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About Montessori Education
The Montessori Classroom
Montessori classrooms are bright, warm, and inviting. They are filled with plants, art, music, books, and interest centers filled with intriguing learning materials, fascinating mathematical models, maps, charts, fossils, historical artifacts, computers, scientific apparatus, perhaps a small natural science museum, and oftentimes animals.
You will not find rows of desks at Free Horizon Montessori. Our learning environments are set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative learning. One glance and it is clear that our children feel comfortable. We feel it is important for students to feel safe to take risks. Our classroom environments are the 1st step in providing that secure atmosphere.
Students are typically found working throughout the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that we cannot help but be impressed by the peaceful atmosphere. It might take a moment to spot the teachers within the classrooms. They are found working with one or two children at a time, advising, presenting new lessons, or quietly observing the class at work.
In her research, Dr. Montessori noted specific characteristics associated with the child’s interests and abilities at each plane of development. Montessori’s focus on the whole child led her develop to a very different sort of school from the traditional adult-centered classroom. To emphasize this difference, she named her first school the “Casa dei Bambini or “The Children’s House.” There is something profound in her choice of words, for the Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge, but rather a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the children’s curiosity, independence, and sense of personal empowerment and responsibility.
True freedom cannot exist without discipline. There is a foundational structure in place that ensures that each child’s level of choice and independence is in direct proportion to their demonstrated ability to act with respect and responsibility toward themselves, the environment, and others. Independent work plans empower students to make choices as well as accept the responsibility and due diligence of study.
The Integrated Montessori Curriculum
Classrooms at Free Horizon are organized into several curriculum areas, which include language arts (reading, literature, grammar, creative writing, spelling, and handwriting), mathematics and geometry, geography, history, science, sensory awareness exercises and puzzles, everyday living skills, and art, music, and movement. Each area is made up of one or more shelves with a wide variety of materials on open display and ready for use as the children select them.
Our curriculum is organized into a spiral of integrated studies, rather than a traditional model that is compartmentalized into separate subjects. In the early years, lessons are introduced simply and concretely, and then reintroduced several times during succeeding years at increasing degrees of abstraction and complexity. The course of study uses an integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines of the curriculum together into studies of the physical universe, the world of nature, and the human experience.
Mixed Age Spans
Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two- to three-year age span, which allows younger students to experience the daily stimulation of older role models, who in turn blossom in the responsibility of leadership. Students not only learn “with” each other, but also “from” each other. Oftentimes the best tutor is a fellow student who is just a bit older.
Some parents worry that having younger children in the same class as older ones will leave one group or the other short-changed. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teacher’s time and attention, or that the importance of covering the advanced curriculum for older students prevents teachers from giving the younger ones the emotional support and stimulation they need. Both concerns are misguided.
Working in one class for two to three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade and feel emotionally out of place. Each class is an essentially stable community, with only the oldest third moving on to the next level each year. At each level within a Montessori school, the curriculum and methods are logical and consistent extensions of what has come before.
How Montessori Teachers Meet the Needs of Different Children
Montessori teachers play a very different role from those played by traditionally trained educators. While the stern disciplinarians of the past may be an endangered species, many teachers are focused on maintaining order and on covering a pre-defined curriculum. Most see their role as dispensing facts and sills to complacent students.
The Montessori teacher’s role is that of a facilitator and guide. The Montessori teacher has four primary goals: to awaken our children’s spirit and imagination, to encourage their normal desire for independence and high sense of self-esteem, to help them develop the kindness and self-discipline that will allow them to become full members of society, and to help them learn how to observe, question, risk mistakes, and explore ideas independently. The Montessori teacher is a coach, a mentor.
While there are times for whole-class discussions and presentations, most lessons are presented individually and in small groups consisting of children at similar levels of demonstrated mastery. Teachers closely monitor students’ progress, keeping the level of challenge high. Because they come to know their students so well, Montessori teachers can use students’ own interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.
Preparing Tomorrow’s Innovative Thinkers
In a world of rapid change and new discoveries, we can only guess at the skills our children will need to succeed in our 21st century. Now, more than ever, the essential lesson is learning how to learn.
The most important years in our children’s education are not high school and college, but rather their first twelve years of life. This is when their character and values, self-image, foundational skills and knowledge, and appreciation for diversity, culture, and the arts are formed.
Free Horizon Montessori offers children a world-class education, along with opportunities to develop emotional intelligence that nurtures self-confidence, personal creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. We offer them the most challenging academic program that they can handle in a course of study with a depth and breadth not typically found in a traditional neighborhood school. Children truly love learning and have no concept of a limited potential. We aim to keep it that way.
Much of the above information is excerpted from “Basic Elements of the Montessori Approach” by Tim Seldin of The Montessori Foundation.