When children are 2½ to 3½ and ready to broaden their horizons by joining a classroom community away from their family, it is a good time to start. It is possible that there will only be a handful of openings at the beginning of each school year, therefore, parents are encouraged to take a classroom tour, observe, and apply a full year before the child will be ready to attend.
• A carefully prepared learning environment and method encourages development of internal self-discipline and intrinsic moviation.
• Child is an active participant in learning, allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment, teacher is a facilitator and guide.
• Child is provided opportunities to choose own work from interest and abilities.
• Child allowed to spot own errors through feedback from the materials, errors are viewed as part of the learning process.
Dr. Montessori found that the children learn best when they are most comfortable in their environment. The consistency of coming to school every day allows them to be comfortable enough to take risks and make mistakes, therefore having the greatest opportunity to learn.
It was the experience of Dr. Montessori, and many educators have since concurred, that children learn best in a mixed, 3 year age group. She advocated for classrooms designed for 3- to 6-year-olds, 6- to 9-year-olds, 9- to 12-year-olds and so forth.
Mixed age classrooms provide stability. By staying in the same classroom for three years, the children form solid relationships and a sense of community with both their peers and their teachers. The culture of the room remains calm and stable when two-thirds of the class returns each year.
Moreover, mixed age groupings enable children to perceive and model a wide range of behavior. This setting also provides the child with a broad array of friends from which to choose and the possibility for a greater scope of experience.
In this setting, children are free to enjoy their own accomplishments rather than comparing themselves to others. Children easily learn to respect others, and at the same time develop respect for their own individuality. This interaction of different age children offers many occasions for building community, as well as nurturing the development of self-esteem. This encourages positive social interaction and cooperative learning.
During the morning session, Teri Therkelsen, an AMI-certified Montessori teacher is joined by assistant Heather Kofstad. For 2010-2011, the number of children in the classroom community is scheduled to be twenty (a 1-to-10 teacher-to-student ratio).
In conventional schools, whole-group activities are often scheduled by the teacher, therefore smaller class-sizes are desireable because they are easier to manage.
In contrast, the Montessori classroom environment is prepared to be child-centered, therefore the teacher is able to observe and present a myriad of different lessons to different children as their interest-level and readiness prescribe.
The Montessori environment allows children to develop their self-discipline, concentration, and independence. Larger numbers of children in a Montessori classroom encourage children to be productively self-directed and to learn from each other. Because of this, more children in a Montessori classroom community helps it run more smoothly.
In addittion, a larger number of classroom peers provides the child with a broad array of friends from which to choose and the possibility for a greater scope of experience.
Montessori children are free to work alone or in a group. Although younger children do often choose to work alone as they master challenges, there are many aspects of Montessori classrooms that help children learn to get along well with others. They learn to share. They learn to respect each other's work space. They learn to take care of materials so other children can learn from them They learn to work quietly so others can concentrate. And they learn to work together with others to take care of the classroom. As they get older, most children choose to work in small groups.
Children who have been in a Montessori environment are generally very flexible and adjust quite easily to the public school situation. They generally spend their time in productive ways because of their self-direction and positive attitude toward learning. Montessori children are quite adaptable since they have learned to work on their own without constant supervision.