Montessori Education

This work period represents the fundamental experience of the Montessori environment. Each classroom provides children with one or two uninterrupted 3-hour work periods per day. In all classrooms, adults and children respect concentration as a sacred experience and do not interrupt someone who is busy with a material. For children under the age of six, the focus is on individual learning at the child's pace. Children older than six can schedule meetings or study groups with each other and the guide when necessary, and independent concentration is valued. Group work may begin spontaneously or be arranged ahead by special appointment, but self-selected work takes precedence. Note: For more information on the "three-hour work period" see the chapter "My Contribution to Experimental Science" from The Advanced Montessori Method, Volume I, by Dr. Maria Montessori.

Children are grouped according to Dr. Montessori's observed Planes of Development—in a range of age and curricular progression in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. These integrated environments facilitate constant interaction, problem solving, child to child teaching, socialization and modeling. Children are challenged according to their interests and abilities, and they are continually engaged.

The environment is organized according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of remaining at assigned desks. Children may work with any material with which they have experience for an unlimited amount of time. On any day, all subjects—math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc.—are at the child's disposal, at all levels. All subjects are interwoven and taught in conjunction, the teacher modeling for the children a person of broad and varied interests.

There are no assignments returned to children with red marks and corrections. Instead, the child's effort and work are respected as steps along a continuum of understanding. The guide, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to continue along the path toward knowledge.

In preschool groups, the adult-child ratio is dictated by Colorado State Childcare Licensing. The ratio in school-age classrooms is one trained Montessori guide and one non-teaching assistant to thirty children. Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the guide is trained to present materials to one child or group at a time and to oversee thirty or more children working on a broad array of tasks. She/he is adept in the basic lessons of math, language, and the arts and sciences. The guide is prepared to facilitate a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest in and excitement about a subject. She/he does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.

The Montessori guide spends a lot of time during their training practicing the many lessons with materials in all curricular areas. They must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to earn certification and are trained to recognize a child's readiness according to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson. They are prepared to guide individual progress.

Excepting infant/toddler groups, the most successful classes are of up to thirty children to one guide (who is very well trained for the level s/he is teaching) with one non-teaching assistant. This is possible because the children remain in the same group for three to six years, and much of the teaching comes from the children and their exploration of the environment as prepared by the guide. LEARNING STYLES. Montessori education is particularly effective at accommodating children with varying learning styles.

There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment by portfolio and the teacher's observation and record keeping separate the school experience from the necessity for such evaluative practices in favor of a child's intrinsic self-evaluation. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children—their happiness, maturity, kindness, love of learning and caliber of work.

Education of character is valued equally with academic education. Children learn to take care of themselves, their environment, and each other—cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate, and doing social work in the community.
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