Choosing a Montessori Preschool
Montessori preschools focus on the development of language and muscle movement. The aim is to help children through essential early life milestones. Older preschool children learn from group experiences and participate in group activities such as trips and special events. Younger preschoolers engage in everyday activities such as cleaning, food preparation, arts, and crafts— focusing on improving fine motor skills. The children have the freedom to choose their activities and methods of play. The children are encouraged to play alongside one another, showing respect for each other and the environment. They naturally begin to develop relationships with each other and learn shared interests. Group activities are encouraged but not enforced. Each child has opportunities that are appropriate for their specific level of development. The classroom is designed with children in mind so that all items and materials are easily accessible for them. The furniture is the appropriate size for the children to sit comfortably. Young children have the benefit of mentorship from the older children in their class.
In a Montessori classroom, freedom of movement is encouraged within consistent limits. The environment encourages the children to conform to the rules that are in place. The boundaries are often in place to help the children learn how to respect each other and their environment. As the children progress, they learn from their environment. They learn self-discipline when they learn from their mistakes. Because they are free to choose their activities, children are much more motivated to participate and learn. The children are encouraged to look after their environment and tidy up after themselves. It is
easy for them to place items back where they belong when everything has a designated place. Children feel a sense of satisfaction when they complete these tasks independently. Maintaining the classroom is practiced every day, after each activity, helping the children to pick up these healthy habits from a young age. A neat and straightforward environment takes away obstacles—providing a space where children can focus primarily on their learning activities without distraction.
Teachers do not hold expectations of the children, as each child is allowed to develop at their own pace. The teacher guides the children and provides them with the environment and materials they require to learn. Teachers do not get involved in play or learning; instead, they carefully observe each child. They motivate the children to be kind and have respect for one another. The teacher will often express the boundaries of the classroom and encourage each child to follow the rules. There is no end goal to any activity or task that the children undertake, as it is the learning process that is more important than the end result. The children do not feel under pressure to be successful; therefore, they enjoy their activities. They don’t work towards an outcome—they work for the experience. The children are motivated to express their creativity and have fun.
Many people favor Montessori education over traditional education, and some believe that Montessori works better. A study published in 2006 by Dr. Angeline Lillard claims that children at 5 years old have higher math and reading skills than those that attend public school. In the same study, they compared 12-year-old Montessori taught children to 12-year-old public school children. The results claimed that math and reading skills were on par by this age, whereas social skills appeared to be more developed in Montessori children of this age (Chen, 2013).
In Montessori, the children choose their own pace, and they are not expected to keep up with one another. They get to take on exciting activities and engage in challenges —allowing them to freely expand their comfort zone and develop a natural interest in broader topics. The children are encouraged to respect each other’s learning space, and they learn not to interrupt each other. A Montessori classroom is quiet most of the time because each child is focused entirely on their activity. Children can make visual calculations using concrete materials that they can physically manipulate. Montessori education holds many benefits, but most importantly, they aim to help a child prepare for all aspects of life.