We organize the room into five main curriculum areas. Our children derive satisfaction from selecting the materials that interest them, completing—and often repeating—the activity, and then returning them to their places.
Children love to imitate adults. Everyday activities such as pouring, washing, or polishing—using familiar objects—help develop fine motor skills and provide a smooth transition between home and school. We focus on five areas: how to move in the classroom and early activities, manual dexterity, care of self, care of the environment, and social skills including grace and courtesy. Through Practical Life activities, children develop self-esteem, independence, hand-eye coordination, an ability to choose, spatial awareness, concentration, balance, language, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, order, and self-discipline.
Our sensory activities are unique to Montessori schools, developed by Dr. Montessori through observation and research. The senses consist of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and the stereognostic sense—a muscular sense, or impression through touching. Children work with materials that isolate one quality such as size, shape, texture, scent, loudness, weight, or temperature, allowing them to observe and compare. Exercises in perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification play a major role in helping our children develop concentration and a sense of logic.
Reading and Language
Speaking, writing, and reading are important means of self-expression. In our school, children are encouraged to talk to the teachers and to each other. We compose and share stories, sing songs, and make language come alive. Beyond the spoken word, we introduce materials that prepare the children to write and read. Initially, our lessons rely on phonics enhanced by real objects and pictures, with other techniques introduced as the child progresses. We approach language with a “concrete to abstract” methodology. We relate all words and concepts to the child’s own environment to make grammar meaningful. With the Sandpaper Letters (wooden tablets with letters on them that can be felt and traced), reading and writing begin to come together. Children trace the letter with their fingers while hearing and repeating the phonemic sound it will make. We move through a sequence of activities as the child is ready, ensuring that the child does not miss a skill as he or she begins a lifetime of reading.
As with language, the Montessori math program takes abstract concepts and makes them concrete and accessible. Well-designed physical materials allow children to literally hold mathematical ideas in their hands, manipulating them and playing group games so that mathematical concepts are experienced sensorially and socially. The materials and activities are designed to clearly illustrate mathematical concepts. Children enjoy using concrete materials, and often learn the basics of math quickly. Mathematics activities are presented sequentially with one building upon another.
The Montessori cultural studies curriculum combines many subjects that connect the child to his or her place in the universe. Cultural Studies include botany, zoology, geography, science, history, and art, with the purpose of inspiring appreciation for the wonder of the universe and to encourage children to realize their part in it. If possible, children learn with use of hands-on materials instead of memorization, which is more appropriate at a later age. Again, lessons are presented concretely and then progress to the abstract.
Art is taught as means of self-expression. Emphasis is on process, and we take care so that the child avoids frustration. We make sure the materials are high quality and appropriate for a child’s use, such as easily grasped paintbrushes that produce a satisfying stroke. There is never a “right” way of completing a project, and the teachers are very careful when talking about a child’s art. Because children are given free choice of a variety of media, art is often created daily in a Montessori classroom.