Maria Montessori and the Montessori Philosophy
Maria Montessori was born in 1870 and was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She initiated a program for the children of Rome and discovered their effortless ability to absorb knowledge and information from their surroundings. This program eventually became the Montessori Method of teaching. Every piece of equipment, exercise and method Dr. Montessori developed, was based on her observations of what children do naturally. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a “blank slate” waiting to be written upon.
Her main contributions to raising and educating children are in these areas:
- Preparing the most natural and life-supporting environments for the child
- Observing the child living freely in this environment
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his or her greatest potential, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually
At Strathcona Montessori, our program fosters positive early learning experiences for young children. As children go through a series of “sensitive periods” with “creative moments”, they show spontaneous interest in learning. It is then that the children have the greatest ability to learn, and these periods should be utilized to the fullest. Montessori children are taught to realize that their viewpoints and feelings have value, and in this way they learn consideration of others, as well as respect for the elements and materials around them. We encourage the children to exchange ideas and observations. This interaction helps develop communication and social skills, and supports the transition to new surroundings and situations.
Montessori children are taught from an early age to work with groups as well as independently. Montessori programs are based on self-directed and non-competitive activities that help children build the confidence to face the many new challenges that they meet every day. Maria Montessori was a trailblazer and the materials she created were well ahead of their time. Many wonderful teaching materials have been designed since Maria Montessori opened her first school and began developing her program in 1907. Our program is enriched with many progressive materials and teaching tools, and developmental programs such as ECE. Our blended program allows other inspired teaching and guiding philosophies, and quality tools to merge and compliment our core Montessori curriculum. Traditionally, a Montessori program has a three-year cycle. With the inception of all day kindergarten throughout the province of British Columbia, our program is condensed to a two-year program. Our afternoon Kindergarten Prep class is to help prepare children who will be starting Kindergarten the following year.
Practical Life is considered the foundation of the Montessori curriculum. The fundamental tools for learning are concentration, organization, co-operation and independence. These skills are established as a child learns the simple tasks involved with care of themselves and care of their environment, as well as social courtesies and etiquette such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and waiting your turn. The materials graduate in degree of difficulty from gross motor skills to fine motor skill development, and are changed throughout the school year to encourage creativity and nurture curiosity.
“Teaching Practical Life skills to children isn’t about making our own lives easier — it’s about contributing to a child’s development as a human being.”
During these formative years, a child’s ability and desire to absorb new and exciting information can be insatiable. There is also a definite need at this time to develop and refine the senses. Our progressive program supports spatial reasoning and problem solving in many fun and creative ways. Children match and grade, colours, shapes, sizes, textures, sounds and scents. They develop their natural ability to create with a variety of stimulating and enriched materials.
The mathematics program is one of Dr. Montessori’s most brilliant inventions. Two basic rules flow through the entire system: all mathematical operations are initiated using manipulatives, and the concrete is always taught before the abstract. Mathematics is introduced with the child learning to orally count to ten, after which they learn to identify the symbols that represent the quantity. Following this, the child is introduced to the base ten system of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. The four major operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) are also taught using a wide range of materials. Children will be allowed to work at their own pace and will be introduced to the different stages only when they are ready. As in all curriculum areas, we change materials for seasons and themes in order to inspire and maintain interest.
We emphasize the precise use of Language and our program is organized into the areas of listening, speaking, printing and reading. Our reading program is comprised of both a phonetic approach as well as whole language. Encoding is taught before decoding, so as soon as a child can recognize certain phonetic sounds, letters are placed together to form words. Soon words become sentences, and sentences form stories. As soon as a child is ready, they are introduced to big books, felt stories, poetry, and creative writing, to facilitate development in this area.
Geography is covered with Montessori designed puzzle maps, globes, and flags. Geography is further enhanced continent with cultural studies. Land and water forms are taught with concrete materials and nomenclature booklets for the children who are ready. The two-year program is divided by the two hemispheres and covers the continents found in those hemispheres. Teaching materials include items and instruments from each continent.
Montessori programming is the core and foundation of all of our curriculum, but we also incorporate the Early Childhood Education (play base) program and other methods and materials into our daily calendar. Music and Movement, Yoga and our own Cultural Studies Program are other additional benefits to this enriched program.
Each school year begins with classroom introductions of materials and classroom friends, following will be the study of Canada and First Nations, the seasons and continents. Our very own Cultural Studies program focuses on holidays and celebrations around the world. Celebration Circles and art projects are presented prior to, or during the times that these celebrations occur. We appreciate parents who are able to take the time to come in and lead the children through aspects of their own culture.
Socials and Science are covered at times throughout the year, suitable to age levels and interest. Show and Tell science projects are done in the second half of the school year and require individual participation. This requires the student to bring objects from home or to demonstrate or experiment with objects inside the classroom. Themes are selected by the teaching staff.
Daily circle time involves listening cues and discussions. Circle subjects discussed and activities change with the evolving curriculum . Instruments, movement and songs are often introduced as part of our Cultural Studies program, geographical studies and world celebrations. Yoga exercises involve listening skills and gross motor body control. Yoga is offered regularly.
Free art is open throughout class time. Craft projects and teacher directed art are geared towards seasonal or curriculum themes, current events, and group interests. Projects with particular motor development skills in mind, are prepared and available throughout the school year.
Outside play is a part of every class time except on days when the weather does not permit health and safety. During mild weather, some projects and activities will occur outdoors in small groups.
Play is an essential part of a child’s physical and cooperative development. All activities can hold teachable moments. Children learn and memorize well through play. Play helps children to learn how to socialize which gives them the abilities to make and maintain friendships. For these reasons, we also incorporate play and exercise into our Circle times during class.
Field trips are not a part of our preschool program.
For many children, preschool is their first experience away from their family or caregiver. Gradual entry is a way to introduce the preschool to your child in a gentle and positive manner. Gradual Entry is one hour the first week, two hours the second week and full class time the third week. All new students go through the first week with Gradual Entry. The length of time for gradual entry may vary according to each child’s individual needs and ability to adjust to new surroundings. Even children who have attended previous preschools or daycares may need adjustment time in a new space. This will be decided through observations and consultation between the teachers and parents.