FAQ – Primary Montessori (2.5 – 6 years) at LPM

Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally as
they graduate out of the environment. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests,
Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning
in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking
provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take
care of themselves, their environment, each other – cooking, cleaning, building, gardening,
moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the
community, etc. The children develop into confident individuals because their confidence is not
built on whether they were the best in the class, but on positive and complete learning through
exercising to ‘their’ best always.

The Montessori curriculum offers a deep and rich learning experience for the children to be
well grounded in a variety of subjects including language, communication, mathematics,
geography, science and art. They have good social skills, cope with changes positively and have
learnt to solve problems pro-actively. The practical life work builds concentration and co-
ordination in the child while sensorial activities refines the senses where he is able to be more
aware of his environment and make better choices. Therefore, adaptability to a new
environment such as a mainstream school is something they are very well equipped for. Having
said that, it is quite normal for some children to feel a bit perplexed with the conventional
methods adopted or may be a bit bored but he/she adapts quite successfully.

Montessori classrooms are made with grouping of children of different ages and abilities in a 3-
year span. We do take children from 2 to 2.5 years as well into our Primary classroom
depending on the readiness of the child. The children from our Toddler community transition to
the Primary environment between this time too. This is primarily because the child’s
sensitivities for order, language expression, refinement of movement, etc. begin to develop
when they are about 2 years old (even though it varies with each child but not by much). Having
them in a Montessori set up around the age of 2.5 is highly beneficial because it allows them to
get accustomed to free but structured classroom environment that will most likely to appeal to
their sensitivities and augment their development process.

Montessori classes are organized to encompass a three-year age span, which allows younger
students the stimulation of older children and learn from them. The older children benefit by
being role models and leaders of the classroom community.Children normally stay in the same
class for three years. With two-thirds of the class normally returning each year, the classroom
culture tends to remain quite stable. Instead of graduating and moving to a new class each
year, working in the same environment for three years allows students to develop a strong
sense of community with their classmates and teachers.

Conventional systems revolve around teachers lecturing to children and the latter passively
taking in information exercising mostly the auditory senses. This can sometimes lead to only a
superficial understanding of the material taught without grasping its underlying principles.
Children in Montessori classes are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a
group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own. They learn at their own,
individual pace and according to their own choice of activities offered in the prepared
environment. Textbooks and ‘homework’ are redundant since concepts are deeply ingrained
through working with the scientifically designed materials. The teacher in the Montessori
environment plays a pivotal role in bringing together the child and the learning through the
specifically designed materials at the appropriate time considering the development pattern
exhibited by the child. The materials for children of age six and under in Montessori education
facilitate learning through all five senses and not just through listening or reading. Learning
then becomes an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-
discipline, and a love of learning.

As parents know their own children’s learning styles and temperaments, Montessori teachers,
too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending time individually with the
children and their parents. The teachers have developed a keen sense of observation and know
what to look for while closely monitoring their students’ progress. They present lessons either
individually or to small groups of children in a very crisp and clear way. The goal is to give the
children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough
that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials. And since they
normally work with each child for two or three years, they get to know their students’ strengths
and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well.

Children in a Montessori environment are offered a limited range of choices within which they
are free to make decisions and act upon without posing hindrances in the environment.
Typically, the child is allowed.to move around but not encroach on other children’s workspaces.
To speak but not to anyone who is working. The choice to work or not to work. To observe
others while they work. To choose any activity they want within what has been presented to them. To stop an activity when they wish to but ensure that that material is ready to be used next by another child. Thus the freedom in the class comes with responsibility to abide by the etiquette laid down in the environment.

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going at it alone. The
Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that
advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance
helps him master the challenge at hand—and protects him from moving on before he’s ready,
which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

Dr. Maria Montessori found that children as young as three who have been in a Montessori
classroom for just a few months choose to be productive and take up challenging work. They
are able to focus on the task at hand, take it to completion, rest for a bit without interrupting
others and repeat the process having redirected himself to a new activity. She noted that for
this to happen, a minimum of three hours of uninterrupted classroom time are essential.
Students who are able to complete three-hour work cycles feel calmer and richer with a sense
of accomplishment and are motivated to take up more work. This process is at the core of
transforming the child’s consciousness thereby facilitating their development into responsible,
intelligent individuals. Such levels of authentic cognitive and personal development cannot
happen in 45-minute / 1 hr “periods” as allocated for subjects in the conventional systems.
Children who know they will soon be interrupted choose unchallenging “busywork” at best, and
at worst become nuisances to their peers. Even more tragic are children who don’t know an
interruption is coming; they choose demanding work, become engrossed, and are
understandably upset when the disruption takes place. Almost all areas of learning may be used
by the children at any one point of time. A child may choose to do one activity at one time,
complete it and then may choose an entirely different activity to do next. This way the child
chooses whatever area of work he feels inclined to work on in any given day. That choice makes
him willingly choose all work. The teacher is always available to direct the child’s choices in
order that he may willingly choose activities from all areas of study.

The clearly delineated areas and arrangement of a Montessori classroom are so designed to
keep in line with the natural learning principles inculcated by Dr.Montessori. Rather than
putting the teacher at the focal point of the class, with children depending on her for
information, the Montessori classroom literally provides a child-centered approach. Children
work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher goes
around the room, giving lessons or helping resolve issues as they arise. The tables and floor mats also serve as clearly defined workspaces which help the children concentrate on their own work, provide protection for the materials and the children, and prevent infringement on others’ workspaces.

The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to
enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve. There are no grades, or other
forms of reward or punishment. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the
accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of
learning and level of work. Meetings will be scheduled with parents at periodic intervals to keep
them informed of the child’s progress and suggestions provided to the parents to help the child
help himself and apply what he has learnt in the classroom outside of school. The parents are
allowed to take their child’s work and compile it for their portfolios which then could be used
later when transferring to the mainstream schools.

The current convention of grading children is mostly based on their ability to replicate text book
material in examinations and does not offer a true measure of their understanding and ability
to apply concepts learnt. In the Montessori system the child gets to observe and collaborate
with his peers, work at his own pace and work repeatedly with the material till he develops a
complete understanding of the concept the material presents. By current convention a “fail”
grade or mark stamps the child with the label of incompetency and can severely demotivate
him from trying any further (not to mention the additional stress of other social repercussions).
In the absence of such grading, the Montessori system encourages the child to willingly make
repeated attempts at mastering the material offering him ample space to make mistakes and
accept that mistakes are an essential component of successful learning. Before long, they
realize that few things in life come without effort, and they are free to try again without any
fear or embarrassment. By assigning ranks within classes, schools challenge children to outdo
one another. The unnecessary stress of the relative performance within the class impedes the
child’s deep learning and goes against his natural pace of development. This is not to say that
the Montessori system discourages competition. It in fact develops a healthy competitive spirit
where the children learn to give their best irrespective of the outcome by giving them the
opportunity to focus completely on the process rather than the result.

The multi-sensory, interactive environment in the Montessori classroom is the perfect setting
for learning and there is a high degree of stimulation that keeps the children highly involved
with their learning. In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities
do very well in a Montessori classroom setting. Every child is unique with his/her own learning
style, areas of special gifts and some areas that can be considered challenging. Montessori education is designed to allow for differences. Each child learns at her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in her own time and not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. This provides flexibility for the varied learning styles of children to adapt to the environment
comfortably. No child is ahead or behind in their “schedule” to learn any one subject.It is a
classroom modeled as a community where children in various stages of development learn
from each other, with the younger children learning by observing / interacting with older
children and older children benefiting by instructing / mentoring younger children. This system
thus builds tolerance in children who experience that a society is made of all kinds of people
with varied abilities (or disabilities) and that everyone is equal.

A very strong YES. The socio-economic backgrounds/ ethnicity of the child or her parents are of
no importance in Montessori education. Likewise, an exceptionally gifted child will benefit as
much from the classroom community and the scientifically designed materials, as a child with
developmental delays or emotional and physical disabilities.