Did you know that children form more than a million neural connections in their first two years of life? From birth, they are constantly growing, adapting, and learning from their environment.
They don’t do any of that learning from behind a desk or table. After all, how could they? But for some reason around 5 and 6 years old we have children sit behind a desk for “formal education”. Your child didn’t need a desk to learn how to count. No desks were in sight when they learned the vocabulary of the world around them. Why then do we think “real” learning begins in a traditional classroom?
Children are born to learn. Maria Montessori referred to a child’s brain in the first 6 years of life as the “absorbent mind”. But when most of us think of school, we think of an institution. We imagine a teacher at the front, and the children intently listening- silent and still. Daycare and traditional preschools prepare young children for learning in that traditional way. In contrast, a Montessori classroom is a place of discovery and movement where the teacher is a facilitator. It is an inviting space where children are active participants in their education. Lessons may be given to the entire class, a small group, or one-on-one. What if we reimagined what school looks like, and what school can be?
A retired public school teacher once said that when he was in the classroom, it was his job to teach and the students’ job to learn. He said that it wasn’t his problem if they “got it” or not. He taught the information, the students’ understood or they didn’t, then he got all new students next year and the cycle repeated. In Montessori if the student doesn’t “get it”, then we will teach it in a different way. Students should be involved in their learning because learning should mean something to them.
Traditional, modern schools and preschools still use the factory model for education. Schools were once used to get children off the streets and out of the workforce. For the most part, schools were a place to teach children how to sit, listen and follow directions as preparation for blue-collar jobs. However, knowledge has been exploding since the 1950s and we don’t know the kinds of things children will need to know in their future.
Montessori approaches this unknown by teaching more than the standard curriculum. In addition to the basics, Montessori school children learn how to:
- Think for themselves
- Work as a team
At Hilltop, children can learn in their own best way, at their own best pace from toddler through 8th grade. We cut out the busy work. The curriculum is not just writing just to write, but having something interesting to write about. Our job is to help each child reach their highest human potential emotionally, ethically, morally and intellectually. That all begins at the beginning- in a Montessori school. Hilltop toddlers and preschoolers learn concentration, independence, and self-confidence as we nurture the flame of curiosity.
Eight Principles of Montessori Education
- Movement and cognition-Movement can enhance learning.
- Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control.
- People learn better when they are interested in what they are learning.
- Extrinsic rewards can negatively impact motivation. (“I won’t get an A, so why even bother?”)
- Collaborative arrangements are conducive to learning.
- Learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning abstractly.
- Particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes. (Students are treated as capable learners with respect and kindness.)
- Order in the environment is beneficial to children.