through self-directed activities in the areas of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Culture, the child builds concentration and develops independence and self-discipline.
Montessori educators believe that multi-aged groupings provide the optimum social situation for learning. Younger children are inspired to do more advanced work by having older children working in the same environment. Older children, meanwhile, learn how to be leaders and reinforce their own knowledge by sharing it with the younger ones.