Preparing for the Optimum Experience

One of the little known facts about Maria Montessori is that, as a medical student, she became intrigued with how the human brain responded to its environment. Her genius is in the adaptation of her medical studies to the construction of environments that still are perfectly prepared for the stages of human development.  During our transformative Silent Journey and Discovery, which 60 parents and staff members experienced over the weekend, those specialized environments were observed closely.  As the materials move from the very concrete to the increasingly abstract, it is easy to follow the stages that Montessori saw so clearly.  She knew with certainty that every child’s path is unique, but that environments can support a child’s path or impede it.

Childpeace is special in offering environments for children in multiple stages of development from the pre-verbal toddler to the blossoming adult adolescent.  Our children are exposed every day to the need to stretch to interact with older students or to show patience and leadership for the children who are younger.  Responding to the differences refines life skills.  The days of agrarian economy supported multi-generational living, where every family member felt needed in the community.  The developmental path to adulthood was supported in the farming environment, as the skill sets were passed from generation to generation in order to survive.  Our senior population, that experience their own developmental stage of life, thrive in dynamic, multi-age communities that are also “prepared environments”-- where they can optimize their sunset years, learning and sharing as they are able. Interactions of community members in these prepared environments remain authentic.

In creating her environments, Maria Montessori used the process of scientific inquiry—planned observation and documentation—to determine what set of materials, expectations and adult contact would most favorably support a toddler or a six year old or a teenager.  The Childpeace staff shares this intention to continually observe and adjust their environments for optimal benefit to every child.  We have attached a guide to a child’s development that covers four levels of our program and three areas of development—academic, communication, and social skills.  These skill sets will solidify for children at different times and speeds, but each class the child joins will be designed to assure the opportunity for them to develop.  The child shows the interest, the teacher is the connector, but the environment makes the miracles happen.

Basic Tenets of Montessori Education
1. Multi Age Groups
Allows for mentorship and individualized learning at child’s own pace.
2. Integrated Curriculum
Lessons are interwoven during long blocks of learning time.
3. Collaborative Learning
Individual and group lessons-students working in spontaneous groups, sharing interests and expertise.
4. Hands-on
Children at all levels manipulate materials in their environment-
moving from concrete to abstract concepts.
5. Positive Social Environment
Freedom of movement and choice of work and self-correcting materials create a framework for a socially responsible community.
6. “Explosions” of learning
The child makes discoveries after lessons and practice.
7. The teacher connects the child
to the next lesson or activity after careful observation of the child's interest and skill level.

Academic Skill Development Communication Skills Development Social Skills Development Goal
(0-3 years)
• Activities encourage language and motor skills (gross and fine)

• Children master dressing, feeding, and toileting themselves

• Focus on language for all things and places in their environment
• Before completing the program, can express needs to adults and
other children

• Reality-based activities reinforce acquisition of language of family
and culture
• First use of words to collaborate with peers

• Moves from self-directed activity to group-directed choices
Academic Skill Development Communication Skills Development Social Skills Development Goal
Children’s House (3-6 years) • Master materials that “self-correct” in these areas:

- development of the senses

- writing and reading

- 4 math processes

- geography, art, and music

- practical life

• Move from concrete work to “abstract” in
all areas listed above

• Move at own rate of interest and skill

• Child allowed exploration in their specific areas of interest
• Learn to think about relationships between people and things

• Most read phonetically, write creatively, and speak accurately

• Learns individually within the group setting

• Reaches comfort in speaking up for oneself
• Spontaneous social relationships evolve from classroom interaction

• Role modeling with mixed age groups; leadership is encouraged

• Trust and self-confidence built by being with a consistent group for three years

• Each child is encouraged to contribute their unique perspective to the social group
Academic Skill Development Communication Skills Development Social Skills Development Goal
(6-12 years)
• Refinement and expansion of essential skills

- math work focused on decimal system
operations and proportional concepts

- science exploration includes botany,
zoology, geology and ecology

- reading comprehension and interpretation

• Cosmic education

- story of the earth and development of humans on the earth

- inter-connectedness of language, history, science, and math

• Research and critical inquiry skills
• Can write complete reports and compose creative pieces (with spelling and grammar accuracy)

• Continue to build research skills
and vocabulary

• Explores handwriting as an art form

• Self-directed time management skills

• Makes visual and spoken presentations of work

• Plans excursions into the community to apply knowledge and gather information

• Second language studies begin
• Child-centered problem solving; respect for everyone as a contributor to the community

• Seek experiences outside the classrooms settings

• Ask, evaluate, and resolve

• Able to take responsibility for one's work and behavior

• Group lessons and projects build skills of cooperation and negotiation

• Practice making positive choices within the open classroom
Intellectual Independence
Academic Skill Development Communication Skills Development Social Skills Development Goal
(12-15 years)
• Refinement and expansion of
critical thinking

• Use of higher-order thinking skills to solve problems

• Connections between natural and human-built worlds

• Full view of history, grasping the "vocation of humans"

• Practical management of economic enterprises

• Preparation for challenging high
school programs
• Creative expression through the arts

• Refinement of writing and speaking skills

• Contributing to the community

• Develops confidence in self-expression

• Second language studies continue
• A sense of belonging and responsibility through working together

• Exploring one's place in the larger society

• Nurturing of noble characteristics
Beginning of
Economic Independence

Sue Pritzker, Head of School
Childpeace Montessori School