Over one hundred years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in Italy, discovered the importance of learning through hands-on, multisensory experiences for the development of higher intelligence in young children. The Montessori Method of education designed for children aged between two-and-a-half and six is comprised of five different areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, and Culture
This is the first area of activities with familiar objects that allow each child to get acquainted with the new environment. It starts with the Preliminary activities (e.g. "Carrying a Tray") that prepare each child for the activities with more steps and advanced movements. A child attains his functional independence through Care of Self activities (e.g. "How to Clean the Nose"), and develops his love and respect for the environment through the Care of Environment activities (e.g. "Dusting a Shelf"). The Grace and Courtesy is what transforms a child into a well-mannered Montessori child with communication skills, and the Movement activities (e.g. "Walking on the Line") develop and refine a child's equilibrium and the control and coordination of movements.
Practical Life area is a reflection of the local culture, because what may be considered a practical skill in one culture like "how to use a pair of chopsticks" may not be very useful in other places where people use their hands to eat. The universal guideline is the use of child-sized real materials. For example, using a glass in place of a plastic cup allows a child to experience a consequence of his careless movements, i.e., the breakage of the glass. This process helps a child become more conscious of his own movements.
Practical Life activities are the foundation of the Montessori Method of education. The child develops concentration and his control and coordination of movements required for Sensorial and more advanced activities within the Montessori environment.
When a child is ready, he will be introduced to the Sensorial apparatuses scientifically designed with precision and exactitude to facilitate a refinement of five senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. The refinement of perception happens only through repetition, so we have progressive exercises as well as games to maintain the child's interest. A child making a rhombus, trapezoid, and a hexagon using a different number of equilateral triangles for fun is simply amazing to watch.
Once a child has enough experiences with a single apparatus, the language is almost always presented, allowing him to classify, categorize, and catalog everything in his mind. So, a simple "book" becomes a "red book", then a"thick red book" and a "square-shaped thick red book", and so on, as the child progresses with the activities. Each Sensorial apparatus is designed to facilitate a refinement of a single sense, which naturally expands the child's perception of the world. One day, a tree in the backyard suddenly becomes a "tree with beautiful colors" after the child learns about different gradation of colors in school. The refinement of perception expands the child's horizon, and that is why the Sensorial activities are referred to as "the keys to the universe".
In the Montessori environment, a child's vocabulary is enriched from day one through the Language Training that encourages the child to express himself with the correct use of words and the pronunciation. Once the child makes a connection between a sound and a letter, he starts building words using the Moveable Alphabets, which is a writing exercise. Writing is introduced before reading in the Montessori environment, because writing comes from the known, the child's own thoughts, and reading involves an interpretation of someone else's thought, the unknowns. Once the child starts reading someone else's work, the reading activities are formally introduced.
The goal of our Language program is to help each child become a creative writer and a total reader who can comprehend, interpret and dramatize what is written. At Terra Montessori School, we introduce biographies, true stories, proverbs, and so on, but none of the popular animations or characters since children at this developmental stage cannot differentiate fantasies from reality.
The formal lessons in Math begin with the introduction of the numbers from 0 to 10, the foundation of mathematics, followed by the decimal system introduced with the Golden Bead Material. The single beads represent the units (1-9), a bead-bar (10-bar) created with ten beads represents a ten, a 100-square formed by putting the ten 10-bars together represents one hundred, and a 1000-cube formed by stacking ten of the 100-squares represents one thousand. As the numbers increase, the bead materials become larger and heavier, allowing the child to understand the concept of the decimal system using his visual and tactile senses. The ultimate goal of our Math program is to help each child acquire enough knowledge and understanding to do additions, subtractions, multiplications, and divisions on paper without the use of the Montessori materials.
"5 x 7" and "7 x 5" are the same to a lot of people, but not to the Montessori children. You will be able to ask your child about the difference later.
This area involves geography, history, biology, music, art, and so on. The depth of information provided here is not that important, but the diversity is. We believe sowing the seeds of interest and curiosity in each child by giving an introduction to a versatile and multi-cultural experiences will broaden his views of the world. The child will naturally understand that the "differences" are what make each individual unique. A person who went to a quality Montessori school tends to become a pacifist, and naturally practices 「和して同ぜず」(wa-shi-te-do-u-ze-zu), an English translation would be something like "harmonize with others but not lose your own opinion".
A "mechanical control of error" is one of the unique characteristics of the Montessori materials. It allows each child to realize his own mistake and correct it without the involvement of an adult. A control of error may simply be a visual disharmony or something more concrete like the control map of a continent. It fosters a child's independence as well as his self-confidence while creating an atmosphere for auto-education. Ultimately, the child becomes a self-motivated learner.
In a Montessori environment, an adult "doing everything for a child" and "giving unnecessary help" is considered an obstacle to the child's development. Please try to wake up 15 minutes early everyday, and give your child enough time to get ready for school without your help.
Hatano Family Child Care Home CA License No. 197419560