Montessori In Elementary? Different, But Good!
The term "Montessori" is well known in the world of early childhood education. This is a popular philosophy that focuses on allowing children to make choices about what and how they learn. It fosters independence and self-motivation in children. In a Montessori program a child's classroom learning experiences occur at their own pace and focus on exploring through sensory activities.
Many children who do receive a Montessori education during their early childhood years will go on to a traditional public or private school around Kindergarten. In the traditional school setting they will be in classrooms with peers their age and their education will change from child-led to teacher-led. Individual learning, interests and exploration will be put on hold in the classroom.
However, Montessori based education doesn't have to end in preschool! Montessori schools do exist that serve elementary age students. Some of the characteristics of elementary education in a Montessori setting are as follows:
- Students are grouped in broad age groups. Instead of being in a class with other children their own exact age, most Montessori schools have children within a 3-year range working and learning together. Ages 6-9 make up the lower elementary, while ages 9-12 make up the upper elementary. There are many benefits to this set up, including the ability to advance based on development. It also helps children show leadership and gets them used to the real world, where they will not always working solely with people their own age.
- Learning is still child-led and hands on, similar to the preschool/primary Montessori setting. Students are allowed to choose what they learn and are allowed to work at their own pace. In a Montessori elementary classroom, the teacher isn't standing in front of the class teaching while the students are passive learners. The students take control of what they want to learn and the teacher is a guide. The children take as long as they need to complete projects and are not rushed or restricted.
- Even though there is no specific "curriculum" like in a traditional school, the classroom is not unorganized or chaotic. Children set their goals and make their plans based on their natural curiosity. The teacher is available to provide them with what they need and help guide them in their learning.
- Basic skills are not neglected! They are just taught in a child-centered way that fits the Montessori philosophy.
- Letter and number grades are not given like in a traditional school setting.
If the Montessori philosophy is appealing, it does not have to end with the onset of elementary school. Many cities and towns offer Montessori school programs that extend past early childhood. These programs have the potential to benefit children in a way that traditional settings do not.