YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: What is the difference between a Montessori preschool and a regular preschool?
In many ways, most modern kindergarten and preschool systems are founded on some similar principles to the Montessori approach to education. Furniture that is appropriate to the sizes of different ages of children can be seen, there are areas of rooms allocated to different areas of learning. Passionate, respectful adults are driven to work with children of this age and are found in many early childhood settings. These things are commonalities. Points of difference for a Montessori setting are also sometimes quite obvious:
- The adult to child ratio may be lower in a Montessori setting. While there may be similar numbers of adults working in the environment to support safety and hygiene, they are not as obvious to the children and usually there is one main educator providing the presentations to the children. Contrary to some ideals, Montessori supports the independence that is fostered by a cohort of a larger group of children who are not ‘interrupted’ unnecessarily in their endeavours by adult guides.
- The age range of children is ideally evenly spread across a sub-plane of development (3 – 6 years for example is a typically Junior School environment). Within this spread there is where possible an even spread of genders. Montessori encompasses multiculturalism and often attracts a diverse range of cultures in one classroom.
- Children work with real tools and have a bountiful range of practical life and craft activities at hand from ages 3 – 6! There is in turn a limited amount of toy or pretend activities, as the children are so joyfully drawn to the rewarding activities at hand. These activities become useful tools down the track for more academic achievements in the same environment.
- The children are responsible for the care of the environment as much as the adults role modeling this. For this reason, materials are fixed in specific areas and on shelves and are rarely moved around or cluttered. Children are then able to make choices from the environment and return the items in their own time.
- There are fewer larger group activities and more individual or small group activities.
- Whilst lessons are planned and coordinated for the child by the teacher, when they are delivered occurs more spontaneously, based on the readiness of the child as observed by the teacher. This is opposed to a lesson being planned by the teacher for Thursday of a set week during the term and delivered to all children at that time.
- The indoor and outdoor activities are often available at all times to the children. In this way, the child’s work is not interrupted by a sudden shift in the day, and they may move between the indoor and outdoors to suit the needs of their exploration. Always this is with respect for the materials and others in their shared space
- Children are invited to snack, in appropriate spaces, when they need, rather than at set dining times.
- Individual creativity is supported by the respect for the child who has found work. The Montessori environment assists children to recognise when a child is engaged and to keep from interrupting them. Children are in turn driven to share the joy of their explorations and peer learning is a natural consequence of this.
- The curriculum in a Montessori system is comprehensive and far ranging, and while presenting individually to the child under six, is encouraging of the child to move about the spaces and incorporate experiences into themes and projects.
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- Rebecca Grugan