The Montessori Kindergarten Year
At Alexander Montessori School, we generally define our Preschool Program as the three-year time span when children are in school with us between the ages of 3 through 6 years. This includes the traditional Kindergarten year, although the experiences a child has can travel far past the experiences of a Kindergarten student at a traditional school. The Montessori learning experience is cumulative: What a child learns in the Kindergarten year depends on what s/he has learned in her/his previous Montessori years. There is a large leap that is often described as a “Kindergarten Explosion” that children experience in this third year.
There are crucial differences between a Montessori Kindergarten and a traditional one. In most traditional Kindergarten classes, the primary emphasis is on developing social skills with some preliminary work in cognitive “readiness,” whereas in a Montessori classroom, the primary emphasis is on developing cognitive skills on the firm foundation of sensory and motor skill training. Our Montessori motto, “Help me to do it myself,” can expand to include this piece for the Kindergartener: “Help me do it myself so that I may help others.” The ultimate expression of growth during the Kindergarten year is for the child to teach peers and younger children what they have mastered. This makes the connection between independence and interconnectedness.
The Montessori environment is sensitive to a child’s individual development and because the Teachers are developmentally trained, they can meet the child at his or her needs. There is great emphasis on having a child use the concrete manipulatives during the first two years to transition into abstract thinking during the third year. Kindergarten is the time when this transition should not be broken. Moving from the concrete to the abstract gives the child the confidence to apply the concepts learned and to apply them to all facets of learning. Learning is interconnected and concepts learned in one discipline can be used in another area. The Kindergarten year is also a social time, when children are starting to interact with each other in work and play, and to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings of others.
The third year should be a year of unparalleled growth and learning. Throughout their first two years, children have learned to complete their learning cycle by learning to take out a lesson, work with it appropriately, and then put it away when they have finished before moving on to a new work. The third year is a time for personally completing the cycle. A child is forming new connections and putting the finishing touches on earlier learned concepts, while beginning to explore bigger work, such as multiplication and division. Work of that size is usually limited to children in 2nd or 3rd Grade at a traditional school. The child working at his or her own rate develops good work habits such as initiative, the ability to process information, and the ability to persist in completing a task. The emphasis is on making each child feel competent in his or her own abilities and interested in learning for its own sake.
Consider the Kindergarten year as the completion of their first half of childhood. Your child has acquired many new skills and is growing more confident each day in his or her abilities, and will have the opportunity to end this cycle on a high note. There are Kindergarten fireworks ready to explode!
Click here to watch the American Montessori Society’s video on what defines and distinguishes a Montessori Kindergarten Program.