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Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. – Maria Montessori
There are several good reasons to choose a Montessori education for your pre-school little one. Maria Montessori believed that all children have an especially absorbent mind and they desire to explore their environment using their senses to become independent. She identified the sensitive periods that each child goes through which helps him/her to develop his/her full potential. To this end the classrooms at the Knysna Montessori School are configured to nurture these periods and help the child reach his/her potential.
The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn – Maria Montessori
How is this achieved?
The prepared environment (the classroom) and the observations of each child by the teacher(s) helps to achieve this goal. All activities are displayed in the classroom on individual trays or baskets. Maria Montessori developed these activities to engage the child’s hands and mind and to satisfy his/her need for movement. What may seem like boring repetition or simply mindless playing to an adult is in fact a wonderful learning experience to a child. Many objectives – both direct and indirect – are met as hands and intellect work together.
Children are grouped together in a three year age range – this is true throughout the entire school from Pre-school to high school – and ensures that younger children learn from the older children who in turn are reinforcing what they have learnt previously. Other benefits include gaining leadership skills and assumed responsibilities for the well-being of the group, thus providing an environment in which a child develops socially, intellectually and emotionally.
‘A unique and special learning experience’
Activities in the classroom are divided into five main areas and the child has the opportunity to work with and explore that activity after it has been shown to him/her by a teacher. Children then have the choice of working either independently, with a group, or a special friend. Groups form spontaneously offering the child a chance to socialise, play and learn.
How this works
The morning session offers a three hour “work” cycle – in other words, there is no fixed timetable. The child works at his/her own pace and after being shown how to work with an activity is given the freedom to explore each activity for as long or as little as he/she wishes. As there is only one activity available at a time this encourages turn-taking, grace, and courtesy skills – essential skills needed for the adult the child will become.
The Teacher’s (directress’) Role
The role of the teacher in the classroom is one of observation and guidance. The teacher/directress keeps individual learning plans for each child and is thus able to keep track of what the child has worked on and what the next “challenge” should be. The teacher does not interfere with the child’s work as long as he/she is working productively but will step in with appropriate assistance if difficulties arise.
The teacher observes and encourages the child through each activity. The child always works at his/her own pace. Through careful observation each child’s individual needs are assessed and new activities are introduced only when developmentally ready, ensuring that new knowledge is built upon what the child already knows. In this way the child explores the activities in the classroom and this results in an innate love of learning.
In the infant/toddler environment (18 months – 3 years) Knysna Montessori School endeavours to provide the child with:
- A safe environment
- To trust him/herself and his/her world
- Opportunity to develop confidence and independence in daily tasks
- Opportunity to develop language skills
- A love of nature (there is a mini farm yard the older children care for and the younger children often visit as a learning experience)
In this environment (3 years – 6 years) including Grade R, Knysna Montessori School endeavours to provide the child with all of the above as well as:
- The opportunity to foster his/her own functional independence
- Social development
- Emotional development
- Refinement of the sensory perception
- Mathematical and literacy understanding
- Imaginative exploration – first based in reality
- Life-long love of learning
In an authentic Montessori School the following goals are always present:
- Protect, nurture, and unveil the potential of the child.
- Create a solid foundation for life-long learning.
- Prepare the child for life’s many rich experiences.
- Knysna Montessori School endeavours to follow this philosophy.
Synopsis of original article by Lisette Niemand
(Pre-school Head – B.A. Degree; MCI International Diploma (UK) and MCI (UK) Teacher Trainer)
Pre School Staff:
Head: Mrs B Brownsen: AMI Montessori, State Colorado Professional Teaching License
Ms T Smurfit: Montessori Diploma (College of Modern Montessori) & ACE (NWU)
Ms J Keyser: Montessori Diploma (College of Modern Montessori)
Classroom assistants: Marlene Jantjies, Modie Mbonde, Hilda Jantjies