The flagship of Montessori education (developed by Maria Montessori in Italy 120 years ago) is the primary program -- classes of 24 children, with a trained teacher and an assistant for children ages 3 to 6. For decades, this was the only age group in Montessori schools.
The program begins with practical skills -- such as sorting by size, shape, color, smell or feel -- plus pouring, polishing and zipping. It includes working in a group or independently. Letter and sound recognition begins at age 3-1/2 and numeration (assigning of numerals by size to lengths of rods or groups of objects) at age 4.
By the end of kindergarten, children in these mixed-age classes are working with numbers in the thousands, adding, subtracting, skip-counting (basis of multiplication), identifying pictures and objects by written name, recognizing the continents and the U.S. states, and identifying the parts of plants and animals with name cards. They learn care of oneself and the classroom, plus consideration of others. Often they are reading.
Parents put pressure on schools for programs in the grades that would allow them to continue progressing, and indeed a favorite activity in Montessori lower elementary classes is early research writing.
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Unfortunately, our public school Montessori classes cannot by state law begin teaching 3-year-olds. Thus the children who enter public school Montessori classes for the first through third grades might not have the foundation they need to handle the Montessori curriculum. This will be important in the future.
Anne C. Pollitzer
St. Helena Island
Editor's note: The writer is founder of the EC Montessori School.