Inspired by the re-enrollment deadline, I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts about the benefits of a Montessori education as it moves forward. Last month, I gave you an overview of the whole Primary level. It is such an impressive philosophy and educational approach! Obviously, I am a fan of Montessori. But my enthusiasm does not end with Primary.
First, let me address the importance of the E56 year. The final year of the three-year cycle is an incredibly powerful experience, far more so than the previous two years. Everything the children have done and learned throughout the previous two years, both consciously and unconsciously, readies them for huge leaps, socially, emotionally, and academically, in their kindergarten year. They become the class leaders. They are the role models in their actions and their work. They become teachers and nurturers to the younger children. In taking on these roles, they build and strengthen their own skills while developing a healthy sense of their own responsibility to the community. Through-out Primary, because of our success-oriented approach and our ability to allow children to work according to their own developmental timetables, the children experience a great many personal successes and triumphs. As they do, their sense of self grows, and self-motivation becomes the norm.
In Montessori, it is as if we are always planting seeds for the future, seeds which may take time to germinate. In the E56 year, we see some of these seeds begin to flower. They are ready for all sorts of leaps forward in their abilities. This is able to occur precisely because of the way the Montessori method prepares them. They have developed various individual skills and understandings by all working, at their own pace, with carefully designed materials and sequences. Over time, all of these various aspects are ready to merge together in what we call “explosions”. These can occur across all areas of development, but the most clearly recognized explosions are in reading, writing, and math skills.
Each year I marvel at the huge leaps that occur in the kindergarten year. Each year I look forward to watching another group of children “take off” in writing and reading, “get” quantity and numeral into the thousands. Each year I thrill to see the level of self-motivation and excitement. Each year I am proud to see the growth in respect and responsibility. I am saddened for the occasional child when, for whatever reason, he or she is not able to complete their Primary experience at Jarrow. When this happens, we all experience a setback, for not only has that child missed out on the culmination of the three-year cycle, but the whole class has lost one of its leaders and role models.
Every year I get asked by parents how Montessori works in Elementary. They understand -and believe- it can work well at the Primary level but have a hard time understanding how it can work well with older children. Having observed the elementary program, both as a teacher and as a parent, I can say with conviction: It works beautifully. That is, as long as your goals include developing respect and responsibility, self-motivation, excitement about themselves and learning, as long as you want an exposure to a wide range of knowledge and experiences and a focus on thinking and understanding. For that is what Montessori Elementary will offer to your child.
Every child is unique. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. It certainly was true of my own two children. Both unfolded somewhat differently than the so-called norm, and both developed in very different ways from each other. But while working on their weaknesses, they felt respected and safe, honored and valued. In the areas in which they excelled, there was no need to be limited by the group. They were free to build on their own strengths, free to delve into their own interests. I’ll never forget the day when my son (then in 4th grade) charged up the hill to my classroom at the end of a full day of school, his face alight with excitement, “Mom! Tonight I want to calculate the number of atoms in planet earth!” After a gulp and an eye-popping moment, I recovered enough to start asking questions about what his process would be. And what a wonderful process it was, of trying to figure out what to calculate and how to calculate it and how to express the number. That’s not your average experience for a 4th grader. But those types of experiences are not so unusual for Montessori children, for the Montessori “cosmic” approach is designed to excite the children and engage their imaginations as they learn about the amazing world in which we live.
Lead Teacher, Primary Room 7