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
A true Montessori program recognizes and fosters positive early learning experiences for young children. Children show spontaneous interest in learning as they go through a series of sensitive periods with creative moments. It is at those moments that the children have the greatest ability to learn, and these periods should be fully utilized. 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 work with groups as well as independently from early ages. 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. Our blended program allows other inspired 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. The morning classes are for early learners. To help with the transition to big school, we offer an afternoon Junior Kindergarten prep class for pre-K aged children.
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 the formative years, a child’s ability and desire to absorb new and exciting information can be constant. There is a need at this time to develop and refine the senses. Our program and materials supports spatial reasoning and problem solving in 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. Children are introduced by learning to orally count to ten with manipulatives (concrete), after which they learn to identify the symbols (abstract) 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. Materials for seasons and themes are changed throughout the year 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, and 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, with the focus on animals and people rather than political boundaries.
Montessori programming is the core and foundation of all of our curriculum. We also incorporate other elements, methods and materials into our calendar. Music, movement, Yoga and our own Cultural Studies Program are some of the additional benefits to creating an enriched program.
Every school year begins with introductions of materials, friends, and then Canada, First Nations, the seasons and continents. Our program also focuses on holidays and celebrations around the world. Holiday celebrations and art projects are presented prior to or during the times that these celebrations occur.
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 demonstrate their experiment inside the classroom in front of their classmates, as a confidence builder. Themes are selected by the teaching staff to ensure that the projects are age appropriate and successful.
Free art is open throughout class time. Projects with particular motor development skills in mind, are prepared and available throughout the school year. Crafts and teacher directed art are geared towards seasonal or curriculum themes, current events, and group interests.
Daily circle time involves listening cues and discussions. Circle discussions, activities, stories and music change with the evolving curriculum. Yoga exercises involve listening skills and gross motor body control, and is offered regularly. Children are welcome to set up mats to do individual and small group exercises throughout class time.
Play is an essential part of a child’s physical, cooperative and social development, and outside play is a part of every class time. The only exceptions being when the weather does not permit health and safety. During milder weather, some curriculum, projects and activities will occur outdoors in small groups.
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.