What is Montessori Kindergarten? One of the top questions I get from friends and parents is “Should I pull my child from an early childhood classroom to go into kindergarten?” There are a lot of reasons why parents feel pressure to make this decision. Private schools often fill their classes at Kindergarten, public school is “free” and maybe more convenient, and not to mention all the social, emotional, and academic pressures on development. Many Montessori schools are now offering Kindergarten in a separate classroom, often a separate building, away from the early childhood multiage classroom environment.
Montessori Kindergarten / Multi-age Classroom
Materials Extend Across a Developmental Range
Starting from Day one in the Montessori classroom, children literally “get their hands on” learning materials across all aspects of learning topics. The materials are mutual-dimensional and can be applied at various points throughout a child’s development as he progresses in the classroom. So, children have the opportunity to explore again and again the same materials at different points.
Often parents worry that the younger children in the classroom will distract the teachers and take attention away from the older children. This is not the case. Older children benefit from the ability to lead younger children. Leading, whether in guiding a new student or giving a bit of attention to a younger student who may be having a difficult time away from his parents, is a critical experience for a young child. These “soft” skills are vital in emotional and social development of the child.
Many parents worry that if their child is the oldest in the classroom then he will not be challenged academically. In multiage classrooms, teachers engage older children to “give” lessons to younger children. Younger children are encouraged to observe the older child’s more advanced work, while older children benefit from the ability to teach the younger children.
Older children model more sophisticated, complex problem solving and critical thinking. So, younger children are able to develop skills without the guidance of an adult teacher. In other words, if it weren’t for the older child, the younger child would most likely have to seek, or rely on, the adult. So, the younger child develops independence and feels secure about his capabilities.
Consistent Teacher, Consistent Classroom
The child and her teacher are able to truly get to know and to trust one another over the years. The child becomes intimately familiar with the environment, and begins to understand himself as a learner and as a person of the world. The classroom community is strong and family like in the children and teachers supporting and caring for one another.
Child Led, Customized to Development
Younger children learn from observing and older children won’t feel “held back” or ‘behind” in a multi age classroom. The “four year old” who doesn’t recognize letters yet is not labelled as “behind” in a multiage classroom. The develops at her own pace. There is a range of typical development. The child has years to develop the skills, rather than a shorter amount of time under loads of pressure. So the child progresses according to his ability. Perhaps more importantly, the child sees himself as a unique individual able to learn as he needs to learn. He is able to take control of his learning, to own it. The result is a lifelong love of learning. The child discovers reading, writing, math, science, geography, and so on on his own. That is powerful.
Teacher Has Space & Time to Challenge the Child
Are you worried that your child will be bored? If you are concerned that your child is advanced and has blown through the curriculum in the early childhood classroom, remember that the teacher has the opportunity and the ability to move into topics well suited for your child’s development. Your child might be a scientist ready to design his own experiments, or a reader digging deep into Chapter Books and ready for reading comprehension activities like books reports and writing his own stories. The possibilities are quite endless.
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