The Montessori elementary curriculum is comprehensive, integrated, holistic, and purposeful. Montessori goes far beyond the usual goals of skill development and knowledge acquisition to address the development of the whole person. Children who complete the Montessori Curriculum have a clear understanding of the natural world, of human knowledge, and of themselves. These children are prepared to leave childhood behind and to enter adolescence as independent, confident, responsible, emotionally intelligent individuals, balanced in physical, intellectual, and social achievements. They are academically and practically prepared to pursue self-education in many areas; to make responsible decisions and act on them in a responsible way; to recognize limits and give, ask for, and receive help, as needed.
The importance of imagination in the elementary years is taken into account in a Montessori classroom. Lessons “present the universe to the child” in the form of epic stories. In practice, this narrative is told as a set of five stories, the Great Stories. The five great lessons include the creation of our earth (biblical perspective), the coming of plants and animals, and the arrival of humans, language, and math. The teacher designs each lesson using stories, music, impressionistic charts, experiments, and games. The idea is always to inspire.
The child learns to love these studies because the academic work is continually adapted to the interests of the child; the child comes first, not the curriculum. Rather than following the traditional “structure of knowledge” by presenting facts as belonging to biology, zoology, botany, history, geography, physics, chemistry, religion, etc. The Great Lessons present a holistic vision of knowledge, drawing on material from the various disciplines as needed. Characteristically, Montessori takes the children from the whole to the parts and back to the whole again. In this way, each academic area emerges naturally from the whole narrative and continually refers back to it.
Elementary children can work together to do research, plan and execute projects, and share them with other members of the class. They learn to work in multi-age and multi-ability groups, making use of the interests and abilities of all. From the teacher’s example, the child learns how to teach. This facilitates social development, creativity, and independent thinking. Several studies show that people learn better when working collaboratively than when working alone (Lillard, 2005).
Most importantly, an environment is provided in which the concentration of the individual child is respected. The children exercise conflict resolution through their community by allowing student input and developing a class council. The teacher acts as the arbitrator of the group. The child’s sense of compassion and empathy is exercised through service projects and community events outside the classroom. Montessori wants the child to understand and practice appreciation and respect towards others and towards all other parts of the universe.
Montessori teachers’ expectations are high. Children are expected to achieve a good deal both academically and socially. They achieve this in part by their own self-control. The Montessori teacher’s goal is clearly the child’s self-regulation; the teacher’s task is well done when the teacher is needed only to give additional lessons. The teacher’s aim is to help children toward independence-to endorse their autonomy- while providing whatever guidance is necessary to ensure that the children make good decisions and engage in productive behaviors as they work toward that goal. Dr. Montessori endorsed authoritative parenting, high warmth and high control. She believed there was no such thing as a bad child, only children with unfulfilled needs (Montessori, 1989, p.78). An ability to observe children and detect their needs is fundamental to good Montessori teaching. At First Montessori Academy we hire the best certified Montessori teachers with many years of experience. Our elementary teacher has over twenty years of experience. Ms. Stefanie holds Montessori certification in primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-9). Additionally, she is an elementary certified teacher in the State of Florida, earned her Master of Arts degree in Early Childhood, and has a graduate degree in School Leadership.
Lillard, Angeline Stoll (2005). Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Oxford: NYC.
Montessori, M (1989). The child, society, and the world: Unpublished speeches and writings (Vol. 7). Oxford: Clio.