Blue Ridge Montessori School Programs
The Montessori Approach
The Child’s Work: Nido – Kindergarten
Play is the work of infants and young children. The object of their efforts is creating the adults they will become. The children clearly show an inner need to learn, to know themselves and their world. They want very much to develop their intelligence, to learn to control movement precisely, to explore and order their impressions of the world, to become independent and responsible.
The Young Student’s Work: Elementary
Students in the elementary grades make most of their educational discoveries through hands on research. They are introduced to their studies via stories that capture their imagination and compel them to want to discover more. Elementary students are driven by the need to understand and relate their education to mankind on whole.
The Prepared Environment
All human beings, from conception to maturity, form themselves, taking from the environment (the womb, the home, the school, the community) the materials for self-construction. We adults prepare and provide these environments upon which the children’s work depends. We assist in the fulfillment of the children’s potential.
The Montessori classroom is prepared to help children accomplish their goals whether we call it work or play. Gradually the children reveal qualities for which they are not usually given credit, such as intense concentration and surprising attention span, exactness and precise movement, a sense of order, maximum effort even by the youngest ones, self-discipline and respect for others, peacefulness, kindness and an obvious joy in “work”.
Each classroom is a specially furnished environment designed to support the child’s need for purposeful activity. For toddler and primary students it is the children’s house: the child-sized furniture is easily moved, pictures are hung at the children’s eye level. Plants are easily watered by children. The sink is not a toy, but a real, child-sized sink. There are many carefully designed materials to meet the children’s natural interests. The atmosphere is positive, supportive, and noncompetitive.
The elementary environment incorporates the ideas of the primary environment but the size of the tables, chairs and materials have increased to support the physical growth of the students. Another main difference in the elementary environment is the support of group work since they now express a deep interest in their peers.
Television and computers are not used in the toddler or primary program as they are developmentally inappropriate.
Another important component to the prepared environment is the Montessori trained teacher. Each Montessori teacher has been instructed on the particulars of the Montessori approach for their age group. Their training also consists of child development, record keeping, observation techniques, curriculum development and more.
Sensitive Periods — Windows of Opportunity
Media coverage from Time Magazine to Newsweek support Montessori’s theory from 100+ years ago. Sensitive Periods occur only during the formative years, from birth to six years of age. During this particular time, around a particular area of learning development, the children absorb information if exposed to it. An example is the sensitive period for language acquisition, which is present at birth and continues through the age six. After six, language acquisition gradually wanes. If you and your two year old child went to a foreign country, your child would soon speak the new language. You, being long past your sensitive period, would struggle for many years and probably never achieve the exact accent. Montessori observed many sensitive periods in young children for language, order, academics and for each of the developing senses. Montessori toddler and primary classes are especially attractive to children because the materials appeal to their sensitive periods.
In the Elementary program the Montessori materials and activities lead the child gradually from concrete concepts to abstract understanding. The curriculum spirals on itself, picking up on direct and indirect preparations for each new step, widening and deepening the child’s knowledge as it continues. The curriculum becomes increasingly integrated, so that what most adults call “subjects” are rather facets of a larger design.