Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The classroom


The Montessori environment is a "child size world". Whatever is in the world outside can be incorporated meaningfully in the Montessori classroom. To a child, the world is is too big, too complex and too confusing. By careful presentation of Montessori Material by the Directress, a special environment, a child-sized world, is created. The materials and activities in this environment are self-correcting and are designed to stimulate independent exploration on a level that the child can understand. He can proceed at his own pace from simple activities to more complex ones. Through this process, the child's natural curiosity is satisfied and he begins to experience the joy of discovering the world about him.

The Directress in a Montessori class assumes the role of the 'go-between' the child and the material. She maintains the environment, including stimulating activities and removing obstacles. She demonstrates the apparatus and encourages the child to experience it, thus allowing that child to teach himself through his own activity. Most of all, the Directress observes each and every child closely and carefully, in order to help overcome his difficulties, redirecting his interest when necessary, and enticing him with new and more challenging tasks when she sees there is a need for it.

In a Montessori classroom, a child has 'Freedom". Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems for himself, but is capable of asking for, and receiving direction when needed. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, but is a slave to his immediate desires and is excessively dependant on others. The free child grows into a free adult. Doing what he wants to do does not make him free, doing what is right does. With all this freedom one might wonder if there is no confusion. The concept of 'Freedom' in the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely, as long as he does not disturb others. Children having the freedom to follow their interests are generally happy and are busily involved in their work.

Dr. Montessori observed, that at certain age periods, a child shows an unusual interest and sensitivity to acquire a particular skill or another. She called them, 'Sensitive periods'. The Montessori programme is a unique cycle of learning designed to take advantage of these 'Sensitive periods'. The child learns to talk during his 'Sensitive period for language'. This occurs during the first four years of his life and at no other time in his life will he be able to tackle this challenge with such persistence, energy, independence and intelligence. The child, at certain times in his life will show an equivalent passion for order, precise movement, for learning words and numbers and even socialising.

Children of different ages and abilities make up a Montessori classroom. They become used to working individually and in group situations. Socialising is very much a part of the Montessori method. In the room, you will notice children interacting continually, choosing to work on projects together and older children helping younger ones. Each day there is some group activity, singing and play as well.

We believe that the more the parents can understand the experiences of their child in the classroom, the better they are able to reinforce the learning at home. This provides a consistent environment in which to grow and develop. The child's activities at school can be reinforced by allowing him to be involved in household tasks; making it easier for him to take care of himself, slowing down occasionally to his rate of doing things, accepting the child for who he is, which all lead to learning for life, and inner discipline.

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