Eight Subject Areas

The Montessori curriculum for ages 2 ½ – 6 consists of eight subject areas for which developmentally appropriate materials have been specifically designed. Mastery of these eight areas provides a child with keys to later academic and social success. While there are innumerable subjects and materials that might have some “learning” value for the young child, it is these which allow the child to progress most rapidly because of their clarity, simplicity, flexibility, and ability to integrate a child’s experience. Each month our material centers on a particular theme. In February a local doctor will come and the students will learn about ventricles and arteries as a functioning muscle in the body and of course about healthy food groups. The eight subject areas:

The Montessori way of discipline is to encourage the child to be responsible in every way. If there is a small infraction of a rule this is usually overlooked by the directress and the child is encouraged in another direction and diverted to a more acceptable activity. If this does not work, and the child is infringing upon the liberty and freedom of others, he/she would be taken from the room and kept there quietly until the angry mood has passed and he/she is willing to be cooperative again.

If the child is destructive with the materials, said material is removed and that particular child will not be allowed to work with it again for a time. Most of the children, most of the time, are very happy and willing to cooperate, and they do love to learn.

The Montessori Method of Education provides for many opportunities for movement around the room and for many, many choices. The child is allowed and encouraged to exercise his freedom of choice and to feel good about himself as the chooser. To be able to have a voice in determining how to meet one’s needs is very satisfying to the child and to the adult. After making his choice, he can then follow through and produce a favorable result. This increases the child’s self-confidence and his ability to concentrate, two of the most important factors in the learning process. All of this together creates a more willing, cooperative child of what Dr. Montessori termed a “normalized child”, one who is happy, independent, busy and self confident.

Sensorial Learning:
Each material isolates one quality, whether it be color, shape, texture, sound, size, taste, weight, or smell. With the help of the teacher the child learns to identify these qualities. As the child progresses in his ability to discriminate, the materials present more difficult choices until he is able to make fine discriminations and relate them to the details of his environment. The efficiency of these materials derives both from their design which is not merely child-scale, but geared to sensitive periods of learning, and from the structured lesson which aids the child’s concentration. A child becomes thoroughly engrossed with these materials, repeating an exercise over and over again until he is satisfied that he has mastered the work. The child may show no further interest in these materials at this age as the sensitive period wanes but, may be surprised and delighted when they merit re-exploration in the elementary curriculum, as solid geometry, for example. This conservation of a child’s experience allows him to probe deeper, and heightens his power of observation.

Practical Life:
Independence is an obvious benefit of learning to dress yourself by buttoning, zipping, snapping or tying. Pride is also a factor in being able to say, “I can do it myself!” There is no satisfaction in being able to wash a dirty table, or shine a pair of shoes, or pour without spilling because the results are so visible and dramatic. But it is easy to overlook the “academic” benefits of these practical exercises. Task initiation, sequencing, sustained effort and concentration, and task completion learned this early become second nature to a child. The specific way of doing each task is not capricious, but strengthens the very muscles and develops the very eye-hand coordination that will be needed soon for writing. Socialization also progresses because through their own experience the children learn not only to respect the work and concentration of others, but also to help when asked. Care of the environment and care of one’s person remain part of the Montessori curriculum throughout the elementary years.

The freedom that children have to move about in a Montessori classroom is not extra-curricular. Self-motion is indispensable to self-initiated learning as well as to perception. It is through movement, as Montessori reminds us, “that the will realizes itself”. The child must be free to follow what interests him, but movement is also a subject to be learned. Carrying materials across a room full of children with work on the floor is not easy for adults. Walking a continuously curving line can be as difficult as a balance beam. A sense of one’s body in space is as important in the classroom as it is out on the playground. The benefits of a well-developed three-dimensional sense might show up later in a gym, on a dance floor, or playing field – but just as likely in a set of building blocks, in a drawing, or in more imaginative play.

The sensitive period for the learning of language is among the longest a young child experiences, and the Montessori curriculum capitalizes on it. Before a child comes to school, she has learned a language complete with vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, syntax, and nuances of intonation. At school the child completes this process by learning to speak in complete and more descriptive sentences. The vocabulary of the classroom is rich, including the proper names for solids, landforms, leaf shapes, or species that continue to elude many adults. Social grace and courtesy are taught as part of both language and practical life. Once the child has assimilated the letter forms and the sounds which they represent, the moveable alphabet sets the stage for reading and writing. These are not “taught” as much as they are “discovered” by the child who suddenly puts together the sensorial, motor, linguistic, and other skills, which he has learned, in indirect preparation for this moment. The very suddenness of it caused Montessori to liken it to an “explosion into reading.”

The introduction of geography begins sensorially with the differentiation of land and water on a tactile globe, then progresses to the discrimination of characteristic land and water forms, islands, bays, peninsulas, etc. Puzzle maps enable the children to identify continents, then countries. Eventually the children learn the flags, the capitols, and the cultures associated with those countries. The younger children particularly enjoy sorting out continent cards or pictures. These represent the flora and fauna, geographic features, and cultures associated with each continent. Awareness of the basic needs of people all over the world is introduced in this manner and leads directly to the Montessori elementary curriculum. The large number of our children and staff who have had direct experience of other continents and cultures greatly enhances what we are able to accomplish in this portion of the curriculum.

Perhaps it is because adults view this as the most “academic” part of the curriculum, that they are so surprised at how extensive the materials are for the young child. But, these, too, are rooted in the basic sensorial and practical life exercises that teach order, sequence, and discrimination. From there it is a relatively easy step into number concepts and their operations, geometric shapes and their properties, and the solution of problems through manipulation of concrete models. The difference is that mathematics is not taught as an abstraction. Thus the child who assembles a concrete expression of the binomial theorem, knows it operationally, and joyfully discovers it as an abstraction when he is old enough to think abstractly.

Music & Art:
Rather than being treated as “special subjects” set apart from the rest of the curriculum, music and art, are integrated throughout the Montessori curriculum. Discrimination of tones and colors, extended from the sensorial materials into exercises with bells, paints or colored papers. Control of scissors, brushes, or strikers also grows out of practical life exercises. Powers of observation, heightened in the study of natural forms for example, soon leads to more descriptive drawings. Songs learned as part of cultural studies develop pitch, rhythm, and auditory memory. Children are encouraged to think of the arts as a means for enhancing the exploration and expression of concepts associated with their work, rather than as a departure from it.