WHY CONTINUE IN
by Tim Seldin
Having sent a child to Montessori for the first three years, by now you have probably got a young person who is very full of herself, very self assured, independent, and who absolutely loves to go to school.
As your child approaches the end of her third year in the Children’s House, I know that you are giving careful thought as to wether or not to continue with Montessori. Having had the gift of this sort of education myself through high school, and having seen my five children blossom in Montessori at the elementary level and beyond, I want to encourage you to remember that an investment in a fine education pays the best dividends. In the elementary Montessori program at your school, your children will have the opportunity to learn absolutely amazing things!
One of the things that you will see when you enter their new elementary classroom is joy, excitement and enthusiasm. These are not children who are given workbooks and simplistic assignments to do over and over again. These will normally become deeply engaged in work that they will find interesting, meaningful, and often intriguing.
You will find that the elementary Montessori curriculum is highly enriched and challenging.
It is organized into three streams:
The first stream is the Mastery of Fundamental Skills and the acquisition of Basic, or Core, Knowledge. During the elementary years, Montessori students study all the basics found in a traditional curriculum, such as the memorization of math facts, spelling lessons, and the study of vocabulary, grammar, sentence analysis, creative and expository writing, and library research skills. But there is so much more to Montessori than the “Basics”! Elementary Montessori students explore realm of mathematics, science and technology, the world of myth, great literature, history, world geography, civics, economics, anthropology, and the basic organization of human societies.
In this second stream of Montessori curriculum are found what we call “Great Lessons”. These are key areas of interconnected studies that are traditionally presented to all elementary Montessori students. They include the story of how the world came to be, the development of life on the Earth, the story of humankind, the development of our language and writing, and the development of mathematics and technology. They are intended to give children a “cosmic” perspective of the Earth and humanity’s place within the cosmos.
The third stream of Montessori curriculum is Individually Chosen Research. As their proficiency in reading and composition grows, elementary Montessori students are encouraged to explore ever topic that captures their imagination. Students rarely use textbooks. They do a great deal of independent reading and library research. They gather information, assemble reports and portfolios and handmade books of their own, and teach what they have learned to their friends. Their oral presentations and written research reports grow in sophistication and complexity over the years.
At elementary level, learning will continue to be a hands-on experience, as students learn by trial, error and discovery.
The old familiar Montessori materials continue to become more sophisticated. For example, in mathematics, the advanced elementary Montessori materials move on to more complex and abstract concepts in mathematics, such as long multiplication and division, operations with simple and decimal fractions, geometry, and pre-algebra.
The learning materials with which students work in the elementary program are so exciting, starting with the great lessons. For example the Timeline of Life tells the story about the history of the Earth beginning with the Big Bang and the formation of the stars, leading down the geological eras of Earth’s history and the emergence of life over the millennia. These Great Lessons engage children and then send them off to do all kinds of research, which they are allowed to do on their own rate and their own pace. When students are excited about something and feel connected to it in their environment, that’s where real learning takes place, and that’s where Montessori shines.
Montessori helps children to be flexible, self-disciplined, independent learners and self-actualized adults. We all want our children to be able to “Whatever I have to master or learn, I can figure it out, I can find the information, I can learn it, I can apply it.” That is essentially what we strive to nurture in the elementary program.
Think about your Montessori child as she has grow thus far as he or she nears the end of the third year in the Children’s House or Casa as you call it in Canada. Now think ahead. What would you like to see your son or daughter be like at age 18?
If your dreams include a young man or young woman who truly loves school, thinks outside the box, thinks about others, then you’ve certainly done the right thing by giving your child the gift of a Montessori education. You’ve laid the right foundation.
Like me, like my family, and like so many million others like us, you’ve taken the first step. And now the question is what’s next?
I invite you to join us, and let your child reap the benefits of continuing her Montessori education. The best is yet to come.
Tim Seldin is the President of The Montessori Foundation and Chair of The International Montessori Council in Terra Ceia Island, FL.