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080112 - Leport Schools - The Montessori Preschool Difference_ In A Nutshell

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									The Montessori Preschool Difference, In A Nutshell
By Heike Larson

"What is Montessori? How does it differ from other preschool approaches,
such as day care centers or play-based and developmental preschools?"

I often get this question from parents I meet, both at LePort events and
when I am with my two Montessori preschool-aged children at local
playgrounds. I love this question, and it usually leads me to start
talking about the many differences and wondrous benefits of Montessori
preschool.

Unfortunately, not everybody has the time for an hour-long explanation.
So to make sure I could answer quickly, I distilled my answers to the 3+3
of Montessori preschool, the three obvious differences in how a preschool
classroom is run, and the three top benefits a Montessori education
offers to children.

Since the parents I shared this with found it illuminating, I thought I'd
post it online, so other parents looking into preschool options can
benefit from it too.

THREE MONTESSORI PRESCHOOL DIFFERENCES: HOW WE TEACH

1. Multi-age, family like communities.
Most play-based programs segregate children by age into the 3's, 4's,
Pre-K and so on. Montessori preschools instead group 3- to 6-year-olds
into one class. A child stays with the same teacher for three years. This
builds a strong, family-like community, with lasting relationships
between child and teacher, and friendships between children of different
ages. Young children look up to and learn from older ones; while the 5-
and 6-year-olds gain confidence as they become classroom leaders and
mentors for their younger peers.

2. Uninterrupted 3-hour "work periods."
Most preschools follow tight, adult-led schedules, with a new group
activity every 30-45 minutes. In contrast, authentic Montessori
preschools offer long, uninterrupted work periods that allow children to
fully engage in tasks that they have chosen for themselves, under the
careful, individual guidance of their teacher. Montessori children thus
have repeated opportunities to get really engrossed in their activities,
and experience regular states of concentrated focus. Visit a good
Montessori preschool, and you may see a 3-year-old spending 30 minutes
carefully arranging color tablets in a rainbow pattern, or a 4-year-old
tracing, coloring and labeling a map of the world. As adults, we can't
focus when we know we'll be interrupted soon; neither can children.
Unstructured, child-led time is key in building concentration skills at
the foundation of all learning!

3. A carefully sequenced, activity-based curriculum that engages hand and
mind.
While most play-based preschools have the same type of toys you already
have at home--think legos, dress-up corners, coloring pages, trains and
blocks--Montessori preschools offer something different to your child.
Displayed beautifully on low shelves, you'll find dozens of
scientifically designed learning materials: a Pink Tower, Color Tablets,
pouring activities, a Movable Alphabet, math materials that teach the
decimal system and arithmetic into the thousands, and so much more. Each
activity has been selected because children at hundreds of Montessori
preschools chose it freely, repeatedly. Each one teaches multiple skills
and enables the preschool child to problem solve, to use his hands and
all his senses, to repeat an activity and achieve mastery. By progressing
at his own pace through these activities, a Montessori preschool child
joyfully refines his gross and fine motor skills, and, ultimately,
progresses to reading, writing and arithmetic into the thousands, all
while in preschool.

THREE MONTESSORI PRESCHOOL DIFFERENCES: WHAT CHILDREN LEARN

1. Independence, self-confidence and a growth mindset.
Montessori children acquire a level of physical and intellectual
independence rarely seen in other preschool environments. From day one
they learn to take care of their own needs (dressing themselves,
preparing snack) and their environment (cleaning up after lunch, taking
care of classroom plants and animals.) This daily experience of being
trusted with real responsibility for meaningful tasks--and rising to the
occasion by successfully meeting that responsibility--results in children
who have the earned self confidence that comes from actual mastery
(against shaky self-esteem based on empty praise by others.) And because
we acknowledge that mistakes are necessary for learning, because we greet
spilled water or a broken glass with a calm, constructive attitude,
children discover that it's ok to make mistakes, and that we can and
should learn from them. Our preschoolers acquire a growth mindset, a
fundament attitude about the world that is invaluable to a joyful,
successful life.

2. Joyful acquisition of reading, writing and arithmetic in preschool.
While many preschools pride themselves in their "pre-reading" or "pre-
math" curriculum, Montessori preschool children actually learn to write,
read and do arithmetic into the thousands, while in preschool. They do so
joyfully, with activities they choose, such as drawing pictures and
writing stories about them, or participating in a small group addition
exercise with the Golden Bead materials. The work Montessori 6-year-olds
do is astounding: look at our work samples, or click here to see the type
of book a typical 3rd year Montessori preschool student can read
independently.

3. Executive function skills, from attention span to graceful social
interactions.
Recent research shows that executive function skills (self control,
organization, time management) are more highly correlated with school and
life success than even IQ. Montessori preschool purposefully develops
these skills. When a child has to wait for a material another child is
working with, or when he stands calmly to observe a friend at work, he
practices impulse control. By executing multi-step processes, such as
table washing, and by always completing a full cycle of work--from taking
a material from a shelf, to doing the activity and replacing it in its
proper spot--the preschooler learns organization and problem solving.
Grace and courtesy lessons and a daily emphasis on respecting the rights
of friends and teachers foster a benevolent environment where pro-social
skills emerge naturally.

								
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