As you plan for your child’s future schooling we encourage you to view this video from the American Montessori Society.
We hope this video will provide more information about the benefits of having your child stay in a Montessori classroom for his or her pivotal kindergarten year.
What is the “three-year cycle”?
The three-year cycle refers to an essential element of Montessori education. Children from 3- 6 years are able to stay in the same classroom, with the same teacher, the same classmates and as a result are able to build a strong, cohesive community. They move through the stages of development experiencing different roles, responsibilities, and lessons and having their developmental, social, intellectual and emotional needs met at each stage they pass through.
The physical changes that we witness during this time are obvious but the mental and emotional changes are visible through close observation of the child. This ‘metamorphosis’ of a 3 year old to a 6 year old is so dramatic that it can be likened to the caterpillar, changing from a pupa into a butterfly.
It’s easy for everyone to understand how the child of 3 benefits from working in a community with older children. The child is able to observe the more advanced work the older children do, something the child will be aspiring to do some day. He can witness the grace and courtesy modeled in regard to how to resolve a dispute, how to express frustrations and how to use our words effectively. If the child struggles with work he has chosen, then an older child will be ready and eager to help.
What is not so easy to see immediately is how the older child of 5 or 6 benefits from the mixed-age community.
What makes the kindergarten year of Montessori so special?
The third year (kindergarten year) in the Montessori environment is really the “capstone” or senior year. Third year students are confident in who they are; they are the role models and leaders of the class, taking younger children under their wing to teach and nurture. These older students pass along what they have learned to the younger children and celebrate their learning and acquisition of knowledge and skills. They know how much work goes into the development of these skills and are delighted to show their peers.
The third year is when all the learning that has taken place in the previous two years reaches fruition and a child’s knowledge begins to fall into place. Your child will be challenged to reach his/her potential by his/her Montessori teacher who knows your child incredibly well and can provide precisely what is needed next. Children build upon what they have learned, experience rapid academic and social growth, and their skill level dramatically increases when they are given the opportunity to consolidate their knowledge within the Montessori classroom. Third year students are ready to explode into more complex learning and discovery and they delve into a wealth of new and interesting materials. They are guided to take on more and more complex work, begin to learn time management skills and have an increased set of expectations and privileges in the classroom. These older children also reinforce their academic skills by helping another child, a well-documented way to cement knowledge.
Your child’s repetition with the materials leads to the perfection of skills during the third year:
- Ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
- Perseverance from working with materials that require the child to follow a lengthy sequence and complete a cycle of challenging work.
- Problem solving skills from the child’s interaction with materials and situations that allow the child to resolve a situation independently.
- Making positive, independent choices.
- Long-term practice of constructive, purposeful work.
What will children work on during the academic year?
The practical life exercises that engage and fascinate the younger children, for example folding, washing, polishing, the dressing frames, evolve into a way of contributing and caring for your community for the third year child. The third year child will be folding the napkins and placemats so they are ready for snack, preparing snack and sweeping up the crumbs left behind after snack. The third year child is taking conscious responsibility to perform tasks that keep the classroom beautiful and modeling this for all to see.
In the area of language, all the work he did during the first two years with the sandpaper letters, learning the sounds and the symbols of the letters, and building words with the moveable alphabet by breaking them apart into individual sounds, now forms the foundation for reading. And it’s not just the task of acquiring fluency and comprehension in reading that occupies the third-year Primary child. There’s also work with nouns, articles, adjectives and verbs; the foundation of grammar; perfecting handwriting; writing one’s own stories and so much more.
In the math area, the work that the child of three and four has done to count first from 1 to 10, then to 100, then to 1000, and her concrete experience with the decimal system prepares her well for the beginnings of abstraction in the third year of Primary. Now she can work with the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a variety of ways and she can memorize math facts.
Why is Montessori the right choice?
We all know your child will undoubtedly learn to read and write and will learn to do the mathematical operations and these are all important skills, but I believe that these are not the most important things a third year child will learn. The greatest skills or gifts that the third year Primary child receives are the qualities of character the child creates. Self-confidence, self-motivation and responsibility for the community among others. These character traits are practiced and perfected each day, practicing empathy, showing love and affection for others of all ages and for oneself, exercising leadership skills, and being a positive role model to others.
Your child has been unconsciously looking forward to being one of the “big kids” in the classroom so if he/she is put into a school where the kindergartners are the youngest class, his/her cycle of maturing is interrupted. It is especially unfortunate for a child who is a younger sibling at home to miss this opportunity to shine. This year of leadership gives a child immeasurable self-esteem and intellectual confidence.
A key advantage of staying at our school is that your child’s teacher already knows your child very well so no time is lost at the beginning of the year trying to assess him/her. The gift of this third year can never be taken away and it sets up a child for future academic and social success.
A Montessori education, even if limited, still has great benefits. However, without that third year, their education will be incomplete. Some of the efforts of the child and teacher, that indirect preparation, will have been wasted. Imagine the child’s education as a house– the first year builds a solid foundation, and the second and third years erect the walls and, finally, the roof to top it off. The foundation is still useful on its own, but the house becomes a home, and much more significant, if one is allowed to build it to completion. Parents should do everything possible to give children the full Montessori experience.
On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, we will have a Montessori Kindergarten Night open to all parents. Click here for more information!