Staying the Course: Montessori and the Kindergarten Year

 

Parents whose children are in their second year of a primary classroom are faced with a big decision: should their child remain at their Montessori school for the final year of the cycle or attend kindergarten at their local public school?

We understand how tough this decision can be.  Many parents ponder the cost of private kindergarten when there is a free option available.  Other families talk about the fact that their child won’t be able to stay in Montessori forever, so why not switch now?  Then again, the thought of leaving their Montessori school is difficult, because they know there is something different and special about this style of education.

Learning for Mastery

Montessori schools are intentionally structured utilizing a three-year cycle.  There are many great benefits to this, but one of them is to provide third year students with opportunities that they will not have in other environments.

Having spent the previous two years learning a multitude of skills in their classroom, the third year is about mastery.  The Montessori curriculum is a series of carefully developed lessons and materials that are meant to cycle back to a culminating experience during the final year.

All that time spend grasping knobbed cylinders, tracing metal insets, and practicing sandpaper letter formation?  The kindergartner uses all that knowledge as they begin to write with paper and pencil.

The years of early mathematical preparation?  Now they get to use the golden beads (or perhaps the stamp game material) to learn to add and subtract numbers into the thousands (yes, as kindergartners!).

Montessori’s early focus on teaching children sounds in lieu of letter names leads many children to begin reading by the time they are in kindergarten.

Children as Independent Leaders

Not only do guides observe children mastering these skills independently, but the children have the chance to teach to others.  Educators across many settings will agree that once the student becomes the teacher, we can surmise that true mastery has been attained.

So while your kindergarten child is teaching younger children how to do something, they are showing us just how well they know how to do it.  Not only that – they are gaining confidence in a truly authentic way.  No one needs to tell the child how well they are doing because they feel it themselves.

When children teach children, it’s not just about knowledge being shared, but also about cultivating world citizens.  Teaching each other is an act of kindness, and a way for children to practice helping others around them.

Fueling the Spark

In Montessori classrooms one of our greatest tasks is to keep the fire burning inside children’s minds.  We structure our work so that children may follow their passions and learn deeply about things that matter to them.  We see each child as an individual and think one-size-fits-all educational approaches tend to extinguish the joy of learning.

Instead of drilling facts into children, we place materials before them so that they may discover the truths of the world themselves.  Rather than asking them all to do the same thing at the same time, we value their choices and trust their educational process.  It is the guide’s job to keep them on track, but they offer children the freedom that lets them deeply explore the learning that calls to their souls.

Five Key Differences Between Montessori and Conventional Education

ConventionalMontessori
Frequent and standardized testing starting at a young age.Teachers assess through careful observation and record-keeping.
Assigned seating, often at desks arranged in rows or small groups.Flexible, child-chosen seating, with options for individuals and groups, using both tables and the floor.
Use of external rewards, including praise, sticker charts, prizes, and grades.Reliance on internal motivation, or the belief that the joy of the work itself is all the motivation the child needs.  Offering beautiful, compelling materials will draw the child’s attention without the need for unrelated rewards.
The teacher is the head of the classroom.The children are the main focus of the classroom.  The guide delivers lessons unobtrusively and stands aside when the child is able to learn independently.
Main goal is to deliver a standards-based curriculum.Main goal is to cultivate curious and empathetic world citizens and lifelong learners.

 

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