The Montessori Philosophy
The school serves 70-80 children a year. From the earliest days, the Center has maintained a strong commitment to a racially and economically diverse student population. Our admission policies continue to reflect this commitment.
In keeping with the principles and teaching of Maria Montessori, KHMC has adopted the following core values to guide behavior among students, parents and staff:
Diversity, Respect, Peace, Relationships, Honesty, Compassion
Dr. Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870, developed an educational theory and practice that has been adopted by early childhood centers worldwide. For many years, children of widely diverse cultural and economic groups have benefited from her keen observation of and respect for, the work children do in the construction of their individual personalities – what she called “the development of the human potential.”
In the United States, her method is experiencing a re-birth of major proportions. Early childhood educators have recognized the validity of her observation that thinking in young children is directly tied to their interactions with people and materials. Young children learn best and most by actively exploring their environment, using hands-on materials and building upon their natural curiosity to make sense of the world about them.
Montessorians can agree whole-heartedly with the developmentally appropriate curriculum defined by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In such a program, children select from among activities the teacher has prepared and those initiated by the children themselves. Children spend most of their time working individually or in small groups. Children are allowed to move at their own pace to acquire important skills. Because children will be at varying levels of skill acquisition, the classroom contains materials for a wide range of development interests. Teachers add more complex materials or ideas to the environment based on their observation of a child’s needs.
We recognize that learning for young children does not thrive in narrowly defined subject areas. Skills in reading and math are incorporated into a variety of activities such as geography, science, art, music, cooking, etc. Equally important, we understand that learning must take place within an atmosphere that fosters a sense of belonging, self-confidence and respect for the rights of others.
The State of Ohio licenses the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center. All our teachers are certified by the American Montessori Society (AMS) or the Association Montessori International (AMI).
The Montessori Philosophy is rich and complete and all true Montessori schools will follow the same principles. The following information provides an overview of this universal philosophy.
“I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method.” – Maria Montessori
The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life. It is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. Its flexibility provides a matrix within which each individual child’s inner directives freely guide the child toward wholesome growth.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. The children’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration and joyful self-discipline. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities.
The transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental planes. Montessori practice changes in scope and manner to embrace the child’s changing characteristics and interests.
- The first plane of development occurs from birth to age six. At this stage, children are sensorial explorers, constructing their intellects by absorbing every aspect of their environment, their language and their culture.
- From age 6 to 12, children become conceptual explorers. They develop their powers of abstraction and imagination, and apply their knowledge to discover and expand their worlds further.
- The years between 12 and 18 see the children become humanistic explorers, seeking to understand their place in society and their opportunity to contribute to it.
- From 18 to 24, as young adults, they become specialized explorers, seeking a niche from which to contribute to universal dialogue.
There are prepared environments for children at each successive developmental plane. These environments allow them to take responsibility for their own education, giving them the opportunity to become human beings able to function independently and hence interdependently.
“Beyond the more obvious reasons why it is sensible to group the ages three by three, such as the little ones learn from the older children and the older ones learn by teaching the younger, every child can work at his own pace and rhythm, eliminating the bane of competition, there is the matter of order and discipline easily maintained even in very large classes with only one adult in charge. This is due to the sophisticated balance between liberty and discipline prevalent in Montessori classrooms, established at the very inception of a class. Children who have acquired the fine art of working freely in a structured environment, joyfully assume responsibility for upholding this structure, contributing to the cohesion of their social unit.”
Montessori classrooms are designed for a three year age mix (three to six, six to twelve, twelve to fifteen) which allows for both individual and social development.
The role of a Montessori teacher is that of an observer whose ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the child develops. The teacher creates an atmosphere of calm, order and joy in the classroom and is there to help and encourage the children in all their efforts, allowing them to develop self-confidence and inner discipline. With the younger students at each level, the teacher is more active, demonstrating the use of materials and presenting activities based on an assessment of the child’s requirements. Knowing how to observe constructively and when, and how much, to intervene, is one of the most important talents the Montessori teacher acquires during a rigorous course of training at AMI training centres throughout the world.
Assistants to Infancy (2 months to 3 years)
The first three years of life are the most fundamental in the development of human beings and their potential. The infant’s physical development is phenomenal and apparent and inspires our care and attention. Yet a profound and less obvious development is taking place within the child. Montessori refers to the child at this period as the spiritual embryo. A second embryonic period occurs after birth during the first three years of life when the child’s intelligence is formed, when the child acquires the culture and language into which he or she is born. It is a period when the core of personality, social being and the essence of spiritual life are developed. An understanding of the child’s development and the development of the human mind allows environments to be prepared to meet the needs of the infant and foster independence, psychomotor development and language acquisition.
For children under the age of three, there are two Montessori environments. The Parent-Infant class provides a setting in which parents and their children, aged two to sixteen months, are gathered under the care of a trained adult. After they begin to walk, the children join the toddler group where their primary motor coordination, independence and language are cultivated. Rather than a classroom, it is a nurturing environment where very young children experience their first structured contact with other children.
Casa dei Bambini (3 to 6 years)
Children of this age possess what Dr. Montessori called the Absorbent Mind. This type of mind has the unique and transitory ability to absorb all aspects physical, mental, spiritual of the environment, without effort or fatigue. As an aid to the child’s self-construction, individual work is encouraged. The following areas of activity cultivate the children’s ability to express themselves and think with clarity.
Practical Life exercises instill care for themselves, for others, and for the environment. The activities include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily life in their home washing and ironing, doing the dishes, arranging flowers, etc. Elements of human conviviality are introduced with the exercises of grace and courtesy. Through these and other activities, children develop muscular coordination, enabling movement and the exploration of their surroundings. They learn to work at a task from beginning to end, and develop their will (defined by Dr. Montessori as the intelligent direction of movement), their self-discipline and their capacity for total concentration.
Sensorial Materials are tools for development. Children build cognitive efficacy, and learn to order and classify impressions. They do this by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, and exploring the physical properties of their environment through the mediation of specially-designed materials.
Language is vital to human existence. The Montessori environment provides rich and precise language.
“When the children come into the classroom at around three years of age, they are given in the simplest way possible the opportunity to enrich the language they have acquired during their small lifetime and to use it intelligently, with precision and beauty, becoming aware of its properties not by being taught, but by being allowed to discover and explore these properties themselves. If not harassed, they will learn to write, and as a natural consequence to read, never remembering the day they could not write or read in the same way that they do not remember that once upon a time they could not walk.”
Geography, History, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art and Music are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about other cultures past and present, and this allows their innate respect and love for their environment to flourish, creating a sense of solidarity with the global human family and its habitat.
Experiences with nature in conjunction with the materials in the environment inspire a reverence for all life. History is presented to the children through art and an intelligent music programme.
The mathematics materials help the child learn and understand mathematical concepts by working with concrete materials. This work provides the child with solid underpinnings for traditional mathematical principles, providing a structured scope for abstract reasoning.
Elementary (6 to 12 years)
Elementary children, typically, can be characterised by their questioning minds, their ability to abstract and imagine, their moral and social orientation and their unlimited energy for research and exploration. They move from the concrete through their own efforts and discovery to the abstract – thus greatly expanding their field of knowledge.
In a research style of learning, elementary children work in small groups on a variety of projects which spark the imagination and engage the intellect. Lessons given by a trained Montessori teacher direct the children toward activities which help them to develop reasoning abilities and learn the arts of life.
Children, at this age, are driven to understand the universe and their place in it and their capacity to assimilate all aspects of culture is boundless. Elementary studies include geography, biology, history, language, mathematics in all its branches, science, music and art. Exploration of each area is encouraged through trips outside the classroom to community resources, such as library, planetarium, botanical garden, science centre, factory, hospital, etc. This inclusive approach to education fosters a feeling of connectedness to all humanity, and encourages their natural desire to make contributions to the world.
Erdkinder (12 to 18 years)
The Montessori program for children aged 12 to 18 years is based on the recognition of the special characteristics of adolescence. Adolescence is an age of great social development, an age of critical thinking and re-evaluation, and a period of self-concern and self-assessment. It is a transition from childhood to adulthood with the corresponding physical, mental and sexual maturation. In early puberty the adolescent finds it hard to concentrate on academic and structured learning. Above all adolescence is like an odyssey – an arduous yet exciting adventure – where the adolescent tries to find his or her place in the world.
Dr. Montessori recommended that the adolescent should spend a period of time in the country away from the environment of the family. This would provide an opportunity to study civilisation through its origin in agriculture. She suggested they should live in a hostel which they would learn to manage and open a shop where sale of produce would bring in the fundamental mechanics of society, production and exchange on which economic life is based. She outlined a general plan for their studies and work but believed that the program which she called “Erdkinder” (German for “land children”) could only be developed from experience.