At Montessori Children's House of San Antonio, we understand that the child's most absorbent learning experience is from birth to six years. Maria Montessori said this is when learning patterns are set for a lifetime. It is also the period when growth is most evident and quality time is most valuable. The stronger the foundation, the greater the opportunity for individual growth. At MCH, the child is the focus; the student establishes the learning pace. In cooperation with the faculty, the child is guided through early socialization, awareness, individuality and interaction with others.
The result is a child who is confident, secure and who finds pleasure in learning and completing tasks in a specially prepared environment. Each aspect of the classroom, from the room layout to the learning materials, is designed to allow the child to act on his own initiative meeting his individual needs through purposeful activity. Respect shown for children's humanity and ability endows them with a sense of responsibility and strong self esteem. Dr. Montessori also recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. The children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, directs the activity and offers the child stimulation, but it is the child who learns and who is motivated through work itself to persist in a given task. If Montessori children are free to learn, it is because they have acquired an inner discipline from their exposure to both physical and mental order. This is the core of Dr. Montessori's philosophy.
The basis for all work in the classroom comes from the child's work in Practical Life, where he becomes aware of the need to care for self, environment and his neighbor. It is with these exercises – pouring, polishing, washing, buttoning, etc, that the child acquires progressive independence, learns control and order and develops the ability to organize and carry through to the end of a project.
The child first does these exercises for himself because he is perfecting himself. Then when the child becomes aware of the group he is a part of, he does the exercise for the benefit of the group and for the environment. Some of the aims of these exercises are to help the child develop his ability to concentrate, to help the child adapt to his own group and environment and to lead the child toward physical and mental independence – "Help me to help myself."
From zero to three years, the child absorbs millions of impressions through his senses. At three to six, this continues but with an important difference. The child is trying to bring some order to the chaos of impressions he has already received.
The Montessori Sensorial apparatus at Montessori Children's House is scientifically designed to refine, order and classify the sense impressions of sight, sound, touch and smell. Through the use of sensorial material, the child furthers his inner development. He becomes more aware and is able to interpret the world in a more coherent way.
The Mathematics program provides the framework for a strong understanding of concepts. Manipulative materials are used to enhance the child's grasp of mathematics and to illustrate practical applications. Dr. Montessori observed human tendencies to abstract, investigate, calculate, measure, imagine and create.
If the child is allowed to develop these tendencies through manipulating concrete materials, allowing for repetition and concentration, there is an easy transition to abstraction and a love for mathematics.
Of all the Montessori materials at Montessori Children's House, the math materials are the most impressive in design. From the 1000 chain with a thousand golden beads beaded together in tens to stretch the length of the classroom to the number rods that allow a child to physically understand quantity, these materials provide a foundation for understanding the four operations of math. They are designed to give the child his own manipulative experience with numbers as we move step by step from the concrete to the abstract. A child who doesn't love math is a child who has been to led to abstraction before he has a concrete understanding of the concepts.
In doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, the children actually carry, borrow and change the golden beads to reach their answer.
Language is woven into every area of the curriculum at Montessori Children's House. It includes phonics, reading, spelling, vocabulary, grammar and handwriting. As the child builds vocabulary and understands the idioms and nuances of language, he begins to realize that not only can he hear language, he can see language. We take advantage of the child's heightened sensitivity to touch and introduce the letters of the alphabet with Sandpaper letters which the child traces with his fingers and absorbs as a muscular memory.
The sounds of the letter are given with this lesson instead of the name of the letters. Then the child begins to connect the sound and make simple phonetic words and later compose sentences using wooden carved out letters called the Moveable Alphabet.
With the Moveable Alphabet, the child is able to express himself before he has control of the pencil. The Metal Insets help the child with holding of the pencil and lightness of touch. The filling in of the exercise gives the child practice for the strokes of writing and for keeping the marks within constrained space. When the child is able to compose words with these three exercises, the child has everything he needs to "explode" into reading.
Culture brings the world to the Montessori classroom. Cultural subjects, include geography, botany, biology, music, and art.
Geography is the central core to the culture studies. We begin with the introduction to the Land and Water Globe and then to the Continents. They work with puzzle maps of the world, continents and countries. Geography folders containing large pictures of people, places, animals and flora of the different continents and countries bring the puzzle pieces to life and providing a lasting appreciation and respect for all cultures.
Botany and zoology materials include puzzles and cards of the basic parts of plants and animals. The Leaf cabinet provides the child with a means of classifying the different shapes of leaves.