Montessori Community


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Montessori Learning Community 3-6

What are the essential elements that create a Montessori learning community of three-six year old children ?

What ages are children in Montessori early childhood centres?

Essential Element
All Montessori learning communities are characterised by multi-aged groupings of at least three years.

What this results in …
In Montessori early childhood centres children start around three years of age and stay until they are six years old.
Some Montessori centres offer toddler communities from around one to three years.
The children in the class are a mix of ages – eg. not just three and four-year-olds.
There is no segregation by age into separate morning and afternoon classes, or different rooms/areas during the day.
The mixed age offers the opportunity for a child to grow into a teaching role; this gives immense satisfaction to the older child and offers a way to internalise their learning. The best teacher of a child is often another child.
Young children are not separated into ‘new entrant’ classes, since they will not benefit from learning from the older children in the class. 
The mixed age group allows the children to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally - it is an essential part of any Montessori centre.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
How does your centre decide when my child is ready to start in the Montessori classroom?
What is the optimal age to start? Why?
How will my three-year-old get on with the bigger five-year-olds?
How are older children encouraged to ‘teach’ the younger children – how do they help?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Can I see children of all ages in the class from under three to over five years?
Do I see children segregated by age groupings or can I see children interacting across the age groups?
Can I see older children ‘teaching’ younger children and being encouraged by the adults to take on this mentoring role?

How often does my child need to attend? 

Essential Element
Children attend their Montessori learning community and interact with the same group of children and teachers each day, ideally attending five mornings or when they are a little older, five full days.

What this results in …
The Montessori learning community develops when children regularly experience safe and secure relationships with familiar adults, socialise with other children who are well known to them and experience predictable, established daily routines.
Regular attendance enables the development of a Montessori culture of empowerment and consistency.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
Would my child come in the mornings and how many mornings are preferable for my child to attend?
Is there an expected routine pattern of attendance required?
When could my child start staying in Montessori all day? 
Is there a settling in period or trial period when my child first begins?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Does the learning community feel peaceful and do the children appear secure and well-connected to each other and the teachers?

Why is a respectful community important in Montessori?

Essential Element
The Montessori classroom is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone’s contribution is valued and respected.

What this results in …
The children will feel at home with their peers and in the learning environment. 
Children will understand classroom routines and be able to ask for help, find what they need and choose their activities confidently.
The classroom functions as a community with each child playing his or her own part and contributing to the daily life and functioning of the class in a positive manner.
The children will interact with kindness and support, celebrating each other’s progress.
Children will seek and offer feedback, ask and offer help not only to their teachers, but to each other.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
How is my child going to be helped to learn the routines of the environment?
What other daily routines or expectations are there to build a community of kind, supportive children?
Why is there only one of each activity available in the classroom? How does this help them to learn? 

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Can I see children confidently asking adults and older children for help?
Do the teachers respond respectfully, modeling the behaviour expected of the children?
Do I see the children interacting with each other in nurturing and respectful ways?
How do I see conflict being resolved?
Is respect, social graces and team work evident in the learning community?

How long can children attend a Montessori early childhood centre?

Essential Element
The most optimal experience is gained when the child experiences a three-year Montessori early childhood programme, from around three until six years of age. A small number of Montessori early childhood centres in NZ also offer Montessori infant programmes.

What this results in …
The importance of this three-year programme is to enable the child to integrate all the experience of the earlier years and to develop social maturity.
Children starting later or finishing Montessori earlier will not make all the gains possible from a full three-year Montessori programme.
In New Zealand many children leave Montessori at five to attend state primary school, but a growing number of parents are deciding to keep their child in Montessori after their fifth birthday and start primary school as six-year-olds.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
What is the centre’s policy about the age at which children start and leave the Montessori classroom?
Do you start children in Montessori after their fourth birthday or is the preference to start as three-year-olds?
How many five-year-olds do you have in the classroom and what leadership roles do they have?
How will my child benefit from this Montessori classroom after five years of age?
If my child does leaves Montessori at five to go to state primary school what benefit will Montessori be to them?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Are there children in the classroom spanning all the ages from under three to over five years?
Are the five-year-olds engaged meaningfully in their work?

How do children socialise in Montessori?

Essential Element
Each child's individualised activity occurs within a community of children and adults and spontaneous social interactions occur throughout the day..

What this results in …
Children interact with each other freely and show kindness to each other.
Children interact respectfully with each other and the adults, and are guided by their peers and teachers to develop appropriate social skills.
Large group activities occur rarely and children can chose to join in.
Children are supported by teachers to interact with each other and are free to choose to work and talk with each other, while respecting the other child’s right to work without interruption.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
What do you do when children are in conflict?
How do you help children to learn the skills of interacting appropriately in the classroom?
How do you support the development of a respectful school community outside the classroom?
How do you facilitate large group activities?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Do I see examples of children offering to help another child?
Are the children careful of disturbing another child’s work?
Do I see responsive, respectful relationships between teachers-children, children-children, between teachers and between teachers and families?
Can I observe children learning and using strategies to solve disagreements peacefully?

How will my child’s interests and needs be met?

Essential Element
Montessori teachers are skilled in ‘following the child’ and responding to the changing interests and needs of each child as a unique and dynamic individual.

What this results in …
Children select and engage in activities which are interesting to them. 
Teachers know the children well and respond to their unique interests and needs, engaging parents in this process.
Each child's individual needs are assessed through observation so when the child is developmentally ready new concepts and activities are introduced.
The learning opportunities in the classroom are frequently changed to cater for the needs and interests of the current group of learners.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
If my child shows an interest in a particular area how is this responded to in the classroom? Can you give me some recent examples of this?
What would you do if my child was engaged in an activity and did not want to join a group time?
How will I know what my child does each day and what is being planned for his/her learning?  What feedback will I get from the staff?
What opportunities are there for me to interact with staff about my child?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Are children choosing and focusing on their own chosen activity?
How does the staff respond to the questions and interests of the children?
Can I see children choosing what they would like to work on or is it predominantly teacher directed?
Are children encouraged to question?  Are they given the freedom to seek out answers to the questions they have come up with?
Are children able to work without frequent interruptions from the teacher?

Will my child have fun?

Essential Element
Montessori learning environments meet the developmental needs of children in a safe, interesting and caring community.

What this results in …
Children are relaxed and confident with their classmates and teachers. Learning is fun and children find joy in their discoveries and in the activities they choose each day.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
Is this a place where my child will have fun? What do you enjoy about being with children each day?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Do the children and adults look like they are enjoying themselves?
Will my child have fun in this learning community?