Most parents who have started looking for preschools have heard the term “Montessori.” Unfortunately, most people don’t know what that means and, when they try to find out, are given a lot of bad information. The truth is, Montessori is an educational method that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in Italy during the 1800s. This amazing woman spent most of her life teaching indigent children and, through her charity, made some amazing discoveries about what children are capable of.
The Montessori Curriculum
While there are hundreds of things that make Montessori different from traditional education, the curriculum is perhaps the best place to start. A Pasadena Montessori school teaches skills in three different areas: practical life, sensorial, and academic. Through her research, Dr. Montessori discovered that these three areas led to a well-rounded child who could excel in any aspect of his or her life. Each of these areas is taught through “works” which are hands-on applications of one or several important concepts.
Practical Life Works
Practical life is the first area to which children are introduced. These exercises have two main objectives: developing motor skills and increasing concentration. Examples of works in this area include polishing silver, cutting up vegetables, serving snacks to classmates, and using the dressing frames. These works play off of a child’s desire to imitate adults and increase independence. Besides helping children develop the coordination to do things like button a shirt or tie shoes, these tasks help them develop a greater ability to concentrate and to follow increasingly complicated instructions. Many of these works also teach children sequencing. In a Montessori classroom, children develop all of these skills without nagging, threats, boredom, or embarrassment.
The Sensorial Works
The sensorial works are a unique part of the Montessori curriculum which focus on developing and refining the senses. Each of these works is designed to focus on one of the five senses. For example, if a child is working with the Baric Tablets, he or she is working on touch. In this exercise, the child is given three sets of small wooden blocks. The blocks are identical except for two things: color and weight. Blindfolded, the child will use his or her hands to weigh the blocks and will sort them into piles: heavy, medium, and light. All that is required in order to check accuracy is for the child to remove the blindfold and discern whether the colors of the blocks in each pile are the same.
The Academic Works
Finally, we come to the academic works. Largely hailed as the most important part of any education, Montessori takes reading, writing, and arithmetic to a whole new level. One of the most impressive works is called the Thousand Chain. In this exercise, children get to see what the 1000 cube would look like laid out. In order to do this, 100 ten bars are laid end to end, and the child must mark each set of ten with a small paper. So, the child has papers reading 10, 20…990, 1,000 that he or she must place in the proper place along the 27-foot-long 1000 chain. Not only does this reinforce the skill of counting by 10, it also teaches children the immensity of the number 1,000.