Why Montessori for the Kindergarten year?
Montessori is focused on teaching for understanding. In a primary classroom, three and four-year-olds receive the benefit of two years of sensorial preparation for academic skills by working with the concrete Montessori learning materials. This concrete sensorial experience gradually allows the child to form a mental picture of concepts like how big is a thousand, how many hundreds make up a thousand, and what is really going on when we borrow or carry numbers in mathematical operations. The value of the sensorial experiences that the younger children have had in Montessori have often been under-estimated by both parents and educators.
Research is very clear that young children learn by observing and manipulating their environment, not through textbooks and workbook exercises. The Montessori materials give the child concrete sensorial impression of abstract concepts, such as
long division, that become the foundation for a lifetime understanding. Because Montessori teachers are well trained in child development, they normally know how to present information in developmentally appropriate ways.
My five year old is in a classroom with 3 and 4 year olds?
The five year olds in Montessori classes often help the younger children with their work, actually teaching lessons or correcting errors. Anyone who has every had to teach a skill to someone else may recall that the very process of explaining a new concept or helping someone practice a new skill leads the teacher to learn as much, if not more, than the pupil. This is supported by research. When one child tutors another, the tutor normally learns more from the experience than the person being tutored. Experiences that facilitate development of independence and autonomy are often very limited in traditional schools.
In a nutshell...
When a child transfers from Montessori to a new kindergarten, she spends the first few months adjusting to a new class, a new teacher, and a whole new system with different expectations. This, along with the fact that most kindergartens have a much lower set of expectations for five-year-olds than most Montessori programs, severely cuts into the learning that could occur during this crucial year of their lives.