". . . we must never forget that man does not develop only at the university,
but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest
intensity during the first three years of life."
Toddler Program (Ages 24 months to 3 years)
During the first three years of life, when children have an acute sensitivity for learning language and developing their ability to walk independently, they are typically ready for active exploration, curious and ready to learn about this amazing world around them. The toddler environment has been prepared with developmentally appropriate materials so that it is beautiful, safe, and inviting to encourage this exploration. They learn through their senses or "sensorially"; by moving, watching, touching, smelling, listening, and tasting. What is learned in this time affects the child's ability to thrive, to form attachments, and the establishment of basic trust.
The Primary Program
(Ages 2 yrs. 6 months through 5 years)
The primary program offers a prepared environment where children can live and learn together in a community. The large age group provides for a nurturing, family-like atmosphere where younger children can learn from and look up to older children, and older children can reinforce their knowledge by imparting it to others. The children are free to choose from individual activities, or "work", developed through scientific research to maximize the potential for learning. It is through this work that the children become self-disciplined, ordered, focused, and socially cohesive. Dr. Montessori called this process "self construction." Through regular, careful observations of developmental readiness, children are presented activities which provide the appropriate level of challenge and are opportunities for successful -- and satisfying -- completion of work. In the calm, peaceful and orderly environment that is provided, even the youngest children can feel safe and confident. When the children are allowed freedom to accomplish tasks independently, self motivation and love of learning flourishes.
Practical Life, in Montessori environments, refers to the traditional work of the family. It is the single most important area of an education for life. It is learning to do such seemingly mundane activities as: dressing, dusting, sweeping, preparing and serving food, as well as fixing or building. It is work the children see going on around them all day long; this is how they learn to use their bodies and minds for a purpose. They learn to concentrate, to complete cycles of activity, to finish what they start; and most essentially, to contribute to the important work of the family and the social group. Practical life activities provide superior groundwork for physical, mental, and social development, and teach the work habits that lead to success in all later academic work. Practical life work also provides practice in eye-hand coordination, the control of large and small muscles, the ability to walk and to carry objects with control, and to behave with knowledge of good manners. These are the activities that bring the child's attention to his/her own progress and development, and which in turn, open up a world of opportunities for that child.
Sensorial activities are designed to develop cognitive skills, which, over time, prepare children to classify, order, and categorize real world experiences by using their senses. The manipulation of the Sensorial materials to match, grade, and order allow children to use their power of deduction and observation. Children learn to discriminate and describe aspects of size, weight, texture, color, taste, smell, volume, pitch, temperature, and shape. The concepts are absorbed into the child's being, and the underlying organizational skills are crucial for academic learning.
Language materials are based on a carefully structured phonic approach to writing and reading. The child's existing vocabulary is extended through vocabulary enrichment, classification and phonetic sound work. This is coupled with visual recognition of cursive alphabet letters and cognitive association of words. The children write with moveable letters or pencil and paper by using the sounds and symbols ;that they know. It is by practicing this self-expression that the child will come to read. The primary language lessons include vocabulary enrichment, writing mechanics, spelling, grammar, and diagramming sentences.
Mathematics lessons begin with the manipulation of concrete materials to aid the children in their understanding of mathematical concepts. They learn to count and how to associate quantity and numerals. The materials allow children to explore the mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a meaningful and fun way, gradually solidifying these concepts and working towards performing the operations abstractly. The children begin to memorize mathematical facts, use the decimal system, as well as explore fractions, geometry and algebra.
Cultural Areas include art, music, history, botany, zoology, geography, and science. These are integrated into the classroom in a holistic manner. Through nature, stories, food, music and art, the children learn to appreciate and respect all forms of life.