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"Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future."
The Duhovka Montessori pre-school's concept of education is based on the lifelong work and heritage of the exceptionally gifted and educated Italian doctor, Maria Montessori. Her degrees include medicine, philosophy, and psychology and her studies include pedagogy, anthropology, and biology. The focus of her work in pedagogy consisted of observing and interpreting child behavior and conducting and analyzing pedagogical experiments.
Her education model is based on a respect toward the child’s individual nature, hands-on learning, and acquiring information through our senses. The child is trusted and motivated to develop at their own natural pace in order to develop self confidence and a lifelong love of learning.
This request, addressed to Maria Montessori by a child, became the primary creed of her learning method. In Montessori education, the role of adults is to help children develop their innate curiosity to gain new knowledge and skills relating to the world around them. The teacher serves as a guide to bridge the child from one skill to another, offering the least amount of help needed and supporting the child toward independent actions.
Children interact with their surroundings, and are stimulated by them. Montessori believes it is the child who is best qualified to decide exactly how and when to integrate stimuli into his/her actions. When considering the different learning styles of each child, this holistic approach considers the needs of the individual as they construct their personality.
The child uses his/her hands to create, discover, and exert control over the surroundings. A child learns by touching, feeling and manipulating everything. A child’s hands explore, gather information, and also imitate the motions of adult hands. Hand work is the foundation for understanding their material world and it’s connections, and supports the development of thinking and speech.
Sensitive phases are periods of time in which the child possesses increased sensitivity and perceptiveness in a certain area. Children are drawn toward the activities and materials that will satisfy their current interest or need. It is up to the teacher to recognize this and introduce concepts for which the child is naturally curious and developmentally ready. Learning is effortless when correct materials are presented during their aligned sensitive period.
In the Montessori environment, children themselves choose what they will do, with whom they will work, and for how long they will work. This freedom of choice, however, comes with the responsibility of showing respect for oneself, for others, and for their environment. This sort of freedom also develops self control and inner discipline within the child. During this independent work time, children get to know not only their possibilities, but also naturally occurring limitations – i.e. the current limits of their skills and intellect, the limits of objects, the limits of time, and limits set by parents and teachers. With learned flexibility they come to work well within these parameters.
The teacher arranges the Montessori materials in a precise sequence on the shelf and considers all aspects of a childs learning in this process. The environment is prepared, not only physically, but emotionally, socially and otherwise to support the child's independence and curiosity. The materials and lessons given are meant to introduce new concepts for which the child may explore and develop intellectually. Children in a Montessori class have direct interaction with their environment and the teacher makes adaptations to ensure it remains safe and stimulating. The social preparation includes options for working alone or in small groups. The teacher invites children for lessons, and remains flexible when a child is not interested or ready. The teachers expertise is shown in accommodating all learning styles when preparing the environment.
Concentration occurs naturally when a child’s needs are being met. This approach is key principle that Maria Montessori arrived at by observing children at work with age appropriate materials and the freedom to work within practical guidelines. Concentration, or absorption, occurs during periods when a child is connected to an activity on a level of individual interest. The child innately feels calm, is motivated to use reason, and can respond to the material in a variety of ways. In this ‘zone’, a child can sometimes become unaware of his/her surroundings, as they are engrossed in the present moment of learning. It is important to respect this time as it is the foundation of learning.
“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Chinese Proverb
In Montessori education, the curriculum is divided into the following areas:
Each area includes many materials and lessons, given in a logical sequence, with focus to the child’s individual development. The lessons are given with direct goals, using materials designed for each specific purpose to create a connection which flows between each area. Special points of interest, controls of error and direct aims are built into each lesson for maximum benefit.
The normal work within each home is referred to as practical life work. The main goals for the child are to develop; concentration, coordination, order, and independence. The skills in this area focus on; care of yourself (dressing, grooming, pouring, spooning, etc), care of others (helping, offering, etc), care of the environment (wiping, sweeping, washing, etc) and social graces/courtesies (saying please, thank you, greeting others, etc).
Through these activities children become adjusted and find purpose and value in their work. Their positive feedback from society creates a confident, motivated learner. Such experiences lay the foundation for all Montessori processes of learning.
Children adapt to their environment by imitating their environment and by becoming a ‘part of the whole’. Repetition, patterns, organization and precision becomes the basis of the Mathematical Mind. Practical Life is also considered the basis of cosmic education - without knowing our own place in the world we will not look for order around us.
Dr Montessori believed that all true information is experienced through our senses and is stored as impressions in our memory. Montessori designed materials to develop and refine the visual, tactile, thermic (temperature), baric (weight), gustatory (taste), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell) and the stereognostic sense (feel).
Both the geometric sense and the algebraic sense serve to give the child a concrete and visual experience in further mathematical principles. The main activities in Sensorial include grading, matching, sorting and naming.
Early conversation, singing, movement games, naming objects and showing natural expression all lead to speech development. The young child experiences both receptive and expressive periods of speech and this leads to writing and reading, which are the graphic means of communication for listening and speaking. All skills all interrelated, development in one leads to development in the other aspects of communication.
The main areas of developing language skills involve:
Math serves as both a necessary and satisfying function of the human mind. We can best serve the development of the mathematical mind with the use of sensorial experiences. The Montessori manipulative materials offer true representation of math concepts. These materials support the natural tendency to compare, look for similarities and differences and to explore relationships of things.
The love of math is inherent and it is vital to include counting, weight, order, time, and quantity and symbol into the child’s daily activities. Early math experiences, such as sorting, grading, matching and counting, will serve as a strong qualitative foundation from which to build upon.
The mind of young child takes in information like a sponge. The young child is learning his own reality, the reality of others, and the reality of the world. They understand science when seeing real ‘life’ in it’s natural state and in terms of how it relates to their own life. (i.e. to teach mapping, make map of their own body).
Children are naturally interested in animals, plants, the earth, why things happen (a balloon pops), and how things work (simple machines). The Montessori preschool teacher introduces each concept in an interesting way and creates lessons and experiments for the child to work with independently.
The approach is to build a foundation of knowledge and continue from the point of what they already know - to the unknown in simple, real, steps. It is important to link smaller ideas to the bigger whole in order for the child to create order and purpose in their interpretation of the world.