Quite often when parents
first send their children to a Montessori School for a Casa (Primary)
program, they aren't fully aware of the unique principles of the
Montessori environment. They have certain expectations that are formed
due to their own personal beliefs, previous experiences, and simply a
lack of knowledge of the principles of Montessori and how they apply to
the classroom environment.
Not all Montessori schools will follow the
principles outlined in this article, however you'll find that most
accredited Montessori schools will adhere to most of them (with perhaps the exception of
the student/teacher ratio - that is dictated by their local Child/Youth Regulations and license).
We have found it beneficial to
outline and discuss these general principles to parents during Parent
Education nights. It helps to alleviate anxieties and potential
misunderstandings that typically occur during the first few weeks when a
child is transitioning into the school. Again, each Montessori school
has unique circumstances and it's up to the school to educate their
parents on their principles and expectations.
1:30 ratio (10 first
years, 10 second years, 10 third years to 1 trained Directress and an
assistant). Mixed ages of the children is crucial; they learn from each
other, care for each other, and help to eliminate the crutches that
would occur if the children were all the same age. The children gain
more independence and have less dependence on the Directress. [All new
schools here in Ontario/Canada at the 3-6yr age group require a 1:8
ratio. Only the 'grandfathered' schools (older schools that opened prior
to the new rules) have the ability to maintain a higher ratio. Check
your local educational laws for the required ratio for your school district].
The classroom is a
prepared environment for children ages 2 1/2 to 6 years of age.
The classroom contains only materials that respond to the developmental
stages of a child from 2 1/2 to 6 years of age. There are no toys as the
Montessori materials fulfill the various needs of the children at all
stages. The classroom is clean, tidy, and encourages independence.
are given only when the child is ready. Generally lessons are
given individually, however some lessons are given in a small group
setting. Before a lesson is given the child must have successfully
completed any preparatory lessons. If the concepts of the preceding
lessons have not be absorbed than the probability of success will be
The lessons arevery purposeful,
specifically catering to each stage of the child's development. The
children work according to their choice and capability and no
comparisons to children of equal age are made.
The Montessori environment
contains self-correcting materials. The child's self-esteem is
protected since the adult does not have to do all of the correcting.
Self-esteem grows as the children discover they can do things the
correct way by themselves.
The amount of paper that goes home is
not the emphasis and is in no way any indication of the 'work' that the
children have accomplished. Quite often 'paper work' completed by the
child will not be seen until late in their second year of the Casa
program when their hand is developed enough to successfully print.
freely choose work in the classroom, responding to internal
needs and working individually for the most part. Individual work
encourages independence; once a child has been presented with a lesson
they are free to use it when they desire (if it's not being used by
The children are encouraged to repeat
lessons as many times as the child wishes, so that the concept is
completely absorbed. A child will not necessarily receive a new lesson
every day, as time and repetition, as well as concentration, observation and discussion,
are essential for the complete creation of the child.
encouraged to respect the work of others; not touching,
distracting, or disturbing other children who are working. Having only
one of each lesson in the classroom helps the children respect others
work, be patient, and to be proud of their own accomplishments.
The children are
also expected to respect their environment. They are shown where
lessons are found on the shelf and how to replace them in the correct
manner. Older children help with replenishing supplies on the shelves
and cleaning up at the end of the day.
Weare careful of how
we display the children's work in the environment. It can create
bad feelings/competition amongst the children, and encourage children to complete
work for the sake of praise and recognition from adults and peers. It's
crucial to help children realize that the process is what's important,
not the end product.
Work done by the child is for the childand not for the parent. The Montessori environment is created for the
child to work according to their inner needs, for the construction of
themselves. There is nothing more painful to watch than a child
struggling through a page of printing because "mommy told me I had to
bring a page home".
Children are encouraged to dress themselves
and be responsible for their own belongings. Children need to
wear clothing that they can manage in order to allow them to be
Asking permission to go to the washroom, to the water
fountain, or to repeat a lesson is not necessary. The environment has
been created in a safe manner for the children, and they are aware of their own needs.
for the child. We will allow them to retain their dignity at all times.
Greeting and dismissing the child with a handshake and eye contact
encourages the use of grace and courtesy. Showing affection
to children is essential to their sense of security and emotional
growth. However, as parents you're asked to allow your child the dignity
to walk out of the school (their place of work) on their own two feet.
Although the above principles
are outlined using a school setting, they can all be applied to a
homeschool setting as well - with the exception of the student/teacher
ratio - unless you have a very large family including multiples! Most
families who are introduced to Montessori find they begin to apply the
principles within their home life and family expectations, even if they're
not homeschooling their children.
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