Montessori education is based on the premise that children have an innate ability to learn and that when supported by an appropriately prepared environment and a trained educator, they are guided through their developmental needs to reach their full potential.
A Montessori classroom typically has a trained Montessori teacher, known as a Guide, supported by an Assistant. Montessori teachers complete Montessori specific training, constructed to serve and inspire the needs of children in specific age ranges or planes of development. The teacher is a guide or facilitator whose task it is to support the young child in his or her process of self-development. They are foremost a presenter and observer, unobtrusively, yet carefully monitoring and assisting each child's development.
The teacher provides a link between the child and the prepared environment, introducing the child to each piece of equipment when he or she is ready in a precise, clear and enticing way. The most important attribute of a Montessori teacher is the love and respect she holds for each child's total being.
The Montessori assistant’s role is to support the teacher and promote peace and order in the classroom. They value and respect the uniqueness of each child while consistently nurturing and modelling a love of learning. The assistant is a keen observer and is knowledgeable about developmentally appropriate behavior and practices and supports the individual needs and interests of the children.
Key features of all Montessori programs:
- The Prepared Adult – knowledgeable of the developmental stage of the children or young adults in their care.
- The Prepared Environment – beautiful, ordered, and designed for multi-age groupings, containing activities that respond to the specific needs of the age group. The prepared environment encompasses both internal and external spaces.
In these circumstances children and young adults find what is necessary for their individual development whilst gaining real life experiences of what it means to live a fulfilled life in the company of others; of what it means to exercise freedom of choice whilst also taking responsibility for the impact of their actions on the well-being of the community they live in and the earth that they live on.
Montessori educational environments are carefully prepared for child-centered learning. The Montessori environment:
- is organized to support the developmental characteristics and interests of a mixed age group within an identified range;
- promotes lively and purposeful engagement in both indoor and outdoor settings;
- can be adapted to any culture or setting; and,
- thrives through the trained adult’s careful observation of both universal and individual needs as revealed by each unique learner.
The visible environment includes accessible furniture, a variety of work spaces, and scientifically designed materials displayed for free choice of activity. These materials support concrete exploration which leads to both practical skills and abstract knowledge. Such exploration is initiated through appropriate lessons offered by the trained Montessori teacher followed by hands-on, self-directed, and self-correcting learning which can be individual, collaborative, or peer-to-peer.
The absence of an imposed daily schedule and incorporation of logical limits to activity create an environment that supports independence, confidence, self-discipline, mutual respect, social connection, and stewardship of the environment. The outcome is a vibrant learning community, characterized by positive behavioral, moral, and emotional development as well as solid cognitive achievements.
Toddler (ages 18 mos. to 3)
An understanding of the child's development allows Montessori environments to meet the needs of toddlers and fosters a sense of belonging, independence, and language acquisition enabling children to feel able and capable. The Montessori toddler program at Alcuin School begins at 18 mos. and continues to age 3. Half day classes meet 5 days a week from 8am to 11:45am and a full day program called All Day Montessori Toddler (ADMT) meets 5 days a week with a choice of two dismissal times (4pm or 5:30pm)in a year round format.
Primary (ages 3-6)
Between the ages of 3 and 6, Maria Montessori called this environment Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House). Having created the foundations of their personalities, three-year-old children arrive in the prepared environment ready to develop and perfect their abilities. They learn best through real-life activities that support independence and self-efficacy; manipulation of objects to provide concrete sensorial experience; and open-ended exploration leading to the refinement of their movements, sensory perceptions, language and the development of their intellect. All members of this expanded community of 3 to 6-year-olds thrive through opportunities to follow their individual interests, freely choose activities, develop their capacity for concentration, and engage at their own pace their emerging powers of reason, imagination, and sociability.
Materials and activities are designed to support self-directed discovery and learning, and so are a perfect match for this developmental stage. They are organized around Practical Life activities that develop both independence, social skills, and logical process; Sensorial activities that refine sensory perception; the development of Spoken Language, Writing and Reading skills; and Mathematical activities that develop fundamental mathematical concepts; as well as activities that reflect upon our human understanding of geography, history, biology, science, music, and art. The trained adult guides the children along this journey, helping them become well-adapted individuals, ready to take positive, compassionate roles in their world.
The Montessori elementary school environments are for children ages 6 through 12. At Alcuin, the elementary school environment is divided into two divisions: Lower Elementary (ages 6 to 9) and Upper Elementary (ages 9 to 12).
Lower Elementary aged children are typically characterized by great curiosity, an expanding ability to abstract and imagine, a moral and social orientation and indefatigable energy for research and exploration. Elementary children are given lessons in small, mixed or single age groups on a variety of projects which spark the imagination, engage the intellect, and develop their reasoning abilities.
Upper Elementary studies build knowledge through in-depth studies of the world and how it works. Studies are integrated across disciplines that include geography, biology, history, language, mathematics, science, music, and other forms of artistic expression. Exploration of each area is augmented by the children, who organize visits beyond the confines of the classroom to gain real-life knowledge from community resources, such as museums, planetariums, botanical gardens, science centers, factories, hospitals, etc. This approach fosters a feeling of being connected to humanity and encourages children’s natural desire to make a contribution to the world.