he Montessori curriculum provides an optimal environment for children’s intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth. The Montessori materials are designed with specific developmental goals in mind that meet the needs of the preschool and Kindergarten child and which give the child a real advantage both academically and socially in later schooling. The practical life materials encourage hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, control of movement, and independence. The sensorial materials are designed to refine the senses as well as to introduce concepts of comparison, sequence, and logic. Children under the age of six are in a sensitive period for language; thus it is very beneficial to them to have a structured language program which prepares them for reading and writing. This good foundation of language in preschool makes a difference for them when they get older because one of the biggest factors in children’s success in school is their language abilities at the grade one level. The math materials introduce the children to abstraction, which is another important developmental milestone for preschoolers. The benefits of early exposure to such a concrete, progressive math program are long lasting.
In a Montessori classroom, the guides (teachers) focus a lot on children’s social development. That is, they spend a lot of time helping the children learn to get along with their peers by developing positive social behaviour and positive expression of feelings. The guides role-play potential conflicts and solutions with the children, give the children the language to assert their feelings and needs, and encourage respect for the children’s choices, needs, and preferences. Role plays include how to say “excuse me” if someone is in your way, how to ask for help, how to interrupt someone, how to invite someone to play, how to give and receive compliments, how to greet someone, how to move quietly through a room so as not to disturb, and how to politely assert one’s preference or objection. These exercises are called “grace and courtesy” and form an important part of the smooth functioning of the classroom and as well as an important part of the children’s social development that they can carry over into any other environment they will find themselves in.
In a Montessori classroom the children also develop strength of character. The way that the classroom is designed and functions encourages the development of: self-discipline including self-control and willpower; concentration; independence; self-confidence; honesty; self-respect; and respect for others. We believe that character development is just as important as intellectual development, especially for children ages 2.5-6.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Montessori classroom allows children’s natural curiosity and love of learning to flourish: we provide delightful materials for the children to explore; we encourage their personal interests and allow them to move through the curriculum at their own pace; we cultivate curiosity and problem solving; and we never make a child feel like he’s made a mistake. We do correct errors but it’s done gently and subtly so the child doesn’t even know he made a mistake. The child’s individual personality, pace of learning, and learning style are paramount to how the guides work with them. As well, in a mixed age environment, the children see where they are going with their learning and why it’s important to learn what they are learning at any given moment. That is, they see how their present learning fits into the big picture. This knowledge encourages self-motivation and a real drive to keep learning.
Children who go through a Montessori program reap enormous benefits both socially and academically.
"By the end of Kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control."*
"Students who had participated in the Montessori program significantly outperformed the Peer Control group on Math/ Science scores."***Science. September 29, 2006. vol. 313."The Early Years: Evaluating Montessori" Angeline Lillard and Nicole Else-Quest**Outcomes for Students in a Montessori Program: A Longitudinal Study of the Experience in the Milwaukee Public Schools by Kathryn Rindskopf Dohrmann May 2003 report. P.3