What is Montessori?

Montessori is an approach to the education of children. It is a view of how children develop and learn which has been translated into a systematic method of education based upon careful scientific study.

Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. Her scientific observations of children's learning process have resulted in her educational approach which is now used in over 7,000 schools worldwide. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori's first casa dei bambini ("children's house") in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world.

The Montessori Method

In the Montessori “prepared environment”, the children are the center of education, with a program adapted to their interests and needs. The child develops independence, self-confidence, self-discipline and learns skills needed for higher education. There is a full component of Montessori materials designed to allow children to absorb concepts through their senses as directed by their own "sensitive periods" for learning.

Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. The self-correcting materials help the children develop motor and sensory skills, lengthening concentration span, and problem-solving techniques. Children learn by repetition, at their own individual pace and according to their own choice of activities.

The child is guided by the teacher who will show him or her how to do the activities. The teacher observes the child and will not interfere so long as the child is working with the material productively. When a difficulty arises the teacher is able to step in and offer instruction. Each child's individual needs are assessed through observation so that they are shown new activities when they are developmentally ready. The teacher is not teaching the child, but she is guiding them through their own learning journey.

Children are free to move through the environment according to their individual inner needs which assists in their natural development. This freedom of movement helps children to develop coordination, concentration, and inner discipline which leads to independence.

All Montessori lessons are presented in English with particular focus on oral language through poetry, song, conversation and literature. Classes are of mixed-ages so younger children look to the older ones as role models, and the self-esteem of older children grows as they become mentors and leaders in the classroom.

Learning in a Montessori classroom is an exciting process leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, cooperation, respect, patience, caring, love of learning and discovery of the world within a safe prepared classroom.

Nido and Infant Community work areas (9 months - 3 years)

For our youngest students the classroom is organized into five distinct learning areas: practical life, eye-hand coordination, language, music and movement and art. All the furniture and materials are child-sized and age appropriate.

Practical Life: These activities teach children life skills such as spooning, pouring and washing that they need to learn in order to take of the environment and themselves. They help build self-esteem and confidence, aid the growth of independence, develop concentration and help coordination and motor control.

Food is also part of practical life and aids the development of independence and skills. The materials are all designed especially for children and include peeling and cutting boiled eggs and bananas and making lemon juice.

Eye-hand coordination: These materials are divided into two age groups and are rotated regularly.

1. Materials for development of eye-hand coordination – 5 months to 16 months

These activities encourage children to use two hands together, strengthen their grasp and aid their independence.

2. Materials for refinement of eye-hand coordination - 16 months to 2.5 / 3 years

The materials have a practical use in the child’s environment and allow further practice and refinement of the skills learnt in group one. Some examples include opening and closing latches, puzzles, using scissors and stringing beads.

Language: The language materials are designed to develop and enrich a child’s language and vocabulary. There is a reading area with a range of books, objects for discussion and vocabulary learning and language cards which all enrich the child’s vocabulary. Rhythmic language (poems and rhymes), questioning and self-expression are also strong focuses for language development in the classroom.

Music and Movement: Children love to sing and dance and there is a range of musical instruments for children to play. Teachers sing many different songs with the children and use CDs to encourage listening and dancing. Once a week the children have a music class with a specialist teacher.

Art: Art exercises in the infant community include scribbling, chalk, paint and clay.

Casa class work areas (ages 3 - 5 years)

The Montessori “prepared environment” is organized into distinct areas. There are two Casa Classrooms at The Academy that are designed to enable and enhance the continuation of the child’s development and learning from the Nido Class.

All the furniture and materials are child-sized and age appropriate.

Practical Life: Young children have a natural urge to partake in the activities of daily living and be a participating member of family life. Practical life activities help children develop and coordinate movement, awareness of the environment, orderly thought patterns, independent work habits, and responsibility.

Sensorial: The materials and activities in this area allow children to pursue their natural tendency to classify sensorial impressions and sort by size, shape, color, touch, sound, and weight.

Math: These activities make the abstract concepts of mathematics concrete for hands on learning. Through the use of manipulative materials the child examines the concept of number, quantity, shape and measurements.

Language: Children are immersed in language the moment they enter the classroom. Spoken language is encouraged as children communicate with each other individually, in small groups, and in large groups. The area includes books, stories, songs and rhymes, sequencing and matching activities and vocabulary development work. Handwriting is practiced through tracing shapes, sandpaper letters, and using chalkboards and moveable alphabet letters are used for writing words.

Science: Sensorial exploration and experimentation are key as children learn about the natural world. For example, water allows for individual concepts such as sink and float, magnets and botany. The Montessori approach to science indulges the child’s natural fascination with his surroundings, community and natural world.

Geography: These materials help the child learn about the facts of the material world. Hands on activities introduce children to the names and types of landmasses, bodies of water, continents and countries.

Music: Informal and formal music education occurs through singing, listening to music, introduction of instruments, introduction of musical notation, and exploration of sound. At the Academy each Casa class has a music session once a week with a specialist teacher.

Art: Children are provided with varied media to help develop their creativity. Through art explorations children will make discoveries and create original and meaningful work.

Physical Development: Care of the body is equally as important as challenging the mind. Movement is built into all Montessori activities allowing the child to develop gross motor as well as fine motor skills through activities that include running, jumping, swinging, ball play, group games, and exercises. Casa classes have gym classes with a specialist teacher twice a week.