The Absorbent Mind
As a medical doctor, Maria Montessori observed children from a scientific perspective. Montessori uses the term “absorbent mind” to describe how much of a child’s learning is subconscious and without effort.
During a sensitive period, a child will have a very strong desire or ability for acquiring a certain skill or type of knowledge. From birth until the age of 3, sensory experiences are dominant. Language development occurs primarily between the ages of 1 ½ to 3. Writing soon follows, between the ages of 3 to 4 ½, and reading takes place from the ages of 4 ½ to 5 ½.
The Prepared Environment
Dr. Montessori created her curriculum in response to the interests of the child. The classroom design and materials support both the absorbent mind and the sensitive periods. She referred to this specially-designed classroom as the “prepared environment”. This environment meets the needs of the young child for movement, order and language. The environment is prepared in five major areas: practical life, sensorial, language, math, and cultural subjects. One of the purposes of the prepared environment is for children to learn from their experiences without restrictions of time.
Mixed age groups free children to enjoy their own accomplishment rather than comparing themselves to others. Older children provide leadership and guidance, and benefit from the satisfaction of helping others. Younger children are encouraged by attention and help from older children. Children easily learn to respect others and at the same time develop respect for their own individuality.
Ground rules lay the foundation for the young child to balance the needs of his/her self and the needs of others. Having clear and consistent expectations fosters independence, order, concentration and coordination in a safe and predictable environment.
These procedures include:
- The use of a soft speaking voice inside the classroom
- Walking versus running in the classroom
- Exercising the ability to select a material
- Taking the material to a table or rug
- Using the materials with care and respect
- Returning the material to its original position on the shelf
- Pushing in one’s chair
- Asking permission to join another child’s activity
- Not harming or hurting any living thing
Circle time is a teacher-directed activity that takes place at the beginning of the day. This activity encourages social, emotional, physical and academic growth by interacting in a group setting. During circle, the teacher introduces age-appropriate activities related to academic subjects, songs, calendar, role-playing, grace and courtesy lessons, and more. Consider this time the heart of the philosophy and the success of our program; this time brings children together and allows them to experience a sense of community.