Dr. Montessori saw the senses as the “doorway to the mind.” She considered sensory manipulation not only an aid to the development of the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) but a starting point for intellectual growth. She believed that by helping children to order, compare and classify sensory stimulation, their intellectual development would be greatly assisted and future learning would be more meaningful and useful.
The basic sensorial exercise inspires careful observation and requires attention to specific qualities, and the identification of similarities and contrasts. The mind must judge, compare, classify and draw conclusions. These exercises tend to fascinate children because they are difficult enough to represent a real and meaningful challenge. They are then better prepared for future learning in maths, language, and science, as well as making sense of life’s experiences and information in general.
The central purpose of the Maths materials in the early years is to lay the foundation for later cognitive development and to prepare for the gradual transition to abstract thinking. The primary value of these earlier activities in mathematics is to transform ideas into actions on concrete materials. Students who learn maths by rote methods often have no real understanding or ability to put their skills to use in everyday life. Montessori students use hands-on learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and real.
The Montessori maths curriculum is based on the European tradition of ‘Unified Maths’, which has also been recognised recently by leading American educators. Unified Maths introduces elementary students to the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, logic and statistics, along with the principle of arithmetic. This study continues over the years, weaving together subjects that traditional schools normally ignore until secondary level.
Language development is a key issue in the entire Montessori classroom. Many of our activities foster vocabulary development, communication skills, writing and reading-readiness. In the language area you can find a large variety of materials, including those for phonetic analysis, word-attack skills and reading, as well as materials for the refinement of fine motor control (the pincer grip for holding a pencil) for writing.
In the Montessori Method, writing precedes reading as the children explore with drawing and forming letters. The process of learning how to read should be as painless and simple as learning how to speak. The child begins by exploring the sounds that words are composed of and by relating them to the letters of the alphabet. They can soon produce words and sentences free of all other mechanical difficulties. In the meantime, they train their hand to become precise and sure for the writing movements. Reading is prepared indirectly from writing. The child starts from what they know about the letters and sounds.
We then give them the key to read all the words they will encounter- the phonic alphabet. Reading skills normally develop so smoothly in Montessori classrooms that students tend to exhibit a sudden “reading explosion”, which leaves the children and their families beaming with pride.
Dr. Montessori’s research confirmed what observant parents have always known: that children learn best by touch and manipulation, not by repeating what they are told.
Sciences, Geography, the Arts and Other Areas of the Curriculum
Science is an integral element of the Montessori curriculum. Among other things, it represents a way of life: a clear-thinking approach to gathering information and problem-solving. The Montessori science curriculum includes a sound introduction to botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy. The Montessori approach cultivates children’s fascination with the universe and helps them develop a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the world we live in.
Our teachers introduce history and geography as early as age three. The youngest students work with specially-designed maps and begin to learn the names of the world’s continents and countries. Later, in elementary school, the students look at the world’s cultures in greater depth. They learn to treasure the richness of their own cultural heritage and those of their friends.
Music and movement are also important parts of the curriculum, along with the Arts. They offer children ways of expressing themselves, their feelings, experiences and ideas. Montessori schools are very interested in helping children develop control of their fine and gross-motor movement.