The goal of the early childhood environment is to cultivate—and be a catalyst to—a child’s own natural desire to learn. So we encourage children to experience choice and decision making, which empower them with intrinsic motivation and self-discipline, and strengthen their ability to think and act for themselves. We guide each child to “to do it by myself,” thus satiating the child’s basic need for independence. Additionally, by helping children believe that they are capable, competent, and confident, we help create positive attitudes toward learning that last a lifetime.
“Learning by doing” is the foundation of the Montessori approach. So our pre-school class is indeed a child’s world, geared to the size, pace, and interests of boys and girls between the ages of three and six. Sounds and movements abound in the class as children actively explore, manipulate, and investigate in order to see, hear, feel and personally know his or her world. Although individualized instruction is emphasized in the Twin Parks Montessori classroom, group collaboration and cooperative learning are also encouraged, and children often engage in small group work.
A well-established fact is that pre-school children mature at very different rates, and their periods of readiness for academic subjects vary a great deal. Knowing this, Maria Montessori believed that learning experiences should not be tedious, but should occur naturally and joyfully at the proper moment for each individual child. The Montessori approach to education teaches children to think, to ask probing questions, and to seek creative answers.
We like to think of our early childhood class as a learning laboratory, organized into several curriculum areas, among them language arts, mathematics, everyday living skills, sensory awareness exercises, and culture (geography, science, social studies, art, music, movement). Simpler tasks are mastered before complex ones are introduced. Many materials involve the child in tasks that facilitate eye-hand coordination and small muscle control. Throughout the curriculum, one finds a web of indirect preparations that enhance the learning process. For example, our simple, everyday living exercises have complex aims: to develop order, concentration, coordination, and independence.
Carefully designed activities allow children to joyfully learn to care for themselves and for their class environment. The tasks of buttoning, transferring quantities, polishing, and preparing all subconsciously develop accurate eye-hand abilities, which are later needed for reading, writing, and other academic pursuits. Children soon develop courtesy, graciousness, poise and self-control, since vital interest in purposeful activity almost always breeds social maturity.
Our sensorial awareness exercises provide purposeful movement and aid in muscular coordination. Children become aware of details by learning to finely discriminate among textures, colors, and dimensions. They learn one-to-one correspondence in matching/sorting and grading/discerning differences tasks, both necessary cognitive preparations. Intelligence is built up as the child learns to distinguish, categorize, and relate new information to what she or he already knows. Children move through the structured materials independently, challenging themselves and gaining confidence. “Never let a child risk failure unless s/he has a reasonable chance of success,” Montessori cautions; we heed her advice, believing carefully planned success motivates further learning.
As for our language arts area, it is designed to enrich a child’s vocabulary and conversation and to establish a personal interest in reading and reading comprehension. Children working with everyday living and sensorial foundation exercises develop many reading readiness skills. As the child shows an interest and a comprehension of activities preparatory to written language, the teacher provides opportunities to explore letter sounds and formation. The unique Montessori approach to language development is a carefully respectful, individualized response to each child’s natural desire to absorb language and communicate.
The purpose of the mathematics area is to follow the child’s basic need to seek order and logic in all things. Children count with enthusiasm and that enjoyment is channeled to a concrete understanding of math facts and concepts. Later, the school age child can make abstractions and truly understand the theoretic rules of math. Our math materials are firmly based in process, not product. The child grasps (literally and figuratively) a personal mathematical understanding through extensive use of manipulatives—objects that may be held and felt, personalized, and understood.
Twin Parks Montessori Schools’ children are also introduced to art history and art studio. Each day they explore the world of arts and crafts through the media of paint, clay, paste, and color, and through the use of simple desk tools, they get in full touch with their creative and individual expression.
Music is a daily activity that is both spontaneous and planned. It includes an exploration of musical instruments, music makers, and music of many nations and styles. Physical education is also scheduled daily, with children being led in various activities that help develop gross motor skills such as walking with purpose and balance, running, and jumping.
Twin Parks Montessori Schools’ children have ample opportunity to practice burgeoning skills to the extent they feel is necessary. Nature instills in the preschooler a strong desire to repeat an activity over and over. With each repetition, new observations are discerned; stronger physical and mental muscles develop; concentration appears; and with heightened concentration, learning takes place naturally.