Whenever it is a viable option for the family, Montessori strongly encourages a third year in the Montessori Children’s House, as the “kindergarten year” is the capstone of a child’s early childhood Montessori education; it is the final piece that brings together all that a child has learned during the preceding years. From the age of three to four, a child spends two years learning through their senses, using concrete materials – as they near the age of five, they are ready to apply these “concrete sensorial impressions of abstract concepts, such as long division, that become the foundation for a life-time of understanding.” (Tim Seldin, president of The Montessori Foundation). Moving a child out of a Montessori program before these concepts have time to take root, may cause them to “lose” this knowledge—just as a young child living overseas will learn to speak two languages, but may quickly lose the second language when his family moves back to their home country.
IS MONTESSORI KINDERGARTEN A SEPARATE PROGRAM?
It’s important to understand that the Montessori approach to kindergarten does not treat it as a separate program than the core preschool years, but as an extension of those years, taking place in the same classroom and with the same teacher and among the same friends that the child has come to know and love during their preschool years. In addition to core learning during the morning work cycle, students participate in specialized learning during the afternoon. The teacher has regular one-on-one lessons with the child as well as small group instructional times. The program enables the child to master and expand upon the basics they have already learned in math, science, culture and geography, reading and writing, before they move into first grade in public and private schools.
WHAT IS TAUGHT IN MONTESSORI KINDERGARTEN?
Each child develops on a unique time frame, but we find many parents wonder what their child will know by the end of kindergarten. Results vary based on the child’s length of time in the Children’s House (whether they complete a full three-year cycle, and regularly attended), and their own unique development (one of the beauties of the Montessori method – allowing each child to develop at their own pace!), but many children will:
- Understand and use numbers with quantities up to 1000
- Have been introduced to the decimal systems, squares and cubes of numbers, skip counting
- Be knowledgeable in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with 1-, 2- and 3-digit numbers using the Montessori materials
- Know the phonetic sounds and letter names of lower and upper case alphabet
- Know phonograms, parts of speech and beginning grammar
- Have explored a variety of literature including fiction, non-fiction and poetry
- Have memorized sight words
- Be able to read books (beginner readers up to chapter/junior books)
- Be able to write sentences and have completed creative writing assignments
- Have explored the sciences: human body, health and nutrition, solar system, weather, water cycle, rock classification, states of matter, magnetism, motion and more!
- Have explored the environment: botany (plant anatomy, physiology, geography and horticulture) and zoology (animal kingdom and classification, needs and biomes, food web), and eco-awareness
- Have explored engineering and technology: structures, energy, force, sink and float and simple machines
- Have explored physical and cultural geography: earth formations, atmosphere, weather and seasons, land and water forms, maps (longitude and latitude), learning countries of the world and their flags, as well as world cultures.
- Continue to learn global citizenship, collaboration and peace
- Continue to develop more advanced practical life skills including care of the environment (cleaning, mopping, dusting, sweeping, window washing, tending plants, raking, shoveling), food preparation and basic cooking, sewing, etiquette and grace and courtesy
However, much more than competency in the basic skills, the goal of the Montessori approach is to allow children to develop a lifelong love of learning, self-confidence, problem-solving ability, and strong social conscience. Our students transition successfully into the conventional first grade because of their knowledge base, their confidence, and their eagerness to learn.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF A TRADITIONAL KINDERGARTEN PROGRAM?
When a child transitions to a traditional program for their kindergarten year, they spend several months simply adjusting to new routines, expectations, classmates, teachers – a whole new system! In addition, children move to a group-learning method, which often forces the Montessori child to re-learn, with their peers, what they have already learned in their Children’s House years. The group-learning model does not allow the teacher to customize lessons and learning–to the degree that the Montessori teacher does–for children who are advanced in their academic knowledge. As you will see throughout this series of blog posts on kindergarten readiness, the general and academic knowledge that a child gains in the Montessori classroom is typically far more advanced than what a child is expected to learn in traditional kindergarten!
HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT IS RIGHT FOR MY CHILD & MY FAMILY?
Some children leave the Montessori classroom at the end of their preschool years and are successful in their transition to traditional kindergarten programs, however other children flourish with the gift of the final year in the Montessori classroom.
The parent is the only one who can determine the best option for their child and their family, and there is no one right decision for everyone, but we hope that each family will consider whether Montessori kindergarten is the right choice for them!
If you have any questions about kindergarten at Sonnet, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or explore our kindergarten information page.
If you choose to transition your child to a traditional kindergarten program at your local public (Prior Lake or Lakeville), private or charter school, join us next week to find out what essential skills your child will need to be ready!