A Montessori Education
Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori is an educational Philosophy based on the tenet that children learn best within a social environment which supports their unique development. In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori created "The Montessori Method of Education," based on her observations of young children's behavior. Her dynamic theories included these premises:
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another
- Children create themselves and learn best through purposeful, experiential activity.
- Children possess exceptional sensitivities and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment.
Our Academic Approach
Our Academic Curriculum is based on the Montessori Method of Education. In order to fully understand our appreciation for this philosophy and how it perfectly fits with the other components of our Program, we must begin with Maria Montessori herself - her mind and her own development. As a child, Maria Montessori would make friends with those less fortunate such as the hunchback girl in her neighborhood, she would create peace wherever and whenever she could and she would comfort a friend who was struggling academically to find peace and joy being right where she was. She was, at heart, a peacemaker and a champion for all those she met to know their fullest and highest potential. These qualities and insights led this young woman into a lifelong inquiry of the development of the intellect and of the child as he/she relates to the world around him.
After graduating from the University of Rome's Medical School as the first female Doctor in Italy, Maria quickly joined the University's Psychiatric Clinic. During her time there, she frequently visited the children's ward and "became convinced that these mentally deficient children could profit from special education." Shortly thereafter, she was given the opportunity to apply her theories with the developmentally disabled children. What she concluded from her work was amazing - these children could learn many, many things... Things that others had thought to be impossible. These developmentally disabled children were not only able to learn a few novel tasks, but were able to learn to read & write so well that several of the children were able to pass an examination that allowed them to attend school with "normal" children. While the rest of the world marveled at this amazing feat, Maria Montessori was not content to stop there. She "became convinced that similar methods applied to "normal" children would develop or set free their personality in a marvelous, surprising way." In 1907, she opened Casa De Bambini in San Lorenzo, Italy and did just that. The results were even more remarkable than she had even expected and thus began the creation of the Montessori Philosophy of Education.
The importance of sharing this brief background of the Montessori Method is not to provide an interesting History Lesson, but rather to point to the value of choosing this match for our curriculum. Not only are Maria Montessori's practices effective, but it is her belief in the Human Spirit, her conviction that magic & magnificence lies within each and every being and all that is required to bring it forth is an environment that inspires them and facilitators who see the possibilities that are alive within every child.
Our Academic Program seeks to deliver on the belief and commitment that Maria Montessori initiated over 100 years ago. In order to do so, we will create an environment that inspires each student to learn about themselves, each other and the world around them and provides tools so that each child may develop a strong foundation by which to go forth into the world and successfully live their dreams and achieve their goals. It is important to realize that learning begins from birth and that the fundamental process of how children learn is laid down very early in life.
We will utilize the core components of the Montessori Method which include;
Utilizing the Montessori Materials to teach Concrete to Abstract - The basis of our approach is the simple observation that children learn most effectively through direct experience and the process of investigation and discovery. In her studies of children's learning, Dr. Montessori noted that most children do not learn by memorizing what they hear from their teachers or read in a text, but rather from concrete experience and direct interaction with the environment. Children need to manipulate and explore everything that catches their interest. Montessori materials are used for mathematics, sensory development, language, science, history, and geography.
The Montessori learning materials are not the method itself, but rather tools that we use to stimulate the child into logical thought and discovery. They are provocative and simple; each carefully designed to appeal to children at a given level of development.
Multi-Aged Classrooms - Our classes are organized to encompass a three-year age span, which allows younger students to experience the daily stimulation of older role models, who in turn blossom in the responsibilities of leadership. Students not only learn "with" each other, but "from" each other. We find that most often the best tutor is a fellow student who is just a bit older.
Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. Each class is an essentially stable community, with only the oldest third moving on to the next level each year.
The age range also allows gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade and feel emotionally out of place while supporting those that are struggling not to feel "less than" their peers.
A Complete and Integrated Curriculum - Our classes are organized into several areas of curricula. We emphasized a total language approach to teaching language arts, where aspects of this important subject touch all other subject areas. Language arts study includes pre-reading, reading, literature, grammar and writing.
Other curricular areas are mathematics, everyday living skills, sensory awareness, geography, cultural studies, science, art, music, movement and social graces. In all areas, there is an emphasis on the sensory aspect of each experience. In mathematics for example, the thousand-bead cube is a thousand times as heavy and a thousand times as big as the tiny single bead. Likewise, whole concepts are taught before individual parts. In geography for example, children are taught that Earth is made up of land, water and air. The land is gathered together into continents, and the continents are divided into countries.
The Spontaneous Interest of Children - Providing opportunities to Follow the Child's Interest and create opportunities for deep concentration due to the interest and desire to learn.
Repetition - Children, especially young children, have a tendency and need to repeat the same thing over and over again. By giving the child the opportunity to repeat something over and over again, it gives the child a sense of freedom and fulfills the psychological need not necessarily understood by the adult mind.
The Love for Order - A child's need for order varies from an adult's desire to have everything in place. "The child's love of order is based on a vital need for a precise and determined environment…It is not objects in place that he is identifying through his special sensitivity to order, but the relationship between objects." She discovered that this Love for Order was innate in young children. If this was not allowed to be fostered and developed in a child before the age of about 3 ½ that it was likely that it would never be truly developed in the child later on.
Sensitive Periods of Development - Sensitive Periods are blocks of time in a child's life when he is absorbed with one characteristic of his environment to the exclusion of others. These periods arise out of a child's "intense desire to make contact with his world." The following are the Five Sensitive Periods of Development:
- The Need for Order - as described earlier.
- The Use of Hand and Tongue - The development of fine & gross motor skills and language.
- The Development of Walking - When a child goes from being helpless to active.
- A Fascination with Minute and Detailed Objects -
- Intense Social Interest
Understanding that children have sensitive periods and what they are allowed Montessori to develop her method rooted in the needs of the child. The Montessori Method takes into account the "absorbent mind" and therefore, creating an environment that supports these needs and allows the child to develop wholly.
Freedom of Choice - By creating a prepared environment and giving children the opportunities to move freely throughout the classroom, children learn independence and gain confidence. While we follow the child, we also pay attention to what areas are being avoided and then work to inspire the child to become interested. In general, children do not choose work, they aren't confident in their abilities to do. We must develop their confidence by looking to the child for ways to excite and interest them.
Respect for the children - Children have a need to protect their dignity. If adults fail to respect it, "their souls may remain wounded, ulcerated and oppressed in a way adults seldom realize." Therefore, we will create an environment where all people felt respected and honored. We will do so by keeping materials at their level, by asking their opinion and by getting on their level to speak to them.
Writing - Maria Montessori believed that the hand was a child's first instrument and thus taught them sounds by having them trace sandpaper letters with their fore and middle fingers. She believed this to be a preparation for reading, but to her amazement, one day after asking a small child to draw a picture of a chimney with chalk; the child began to write. The work done by the young children in Practical Lie and Sensorial strengthen their muscles in their hands and then by tracing with their fingers, the children begin to develop muscle memory. Writing after this strong foundation becomes a natural by-product done with confidence.
The Discovery of Reading - Reading is taught in four steps. The first step is teaching phonetic sounds and ten by beginning to teach the blending of sounds. We begin by blending three-letter phonetic words. Once that has become natural and the child has confidence, we move to blending longer words, 4 or more letter words, still all completely phonetic. Sight Words are also added. Finally, once blending has been mastered, sight words are mastered and all sounds are mastered, then we begin teaching the exceptions… "o-u words, "s-h" words, silent 'e' and so on.
Self-Discipline - Teachers are taught to make observations and alter the environment to serve the needs of the children. By doing so, we find that the children became relaxed and happy. These children who may have at some point been initially disruptive and unruly become self-disciplined and self-motivated. It is our experience that so long as a child is engaged the discipline emerges from within. This also perfectly fits with our discipline philosophy of Redirecting Children's Behavior. A child who is acting up repeatedly in this environment, almost always has an educational need that has not yet been addressed and no amount of punishment would "fix" the behavior. Once, the teacher has identified the child's need and created opportunities for the child to successfully be able to choose work that he/she could complete, the behavior generally then disappears.
Dr Montessori suggested we "follow the child" - that is, observe each individual child - to find out how to best help that child reach his innate human potential. Village Gate Children's Academy classes and courses of study are based upon this profound view.
This does not mean we avoid challenges to avoid failure. On the contrary, each child is intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually stimulated. We approach each challenge carefully and intelligently, encouraging trial and error, and with full knowledge of differing learning paces and styles and developmental stages. And, we guide our students through the challenge successfully, without moving on until an activity or a concept is mastered.
In a world of rapid chance and new discoveries, we can only guess the skills our children will need to succeed in the 21st century. Now, more than ever, the essential lesson is learning how to learn.
The most important years in our children's education are not high school and college, but, instead, they are the first twelve years of life. This is when the character and values, self-image, basic-skills and knowledge, and appreciation for culture and the arts are formed.
Village Gate offers our children a world-class education, along with an education of the heart, which nurtures their self-confidence, personal creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit.
It offers them a challenging academic program and an awareness of community - both within the classroom and the greater community - and a strong Community Service Program so that children gain the opportunity to contribute and to realize the difference they are able to make in the lives of another.
We fully see the possibilities inherent on our children as they truly come to love learning and begin to discover their true potential as young men and women. Our Program seeks provide the fertile ground by which each child can experience the magnificence of who they are and provide tools by which to fulfill their purpose and live their dreams.
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