Ages: 3 to 6 years
Maria Montessori’s original school was called La casa dei bambini, and we continue to use the term Casa for our preschool program. The class of 3 to 6-year olds with its balance of individual and co-operative learning, allows children to follow their interests and progress at their own pace. According to Montessori's concept of freedom with responsibility, the children are given as much autonomy as they are able to handle. Along with knowledge, they acquire good work habits, social skills and self-esteem, essential for a lifetime of creative living and learning.
Practical Life exercises teach children to take care of themselves and their immediate physical environment. They help to develop self-reliance, concentration, co-ordination, and a sense of order. They are also important in developing the fine-motor skills that will be essential for the children’s academic work. By learning to complete the work cycle and replace the materials on the shelf the children establish good work habits. They also engage in grace-and-courtesy activities that foster positive social interaction.
Sensorial materials train the senses and sharpen the powers of observation. Each set of materials focuses on one of the five senses. ‘Colour tablets,’ for example, teach the child to distinguish between subtle shades of colour, ‘sound cylinders’ to match and grade different types of sounds. The various materials are designed to develop the child's ability to compare, contrast, analyze and interpret the multitude of impressions received from the environment. As Maria Montessori puts it, "The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge."
Reading and writing are taught in a highly tangible fashion engaging the senses of sight, touch and hearing. To give a specific example, children use ‘sandpaper letters’ to recognize the shape of a letter visually, trace it with their fingers for tactile memory and voice the sound it represents. The phonic approach takes the guesswork out of reading and establishes solid spelling patterns. Reading becomes effortless and pleasurable while writing leads to meaningful self-expression.
Math can be a difficult subject when taught in the traditional manner. Working systematically through Maria Montessori’s ingenious sequence of materials allows students to get a physical sense of the operations they are performing and gain a true understanding of the underlying principles. Since concepts are introduced with tangible manipulative materials, math learning turns into an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Montessori takes an interdisciplinary approach to subjects such as Geography, Botany, Zoology and Science, pulling them together under the common label of Culture. A wealth of concrete materials enables the children to explore areas of knowledge which might otherwise remain outside their range of interest and understanding. Children study the continents, their countries and ecosystems, make their own maps, learn to classify plants and animals, study their life cycles and much more.