One of the most significant differences in a Montessori classroom is that children ages 3-6 are grouped together in one classroom. Because of this three-year age mixture, the children are exposed to many advanced activities that might not be available in a classroom with same-age children. The younger children watch the older children and get excited about the activities others are working with, and want to challenge themselves to continue progressing so they, too, can work with these more advanced materials. The older children take great pride in taking the leadership role in the classroom, often helping the younger children with activities and helping them learn something in a new way. The interaction among the three age groups is an integral part of the Montessori experience, as all are interacting with each other and learning from one other.
A second unique difference in the Montessori classroom is the type of materials available to the children. The children do not use dress-ups, dolls, or play with toys that they have at home. Instead, during the three hours they are at school, they have an opportunity to work with developmentally appropriate, hands-on materials that are not found in traditional schools or in the children's home. Many of these materials were designed by Dr. Maria Montessori herself.
Each classroom is set up with specific areas, which include: Practical Life (fosters development of concentration, coordination, fine-motor control, and independence); Sensorial (fosters and refines the senses through materials that engage the children’s visual, auditory, and sensory touch skills); Language (begins with pre-reading and pre-writing through advanced writing and leveled book reading); Math (materials begin with early counting and number recognition work and progress through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division); Science (materials allow the children to experiment with basic science principles, as well as in-depth studies of weather and changes in nature); Geography (the children as a group learn about the seven continents, studying one continent each month, learning the culture of the countries within the continent), and Art (a wide variety of art media is used throughout the year and samplings are featured at our end-of-year art show).
Although the state of Ohio requires a 12:1 student to teacher ratio for this age grouping, Montessori Children’s House maintains a 9:1 ratio or lower. All of the head teachers (called directresses) have their Montessori certification from a training center that is recognized by either the American Montessori Society (AMS) or the Association for Montessori Internationale (AMI). Montessori Children’s House is a full-member school of the American Montessori Society. The background of the assistant teachers varies, although the majority of the assistants have at least a four-year college degree. All of the teachers at MCH have been on staff for many years, several of whom have been with the school more than 25 years.
There is no specific “type” of child who does well in a Montessori classroom, as the classroom has materials and activities to keep all children interested and engaged. Because the activities are individualized for each child, they each have an opportunity to excel at a rate that is appropriate for him. If a child is advanced in one area, the directress will present materials to him that help him continue to grow in this area, without having to limit him to a set of group norms. In the same respect, if a child is not quite where other children are in a certain area, he will not feel the pressure of not being able to “keep up”, as he will be introduced to materials that keep him excelling as well. The overall goal of a Montessori education is to recognize the individuality of each child, helping him to reach his highest potential—whatever that might be. The hope is to excite him about the wonder of the world, and encourage him to be an independent, enthused, life-long learner.
There are many opportunities for the children to socialize within the Montessori classroom. First, the children participate in a group time at the beginning of the day. During this time, they are sharing their ideas, listening to other children and the directress, and learning about new activities in the classroom for that day. During the independent work cycle, the children are free to eat snack with friends, sit at a table with a friend and complete different activities, or play a game or build a puzzle with a friend as a work choice. Additionally, there is an ending group time, as well as outdoor play time and movement games. A Montessori classroom is a busy classroom, with children working both independently and together on different projects and activities. The busy hum of the children’s voices and laughter are a sure sign of an engaged and active Montessori classroom.
The environment of a Montessori classroom is designed by the directress for the particular group of children. There are designated areas of the classroom with specific materials and activities, and everything has a precise place. The children internalize the order of the classroom, and it helps them to become comfortable in this setting.
Because of this, the Montessori classroom itself is structured. However, the children are not. Although there are certain ground rules and expectations of behavior, they are free to choose the activities that interest them, as long as they have been presented to them by the head directress. In this way, the children have the flexibility to work on an activity that interests them, put it away, and choose something else according to the child’s own time frame. This freedom of choice helps the child to direct his own learning and develop independence.
Some children do gain a comfort level with certain materials, and will often repeat this activity from day to day. This repetition is important, and helps the child to truly master the skill needed to complete the activity.
However, the directress of each classroom carefully observes each child and gets to know her ability level, interests, and style of learning. With this knowledge, the directress can often invite the child to try new activities if she is reluctant to try new things on her own.
By inviting a child to work on a new material that she is ready for, the child gains the self-confidence she needs to eventually try new things on her own. Gaining self-confidence and independence are two goals in a Montessori classroom.
After attending MCH’s kindergarten (either full or half day), children enter a variety of private and public schools. The majority of our students attend Upper Arlington Public Schools. We also have many students who attend local private or parochial schools, as well as Dublin, Grandview, Hilliard, or Worthington Public Schools.
Currently enrolled families reserve spaces for their children for the following school year in January. After they re-enroll their children, families are called from the waiting list to take any available spaces. Parents are encouraged to call a full school year ahead of the year they are interested in starting their child. Their child’s name can be added to a waiting list at that time, and they can schedule an observation of the school by appointment. If a child’s name is on the waiting list by December, MCH is usually able to accommodate that child for the next school year.
Families are encouraged to call at any time to see what current offerings are available, as new children can start in the program even once the school year has started up through the month of January, as spaces allow.
Montessori Children's House is an American Montessori Society Full-Member school providing Montessori preschool and kindergarten education for children ages 2 ½ through 6.
“Kindergarten was the best year of my life.”
MCH Class of 2007