One of the most significant differences in a Montessori classroom is that children ages 2.5-6 are grouped together in one environment. Because of this age mixture, the children are exposed to many advanced activities that might not be available in a classroom with same-age children. The younger children watch the older children and get excited about the activities others are working with, and want to challenge themselves to continue progressing so they, too, can work with these more advanced materials. The older children take great pride in taking the leadership role in the classroom, often helping the younger children with activities and helping them learn something in a new way. The interaction among the age groups is an integral part of the Montessori experience, as all are interacting with each other and learning from one other.
A second unique difference in the Montessori classroom is the type of materials available to the children. The children do not use dress-ups, dolls, or play with toys that they have at home. Instead, during the hours they are at school, they have an opportunity to work with developmentally appropriate, hands-on materials that are not found in traditional schools or in the children’s home. Many of these materials were designed by Dr. Maria Montessori herself.
Each classroom is set up with specific areas, which include: Practical Life (fosters development of concentration, coordination, fine-motor control, and independence); Sensorial (fosters and refines the senses through materials that engage the children’s visual, auditory, and sensory touch skills); Language (begins with pre-reading and pre-writing through advanced writing and leveled book reading); Math (materials begin with early counting and number recognition work and progress through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division); Science (materials allow the children to experiment with basic science principles, as well as in-depth studies of weather and changes in nature); Geography (the children learn about the seven continents, and study a continent or two each year, learning the culture of the countries within the continent), and Art (a wide variety of art media is used throughout the year).
The state of Colorado requires a 10-1 student to teacher ratio for this age grouping, FPMS maintains a that ratio or lower. In the afternoon, the older children get more attention on advanced lessons that take more time to present so that in the morning they can practice with those materials and the teachers can give lessons to the younger children. Adena, our Head Teacher/School Director has her Montessori certification from a training center that is recognized by American Montessori Society (AMS). FPMS is a full-member school of the American Montessori Society. The background of the assistant teachers varies, although both of our current assistant teachers have had Montessori training.
There is no specific “type” of child who does well in a Montessori classroom, as the environment has materials and activities to keep all children interested and engaged. Because the activities are individualized for each child, they each have an opportunity to excel at a rate that is appropriate for him or her. If a child is advanced in one area, the teacher will present materials to them that help them continue to grow in this area, without having to limit that child to a set of group norms. In the same respect, if a child is not quite where other children are in a certain area, they will not feel the pressure of not being able to “keep up”, as they will be introduced to materials that keep that student excelling as well. The overall goal of a Montessori education is to recognize the individuality of each child, helping him or her to reach his highest potential—whatever that might be. The hope is to excite children about the wonder of the world, and encourage them to be an independent, enthused, life-long learner.
There are many opportunities for the children to socialize within the Montessori classroom. First, the children participate in a large group time each day. During this time, they are sharing their ideas, listening to other children and the teacher, and learning about cultural studies. During the independent work cycle, the children are free to eat snack with friends, sit at a table with a friend and complete different activities, or play a game or build a puzzle with a friend as a work choice. Additionally, there is outdoor play time and lunch is a wonderful time for socializing. A Montessori classroom is a busy setting, with children working both independently and together on different projects and activities. The busy hum of the children’s voices and laughter are a sure sign of an engaged and active Montessori classroom.
The environment of a Montessori classroom is designed by the teacher for the particular group of children. There are designated areas of the classroom with specific materials and activities, and everything has a precise place. The children internalize the order of the classroom, and it helps them to become comfortable in this setting.
Because of this, the Montessori classroom itself is structured. However, the children are not. Although there are certain ground rules and expectations of behavior, they are free to choose the activities that interest them, as long as they have been presented to them. In this way, the children have the flexibility to work on an activity that interests them, put it away, and choose something else according to the child’s own time frame. This freedom of choice helps the child to direct his or her own learning, learn to make constructive choices and develop independence.
Some children do gain a comfort level with certain materials, and will often repeat this activity from day to day. This repetition is important, and helps the child to truly master the skill needed to complete the activity.
However, the teacher of each classroom carefully observes each child and gets to know their ability level, interests, and style of learning. With this knowledge, the teacher will invite the child to try new activities if they are reluctant on their own.
By inviting a child to work on a new material that they are ready for, the child gains the self-confidence she or he needs to eventually try new things on their own. Gaining self-confidence and independence are two goals in a Montessori classroom.
After attending FPMS’s kindergarten, children enter a variety of private and public schools including traditional and Montessori programs.
Currently enrolled families reserve spaces for their children for the following school year in March. After they re-enroll their children, families are called from the waiting list to take any available spaces. Parents are encouraged to call in the fall of the year before they are interested in starting their child. Their child’s name can be added to a waiting list at that time, and they can schedule an observation of the school by appointment. If a child’s name is on the wait list by December, FPMS is usually able to accommodate that child for the next school year.
Families are encouraged to call at any time to see what current offerings are available, as new children can begin in the program once the school year has started up through the month of January, as spaces allow.