THE prepared environment
The Prepared Environment is a key principle of Montessori philosophy referring to the physical, instructional, and spiritual aspects of the classroom,the teachers and the children. Spiritual, in this sense, is a secular reference to peace of mind, enabling the teacher and student to engage in learning in a calm environment and manner.
Dr. Maria Montessori’s “follow the child” philosophy is often misinterpreted to mean that children are allowed to do whatever they want in a classroom. In fact, children are allowed freedom within limits to develop to their full potential, guided by Montessori-trained teachers, in a classroom that has specific Montessori materials and lessons in the areas of language arts, mathematics, practical life, and cultural subjects.
Children can choose freely from easily accessible educational materials made out of wood, ceramics, metal or glass. These activities are self-correcting, meaning a child can use them independently without constant instruction, and are rotated regularly in order to keep them fresh and interesting to students. Each multi-age class encompasses a wide range of developmental stages, allowing each child the ability to carve out their own individual learning path.
key areas of learning
The Practical Life area is made up of familiar objects that a child would naturally see in everyday life. Activities grow and change throughout the course of a Montessori education. They include life skills to help develop independence, coordination, concentration, self-control, self-awareness, and confidence. Younger children are taught skills such as food preparation, dressing, and cleaning. As students grow, they are given more responsibilities for both themselves and the community such as care of pets and the earth, manners, refining movements. In addition, all children are taught how to navigate social interactions so that they can learn to master the activities they will continue to encounter throughout adulthood.
Sensorial activities allow the child to refine each of their five senses while also refining fine motor skills, developing coordination and the ability to order and classify. Each sensorial activity focuses on one important quality such as color, weight, shape, size, texture, sound or smell.
Language is not an isolated topic but runs through the curriculum. The spoken language is the foundation for writing and then reading. Younger children work through specific hands-on and tactile language materials such as the sandpaper letters to the moveable alphabet.
Hands-on materials are used such as number rods, sandpaper numbers, number boards, spindle box, number tiles, beads, and games help children learn math using concrete items. Each exercise builds upon another and the child gradually moves from concrete to abstract areas such as place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions.
Studies of Geography, Zoology, Botany, History and Science allow the child to explore the natural world around them. While art and music are technically also culture studies, creativity is encouraged throughout all areas.