"An individual is disciplined when he is the master of himself and when he can, as a consequence, control himself when he must follow a rule of life."
The Knysna Montessori School environment and teaching methods are based on Dr Maria Montessori's philosophy and methodology. These methods primarily view all aspects of the human self (cognitive, social, emotional, spiritual and physical) as equally important and interrelated. The Montessori approach centres on using and empowering all these aspects of self, as well as developing self-discipline, independence, respect and tolerance for others and their cultures.
Discipline through liberty:
Montessori education is neither disorganized nor undisciplined. Freedom within the environment can only exist where rules are obeyed. The freedom given to students is to do what is right, not what is wrong. The order of a Montessori classroom is not the structure of a conventional classroom. Students are empowered and free to master skills at their own pace, to move and choose activities, to work alone or with others, to evolve their own patterns and rhythms and to discover what interests and satisfies them. Students are not, however, free to disturb other students, harm equipment or act against, rather than for, the common good. Good behaviour is shown to be sensible and desirable, and self-discipline the ultimate aim.
The importance of self-confidence:
In Montessori education, emotional security is of utmost importance. Children who are emotionally insecure do not develop mentally and physically to their full potential. Therefore, children are helped to gain self-confidence and security through encouragement and praise. Through working confidently and willingly within the class, children develop concentration.
Working from the concrete to the abstract:
Another underlying principle of Montessori education is learning through experiencing concept first in the concrete in order to later understand them in the abstract. This is done through the use of specially designed Montessori materials, to be found in all Montessori classes, from pre-school to middle school.
Montessori's curriculum approach is often referred to as cosmic education, because it gives children a mental picture of the greater scheme of the universe, and is by nature inter-disciplinary. Cosmic education involves the process of leading children to their research and exploration by giving them a vision of the whole picture of reality. This is usually taught through five great stories or timelines that are loosely connected and broadly based.
Different planes of development:
Montessori has divided children's development towards adulthood into four planes or stages of development, each with their own individual characteristics and sensitive periods, on which emphasis is placed. The Knysna Montessori School focuses on the first three planes of development.
- The first plane (0 - 6 years): During this plane, children focus on their physical being, learn through the concrete and form their fundamental character.
- The second plane (6 - 12 years): The second plane is considered the 'Age of Reason and Mental Activity'. During this stage children focus on their intelligence, learn through reasoning, imagination and logic, cross the bridge from the concrete to the abstract and are curious about the universe, creation and all aspects of life.
- The third plane (12 - 18 years): During the third plane of development, children focus on their value system, adjust to the physical changes, establish autonomy from parents, become intensely socially conscious and create a sense of identity. It is also the age of economic independence. This plane is divided into early adolescence, ages 12 - 15 and later adolescence, ages 15 - 18. The later adolescent phase becomes more academic in nature and subjects are no longer integrated.
- The fourth plane (18 - 24 years): The fourth and last plane of development is the plane towards maturity. During this plane young adults become part of society, start to play an active role within their community and answer their vocational calling.
Three year age groups:
Classes are divided into three-year age groups, corresponding with the different planes of development. There are many social and mental advantages to this grouping: older students can help younger, all students have the opportunity to learn through observation. Students also work at their own pace and fast learners not held back. The classes at the Knysna Montessori School are divided as follows:
- 2 - 3 year olds
- 3 - 6 year olds
- 6 - 9 year olds
- 9 - 12 year olds
- 12 - 15 year olds
- 15 - 18 year olds
For further information on each class, follow the links on this page.