The Montessori Method
« The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child's own natural desire to learn. » Maria Montessori
Thanks to her observations and knowledge about the child's development, Maria Montessori understood how important it is that adults change their perception to help the child develop independently, his human potential as well as his own individuality within a social group.
3-6 years old
« Help me to do it myself », this is the essential request that the child of this age makes to the adult. How many
parents have heard their little child say « let me do it, me alone!! ». « The first instinct of the child is to act alone, without the help of others, and his first conscious act of independence is to defend himself from those who try to help him. » Maria Montessori (The Absorbant Mind).
The prepared environment
In a mix-aged group of children, the child develops in an environment entirely prepared for him: the material is adapted to his size and his strength, the child can move freely and act without the continuous intervention of an adult. The child
lives his own experience and strongly develops his independence.
The prepared environment is split into 5 areas :
Practical Life (material that adults use daily but which are adjusted to the size and strength of the child) to refine their gestures by developing movement and fine motor skills, and allow the child to be independant in everyday life. These activities were dear to Maria Montessori because she observed that the children did not seek to accomplish a task for the task itself, but as a means to invest their movement, build it, refine it and own it: this implies on-going repetition of the activity and particularly important concentration efforts, the foundation of the development of the child, of his intelligence and his confidence
The Sensorial area to refine the five senses and structure the child's mind by sorting, associating, comparing and grading. “Nothing comes to the intellect that is not first in the senses” Maria Montessori (the Secret of Childhood). These activities generate the child's need for repetition and lead him to the path of concentration. Sensorial manipulation allows children to sense a concrete relationship with objects while gradually directing them to the concepts related to them.
Language: oral language nurtures the social development of the child. It is also the source of writing and reading. Children move towards writing with initial exercises which include the manipulation of the language material. This will continue to fuel the construction of their oral language skills and lead them, very naturally, to reading. Around the age of 5 ½, children will also discover a sensorial approach to grammar. All our language material is available in French and English.
Mathematics and the corresponding activities are available to meet the child's internal development needs: need for order, for his understanding of the world and need to organize his perceptions. First, the mathematics material teaches them how to count from 1 to 9, then follows the decimal system with a sensorial approach to the four operations. In parallel, the child becomes familiar with the numeration of 11 to infinity, so the activities of memorizing operations can start and gradually lead him naturally and instinctively to abstraction.
Culture (geography, botany, science, music and art): the material will trigger children's curiosity through nomenclatures of different plants and species, puzzles of continents and their countries, flags, 3D animals, etc.
Each area is equipped with the corresponding Montessori material: activities are ordered, structured and designed to help nurture the absorbent mind of the child and allow him to refine his motor skills, to develop concentration, order, logical thinking and independence.
The prepared teacher
The role of the teacher is to connect the child with the Montessori material. Throughout the three-hour morning work cycle, the teacher guides the child towards continuous independent activity in the five areas, helping him focus his attention on specific activities. It is through his manipulation of the material that the child will attein a level of concentration and develop confidence through real experiences.
The sensitive periods
“Sensitive periods describe the pattern the child follows in gaining knowledge of his environment.” Paula Polk Lillard (Montessori: A modern Approach). Who has not seen their little child spend long moments lining up the shoes in the lobby or practicing relentlessly jumping over an object? Sensitive periods are critical temporary periods of time during childhood from 0 to 6 years old; they refer to the natural laws of child development and interact with each other. During these sensitive periods, children’s interests are focused on developing a particular skill or knowledge.
Maria Montessori grouped children’s development into six sensitive periods (between 0 and 6 years old) :
Develop and refine language (which leads to writing and reading)
Develop and refine the movements
Develop and refine the senses
Develop social skills
Sensitive periods build up the child's abilities. He will accomplish a more complete development of his unique capabilities during his sensitive periods as they support his natural tendency to learn. These sensitive periods are phases when the child will be very absorbed in an activity to the exclusion of others: the child becomes repetitive in his actions and starts mastering a certain skill. The child thus develops autonomy, self-esteem and confidence from a very young age.
6-9 & 9-12 years old
« Help me think for myself », this is the essential request that the child of this age makes to the adult. « When the child was very small, it was enough to call him by his name so that he turned around; now it is to his soul that we must appeal, and for that reason it is no longer sufficient to speak to him: he must be interested; what he learns must be interesting, must be fascinating; it is necessary to bring something huge: to begin let us bring him the World. » Maria Montessori (From Childhood to Adolescence)
In a 6-12 environment, the goal of the teacher is to support the personal commitment of children in their own work by respecting the characteristics of their age.
Reasoning: the child wants to understand by and for himself. He wants to know the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ things work, he wants to know everything about the world. Maria Montessori suggests to "plant seeds, as many as possible" in all areas of brain and learning development. Through presentations, experiences, research, the child discovers all areas of knowledge: they are presented to him as a gateway to culture, to build his knowledge and put his reasoning ability to the test.
Imagination: the teacher seeks to grow interest in the child and stimulate his creative imagination, via astonishment and wonder.
At the beginning of the year, the child hears 5 great stories:
• The creation of the Universe and the planet to introduce geography, astronomy, geology.
• The evolution of life on Earth, from cell to organ, to find interest in botany and zoology.
• When humans appeared on Earth and human evolution until our era, to introduce history and biology.
• The invention and evolution of communication systems (language, writing, arts ...) to study different human civilizations, art and music.
• The history of numbers and the evolution of mathematics to introduce the scientific mind.
These stories are the main thread of the child's work during the 6 years of his career in 6-12. At the end of these 6 years, the child understands the interconnections of the world around him and his role in society.
Group work: The six-year-old child finds himself between his beloved parents and the need to join his friends. He seeks company and cooperation. In class, he develops his gregarious spirit through his projects with his peers. He learns to look for information in encyclopedias and books at his disposal, he learns how to divide the work among the group, create a text or a historical fresco.
By sharing their research with the group, the children integrate this new knowledge and develop their self-confidence. At the same time, they arouse the curiosity and interest of their classmates and share the desire to do the same! The child is always active in his work, it is the best way to develop his intelligence and enable his autonomy.
Responsibilities, the sense of morality and justice: at this age, the child wants to distinguish good from evil and develop his moral conscience. The responsibilities that each child takes in the classroom and the way they can work freely, by project, gradually builds a sense of respect, commitment and responsibility. The way they engage in their work allows them to strengthen their independance and build further their confidence and self-esteem for the rest of their life.
Plan d'études romand (PER)
The Plan d'Etudes Romand (Swiss curriculum) is widely covered and tested by Cantonal tests in 6P (9 years old) and 8P (11 ans).
German lessons are given from the age of 6 as beginners' course, and from the age of 8 with classes two to three times a week, using Montessori material and PER recommended material (Grüne Max and Junior).
Music, art and sport are part of the Montessori curriculum.
FAQ / Myths and Facts
Common misconceptions about the Montessori method: http://www.montessori-namta.org/Common-Misconceptions
Myths and Facts: "Myths and Facts about Montessori"