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©2019 by Grace Episcopal Church, The Plains, VA

6507 MAIN STREET

PO Box 32
THE PLAINS, VA 20198

 WHY MONTESSORI?

Over 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, one of Italy’s first female physicians, inspired the birth of a worldwide educational movement.

Drawing upon her scientific background and clinical understanding, Dr. Montessori observed how young people learned best when engaged in purposeful activity rather than simply being fed information. She recognized that children’s cognitive growth and development required the construction of an educational framework that would respect individuality and fulfill the needs of the “whole child.”

Her pioneering work created a blueprint for nurturing all children— from gifted to learning disabled—to become the self-motivated, independent, and life-long learners that is the ultimate goal of today’s pre-eminent educational reform movement.

Child Doing Art Activity

"Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world"

Dr. Maria Montessori

MIXED-AGE,  FAMILY-LIKE COMMUNITIES

In Montessori, children stay with their teachers for 18 months (infants, toddlers) to three years (preschool/kindergarten and elementary). This has many benefits: these mixed-age, family-like communities make individualized, self-motivated learning possible, and support the development of mature, pro-social skills.

  • A trusting, long-term relationship between teacher, parents and child. Our teachers have the time to get to know your child, and to get to know you! They become invested in the longer-term flourishing of your child and family: they can help you think through challenging parenting moments (think toddler tantrums or aggressive behavior), and guide your child based on her unique interests and temperament.

  • The ability for every child to be the younger, middle and older sibling. Many Montessori parents report how siblings in their families have fewer rivalry issues than siblings in other families. The Montessori mixed-age environments are at least part of the reason: each child, whether singleton, oldest or youngest, gets to take on each role. He starts as the three-year-old newbie, in awe of the competence of the six-year-olds in his class. He imitates them, aspires to be like them. Then, in two years, he is just like them—and he gets to experience how the younger ones look up to him in turn!

  • The opportunity for each child to be optimally challenged, no matter where she falls on the ability scale. Cognitive, social, and emotional development vary tremendously from child to child. Some four-year-olds are strong readers—but may struggle with social skills. Others are totally psyched to learn about rocks, plants, and animals—and may not yet be fascinated by literacy skills. As our primary teachers are trained for ages two and a half to about seven, and as classrooms have materials for all these ages, every child can work in her own “zone of proximate development” (that magical spot when a task is difficult enough to stretch, but not so hard that it frustrates the learner), all the time!

  • Mentoring and mentorship between children: peer learning. Children often learn better from each other than from adults. For a four-year-old who is not yet reading, it’s much more motivating to see a slightly older peer (who didn’t read a little while ago!) reading to him, than it is to watch an adult do the same. In Montessori, younger children often intently observe older ones at work, and learn a lot through these observations. Older children may also act as teachers, if they choose to help younger ones with activities. Both children benefit: the young one has a mentor, the older one, by teaching the younger one, solidifies his own understanding, and acquires leadership skills and confidence.

UNINTERRUPTED WORK TIME

This luxury of uninterrupted time to explore is what authentic Montessori offers

Take an art project. In most preschools, there’s a set art time. The teacher prepares an art activity, and the children come together as a group. After some demonstrations by the teacher, all the children do their own art. Maybe 30-45 minutes later, it’s time to move on to the next activity—and the teacher cleans up, while the children may head outside to play.

In Montessori, in contrast, art is something that is always available to each child. When a Montessori child decides she wants to paint, she sets up her easel with paper, paints, water and brushes. She dons the apron, and goes to work. She keeps at it until she thinks she is done, then carefully places her painting on the drying rack, puts paints away, cleans brushes and apron, and scrubs the easel with a little sponge dipped into a bucket, ensuring that the art activity is ready to use for the next child.

What happens here? Why is this child-initiated, self-directed approach better than the adult-led, group approach? Here’s why:

  • Autonomy fosters engagement, and ignites the spark within. Research shows that all humans—adult and children alike—learn best and work best when they have autonomy.  By giving young children meaningful, frequent choices we help them discover who they are, what the like, and pave the way for purposeful, joyful living, rather than duty-bound learning.

  • Freedom and responsibility encourage the development of critical executive function skills.

  • Real learning and doing things yourself is fun—but it takes time and doesn’t conform to adult-imposed schedules. Independence and deep engagement takes time, and can’t be fit into 30-minute increments of adult-led group activities.  Children in our Montessori program just love having the time to do things for themselves, to get into a flow state, to do their thing at their own pace, on their terms. Just come and observe a class and see for yourself!

MONTESSORI LEARNING MATERIALS

Unlike traditional classrooms, Montessori learning environments are designed to fit the specific needs of each child's stage of development.  Learning is all all about activity and independence of the child to find out what they need at each particular moment.

MONTESSORI TRAINED TEACHERS

Montessori teachers guide children through discovery.  Montessori teachers are experts in child development, guiding children to learn independently and reach their unique potential.  Children have the freedom to engage in their own learning experience and the Montessori teacher is there to support the child throughout the process.