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. Land and water forms are taught with concrete materials and nomenclature booklets for the children who are ready.
We have our own specialized designed Cultural Studies Program that incorporates Montessori materials with concrete materials and picture files from different countries, cultures and animals. This gives children tangible items that they can touch and feel, which makes the information more exciting and encourages understanding of the lesson plans.
Another program we have designed if our own Celebration of Light. These are short two day long Circles and art projects focusing on different celebrations around the world at the time they are occurring. This is done at an age appropriate level, and sometimes includes family members to help with the celebration.
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.
We begin each school year with the study of Canada and First Nations. Our own unique Cultural Studies program begins after each Canada study. The two-year Cultural Studies program is divided by the two hemispheres and covers the continents found in those hemispheres. We incorporate as many different types of teaching and concrete materials from each continent as possible. Celebrations around the world is a part of our cultural studies and is 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.
Music and singing occurs daily during Circle Time and involves listening to cues for body movement. Yoga takes place several times a week. Instruments and identifying musical melodies, tones and rhythm are part of the regular program. New instruments, dance and songs are often introduced as part of our Cultural Studies program, Geographical Studies and World Celebrations.
The art area is open throughout class time for free art. Craft projects and teacher directed art are geared towards seasonal or curriculum themes, current events, and group interests. Projects with particular motor skill development skills in mind, are prepared and selected by the teachers throughout the year.
The children go outside to our playground every day after snack, 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. Occasionally the class will go for a walk, to view nature and changing seasons, to practice emergency drills or just to have fun.
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.
Activities that require parent participation occur four days each school year. If it is impossible for a parent to attend any activity with their child, another family member may attend with the child in lieu of the parent.
These days are:
- Student Led Conferences (mid-November)
- Christmas Concert and Winter Party (mid-December)
- Spring Tea and Picture Day (late May)
- Year End Picnic and Sports Day (mid-June)
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. Usually Gradual Entry is one hour the first week, two hours the second week and full class time the third week. However, length of gradual entry may vary according to each child’s individual needs and ability to adjust to new surroundings. This will be decided through observations and consultation between the staff and parents.
Gradual entry is not usually required for children who have been in previous preschools or daycare facilities, but is available to any child.