We at Arborland Montessori Children’s Academy sincerely endorse Dr. Montessori’s belief that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts for a preselected course of study, but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. The primary age child is a sensorial learner, and not ready for abstract concepts. Based on this fact all the lessons at the primary level appeal to the five senses. At this age the child also absorbs ideas spontaneously, what Dr. Montessori called “The Absorbent Mind.” From birth to the age of six, the child has sensitive periods of learning different topics. Modern day educators refer to these as “windows of opportunities.” These are periods in a child’s life where there is a strong natural need and an attraction to learn and absorb a specific idea or subject–therefore in the primary classroom all education is geared to take advantage of these sensitive periods. All the attractive materials are aids to learning specific concepts; they are not “toys.” The teacher, who is also referred to as a guide, makes presentations, after making observations to fit the lesson to the particular sensitive period the child is going through. After the initial presentation, the child is free to repeat the lesson/exercise as many times as necessary, to aid perfection. At the primary level the child is given all the tools necessary to develop into a productive and successful adult.
In the Montessori classroom, this objective is approached by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his/her own choice rather than by being forced. It is also approached by helping the child perfect his/her natural tools for learning, so that the child’s abilities will be maximized for future learning situations. Montessori materials have this dual, long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.
The purpose of the Practical Life Exercises is to teach respect for one’s self, other living things, and to care for the self and the environment. In addition, the activities develop skills necessary to do work in all areas of the curriculum.
Practical life exercises have four main areas:
1. Care for the environment
2. Care for the self (to achieve functional independence)
3. Social relations
4. Analysis and control of movement
Practical Life exercises are composed of many parts done in a specific sequence. These exercises are designed to perfect the child’s eye-hand coordination, gradually lengthen his/her attention span, and allow him/her to gain a sense of independence as he works.
The young child meets the world around him/her through the constant use of all his/her five senses. The Sensorial Materials allow the child to use his/her five senses to explore new information in a way that makes it easy and natural for him/her to learn. All the impressions taken in by the child from birth to age three will be used from age 3 to 6 to create and construct his/her personality. The phenomena of organizing all the wealth of impressions gathered will happen anyway; the guide in the primary class assists this process with the aid of the Montessori Sensorial Materials.
Each of the Sensorial Materials isolates one of the senses into a category such as color, weight, size, shape, texture, sound, smell, etc. The materials emphasize a particular quality while eliminating or minimizing the others. This allows the young child to concentrate on one sense at a time without having so much sensory input that he cannot respond to any of it. All the materials are designed to help the child’s mind to focus on one particular quality.
Mathematics & Geometry
Math is an extension of the need to communicate and should be introduced early in the child’s education. Children have experience of math even before they walk into the Montessori primary classroom. When a child breaks up a cookie or candy bar to share, he is actually doing fractions. Children are fascinated with numbers at an early age. The only reason a child picks up language quicker is that he is given more exposure to it; he is not given the same exposure to math. In the Arborland Montessori class we do not fall into this trap of making math an obstacle that has to be overcome at some future date. Some mathematicians believe that the abstractions necessary for acquiring language are in fact more difficult than those needed for an understanding of math. All we need to do is offer the child more concrete experiences of math in his everyday life and by age four there will be a spontaneous understanding of it.
Geometry is presented the same way; there are several geometry boxes that teach the child all the geometric shapes through manipulation. As the shapes are absorbed and understood, the child is given the names for each shape. Geometric solids introduce the child to solid geometry with names attached. The golden bead presentation shows the child the progression of point, line, square and cube.
In the primary room we do not “teach” the child language, we help him to develop it. Language is not presented in fragmented units of reading, writing, spelling and spoken language. Language education in our primary classroom approaches all aspects of it as a whole, and starts as soon as the child arrives in the room.
In the Montessori classroom a child learns phonetic sounds of the letters before he learns the alphabetical names in a sequence. The phonetic sounds enable him to break up the word to prepare for reading.
The individual presentation of language materials in our primary classroom allows the teacher to take advantage of each child’s greatest period of interest. Reading instruction begins on the day when a child wants to know what a word says or he shows an interest in using sandpaper letters.
Writing, or the construction of words using the moveable alphabets, nearly always precedes reading in our Montessori environment. By doing many reading exercises which offer variety rather than monotonous repetition, gradually the child learns irregular words, and words with two or three syllables.
Grammar is introduced through different symbols used to identify different parts of speech. For example a large black triangle represents a noun and a red symbol represents a verb. This is an enjoyable game for the child, but in reality the lesson being taught in this exercise is that each word has a different function.
Geography & Cultural
Our children are first introduced to the shape of their world in a very sensorial way, through a globe they can feel and touch. Later a more colorful globe showing divisions of land and water masses is shown. This is followed by puzzle maps.
Our children are introduced to maps of the world and all the continents through large wooden puzzle maps. At first it is just the puzzle the children enjoy completing. Gradually the names of continents, countries, famous land marks and land and water forms are introduced. There are concrete molds of all the land and water forms in each classroom, the child can feel, touch and see before giving names to attach to each.
Arts & Crafts
Arts and crafts cross over to all the work the child is doing in the room. The teacher encourages illustration and decoration of work done in the math, language, science, and geography area. … The small child sometimes does not have sufficient words to express strong emotion, but can do this through painting, drawing and illustrating work. … The children really enjoy making simple gifts to take home especially at Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s day. For the child it is just an enjoyable experience, but a very important lesson is being learned, a subliminal message that gift giving need not involve great expense.
Science & Nature
An interest in science is fostered through simple experiments which the child can explore as interest is sparked. The work of water, air, solids and magnets presented this way prepares the child for further work in chemistry at a later stage. Pictures and names of planets and stars are an early introduction to astronomy.
The plant and animal kingdoms are studied in an orderly fashion to foster a love and appreciation for all living things.
Music & Creative Movement
The child is exposed to music and movement from day one in our primary environment. Music and movement develop the child’s auditory sense and balance, but also serve the purpose of expression. Human beings have expressed themselves through music and bodily movements since earliest times, and this is exactly what the very small children need to do. There is group singing, and an introduction to musical notes through exercise on the bells that trains the child’s ear to the different sounds of each.
The children in our Primary classrooms learn patience and consideration for others as the number of exercises on the shelf are limited and each child needs to wait his turn. For the first time the child is made aware of the need to wait for something. Another aid to character development is the freedom of choice, and freedom to repeat an activity, because this freedom comes with responsibility. Responsibility to respect the rights of other children to do the same work and repeat it as often as they want to. … At Arborland each child is treated with respect, as a special individual; this in turn teaches the child respect for others. The older children are given the opportunity to help the younger children, which fosters a sense of responsibility in the older child. Instilling positive character traits starts at Arborland the very first day and continues all the time the child remains with us.