Based on her own in-depth scientific observations of children, Dr. Maria Montessori developed a method of education that meets the needs of each child, allowing them to learn and grow at their own pace, to their fullest potential. She observed that children thrive in environments where all their needs are met: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. By educating the whole child, encouraging positive social interactions, and nurturing their individualism, children work and play with excitement. That is the goal at Whole Child Montessori.
The main areas of a Montessori preschool are:
- Practical Life
Below is a brief description of each area. It’s important to realize that when someone reads about all of these topics that are covered in the Montessori curriculum, it’s easy to interpret it as “highly academic” when in actuality, all of it is at an appropriate level, with enticing materials that make them want to use them, and the children do this “work” with pleasure. Yes, they learn a ton but this environment makes learning fun, not a chore.
The Practical Life area of the classroom looks simple but looks can be deceiving. Children are drawn to these activities in a big way. These exercises engage children in daily living activities such as spooning, pouring, dressing, cleaning, and sorting. They strengthen fine and gross motor skills, build concentration, and help them develop independence. Children love this work when there is an internal need that is being met by them. They will sit and work repeatedly on the same activity until they have mastered it and will sometimes never go back to it again. It’s truly amazing to watch. Practical Life activities, as with many activities in this prepared environment, even help prepare children for reading. The “works” are set up to automatically have children begin with the left-to-right motion, one of many ways to build that habit for later reading.
Sensorial materials enable children to explore their environment through their senses, acquiring and classifying information about it. Studying and classifying his environment helps the child understand it and leads him to creating his own experiences within it. These materials are beautiful and enticing, children love them. Sensorial exercises were designed by Maria Montessori to cover every quality that can be perceived by the senses such as touch, taste and smell. She intentionally designed each activity to focus on one sense at a time, allowing the child to concentrate on the refinement of each sense. The child’s work with the Sensorial materials allows him to make distinctions and build knowledge about his environment through his own experiences rather than word of mouth.
Montessori Math materials are some of the most amazing materials out there. They naturally move the children from a concrete understanding of math to an abstract one. From simple to complex. These materials cover many areas of math. 1) Teaching numerals 1-10 and associating quantity with these numerals. 2) Learning about the decimal system with beads, from units to thousands (once they understand the decimal system through thousands, they quickly grasp the idea of going on to much bigger numbers). 3) Performing operations with the golden beads such as 1,242 + 2, 413. 4) Linear counting and skip counting with bead chains. 5) Math facts. 6) Abstract math with games.
From birth, children are immersed in the language of their culture, absorbing it quickly and with little effort. The Montessori Language materials isolate different elements of language, allowing each one to be explored. Vocabulary, sounds, writing, reading, function of words, and reading analysis. Many activities give the children the vocabulary of their immediate surroundings and it is important to use clear pronunciation and correct terminology with the children. There are just as many fun activities that will help them learn their sounds! Preschoolers can often times sound out words before they can write them. For this reason, many preschool writing activities are done with the Moveable Alphabet, letters that the children can pick up and place on a mat to form words as they sound them out. Keep in mind that in the meantime, there are numerous activities in the classroom that are strengthening their hands and improving coordination to help develop fine motor skills so writing eventually becomes less difficult. Reading naturally begins once the children learn their sounds. There are many activities that guide them to linking sounds together phonetically. As the children move on past phonetics they start learning about blends like “gl” as in “glad”, double vowels such as “ea” as in “read”, and so on. When they are ready, there are also introductions to grammar activities: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
Cultural activities include geography, zoology, botany, and science. History is a large part of the Montessori curriculum in the elementary years. Art and music are also considered to be part of the cultural curriculum. Geography covers the study of continents (including the people, food, and music), land and water forms, maps and much more. Zoology is the study of animals. The animal kingdoms, parts of the animal, invertebrates vs vertebrates, living vs non-living objects. Botany is, of course, the study of plants. Children are introduced to the parts of a flower, types of trees and leaves, etc. Science is a broad topic, covering things like the four seasons, layers of the earth, biomes, volcanoes, the five senses, and so on. Cultural activities change focus each month, introducing new works to keep them interested. They are typically shown as large group lessons. Music and art lessons tie in to these activities. For example, when learning about Australia we would also learn about aboriginal dot-art and didjeridus!