We were blessed with a great turnout for our Curriculum Night last Thursday. Thank you to all who could attend! It was great to have the time to explain exactly what the children are doing each morning while they are with us and to be able to answer questions. If you were unable to attend, below you will find the handout that was available:
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. Her interest in education began when she worked with institutionalized children. She observed mentally challenged children achieve an amazing level of development when an appropriate method of instruction was used along with carefully devised manipulative materials. Some years later she worked with typical children and, in 1907, opened the first “Casa dei Bambini,” or “Children’s Home,” in a slum in San Lorenzo, Italy. Dr. Montessori devoted the rest of her life to careful observation and study of children. Her observations led to the discovery that the environment should be a “help to life,” an aid to child development rather than a hindrance. Dr. Montessori introduced revolutionary concepts such as: the absorbent mind, sensitive periods of development, the importance of repetition, liberty leading to inner discipline, concentration, joy in work, social development and, primarily, the need of the prepared environment. She was instrumental in changing the conditions and treatment of children and has had a tremendous impact on the course of education. For those parents wishing more information about Dr. Montessori and her method, we would be happy to recommend additional reading.
Hallmarks of Montessori Philosophies and Methods
- The Prepared Environment: Classroom materials and furniture should be thoughtfully prepared and arranged for the children. This allows freedom of movement and purpose, as well as the ability for children to be responsible for the care of their environment. Dr. Montessori was one of the first educators to suggest that classrooms should include child-sized furniture.
- Sensitive Periods: Through observation, Dr. Montessori identified several “sensitive periods” for children’s learning and development, windows of opportunity and interest that are consistent across cultures and languages. A child’s entrance into one of these sensitive periods is typically identified by the child’s overwhelming interest in a particular concept/activity. During this window of opportunity, the child will be drawn to this new skill, almost to the exclusion of all else. Attached is a brief overview of the sensitive periods identified by Dr. Montessori.
- The Absorbent Mind: This is one of the cornerstones of Dr. Montessori’s philosophy and speaks to the tremendous importance of the prepared environment. Because of their absorbent minds, children are always learning, and, therefore, the environment should be richly and appropriately prepared. Our goal is to be sure that the information surrounding the child is encouraging and beneficial for every aspect of the child’s development: social, emotional, cognitive, academic and spiritual.
- Repetition and Sequential Learning: The Montessori classroom is home to a great deal of repetition. Parents the world over can attest to their child’s need for repetition: reading a favorite book again and again, choosing to do puzzles day after day, wanting to show someone a newly acquired skill over and over. Dr. Montessori recognized this as a legitimate need that feeds a child’s absorbent mind and fosters the learning that takes place during a sensitive period. In addition to supporting a child’s need for repetition, Montessori materials are designed to be sequential in their use. That is, a child will observe, practice and eventually master one skill before being introduced to the next skill in sequence. For example, in the sensorial materials, a child will learn to recognize and name the primary colors first. Then, he will move on to mastering secondary and tertiary colors. Eventually, he will learn to grade the shades of the various colors.
How Can I Support My Child’s Learning At Home?
The following suggestions are what we have found to be the most effective learning support for your child:
- Be sure your child is getting enough sleep. Children in this age group typically need about 12 hours of sleep, either all at night or in a combination of nap and nighttime sleep.
- Allow as much time as possible for unstructured play time, time that is not orchestrated or planned by an adult.
- Be sure your child has plenty of opportunities to use his or her hands as tools. In Montessori philosophy, “the hand leads the mind.” Scientific research now supports what Dr. Montessori learned through observation.
- REALLY limit screen time. The research on this topic is growing daily, and we Little Lambs teachers are very vocal opponents of too much screen time. It won’t make your child “smarter.” Children under age 2 should not have any screen time at all; children over age two should only have limited screen time.
- Allow your child to do whatever he or she can without your help. Dr. Montessori stressed that we should “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Your children are very capable! They do their own clean-up after snack; they put on their own shoes; they solve problems with their friends. Allow them the opportunity to try and fail and try again!
- READ! The value of reading to your child, with your child, even in front of your child is tremendous. Again, research is very clear on this topic, and it is truly one of the simplest, yet most effective, ways you can support your young learner.