Preschoolers need a strong foundation to move forward as children first and then as adults later in their lives. Parents being the primary care givers, become their first teachers. So, the home model is the first exposure in which children start constructing their personalities.
Coming away from home to a school setting should make way for greater learning! The element of curiosity should drive the children towards exploration and discovery. A Montessori inspired environment does just that. It gives the child, the freedom to explore, to make own discoveries and to grow holistically.
The notion of ‘freedom’ may deter many parents. The freedom in a Montessori environment is wrapped in a subtle control factor whereby, children do exercise their freedom but willingly abide by the classroom limitations. This willingness to abide must come from within and is not forced upon the child. The Montessori philosophy lays emphasis on the fact that a child is a unique individual and should be given respect just like an adult. A child, from the time of birth, is ready to construct himself mentally and physically. For this, he/she needs tasks or hands-on activities.
The secret that Dr. Maria Montessori discovered was the fact that children learn not by listening to a teacher teaching but by ‘doing’ things. They need to use their physical attributes and all their senses to explore and interact. In fact, a child can do all the work that an adult can do! But owing to their size and physical limitations, the environment needs to scale down the tasks by providing child-sized materials to work with. By doing this, children are emulating their surrounding! They feel happy that they can do all the chores that their mummies and daddies are doing at home, like washing, cleaning, setting a table, carrying things, sweeping etc. This is what they need! They are not made to sit for long hours and listen to a teacher talking endlessly. What they need is an environment where they feel a sense of purpose and where they can exercise their muscles and cognitive abilities.
The ‘tasks’ or the ‘chores’ that they do are in fact things that will help them become independent and self-sufficient. A preschool child needs to ‘acquire’ this independence. This cannot be taught! Independence can be acquired only by ‘doing’. A child from birth to age six needs to strengthen his/her muscles; learn to become independent – physically and mentally. A human child, unlike an animal baby, needs to learn how to walk, how to talk and do many other things. There is a huge difference here.
A Montessori inspired environment allows the child to self-construct while acquiring independence, both physical and mental. Because every child is unique, this acquisition of independence and knowledge, will take place in different stages and at different pace for every child. A Montessori teacher, who serves as a guide, observes every child, and makes note of his/her progress and interests. The observation records help to plan the child’s learning journey.
Weaved into this tapestry of child’s interest and exploration, are elements of Language, Math and Science topics. A child’s learning journey in a Montessori setting is tempered with independence, self-esteem, self-discipline and ‘Aha’ moments. As Montessori guides, children’s ‘Aha’ moments give us joy and a sense of fulfillment as educators!