What Are the Goals of the Montessori Classroom?
For an overview of the goals of each program click here. (Caution: Large PDF file)
Parents often want to know if Fountainhead is an “academic” school or if it's “play-based." They may have heard either that Montessori schools have no structure, or that they are quite rigid. You will find that the classroom, which we call the prepared environment, allows the child a great deal of independence within a defined structure. At this age, any activity that meets the cognitive, social, or emotional developmental needs of the child may be considered academic, as it is building the foundation of skills the child will need for all types of learning. At the same time, the child may use her imagination and “play” as she uses an activity, absorbing the skill or concept built into it.
The child may achieve the goals of the Montessori method through working with the activities the teacher prepares. These goals are order, concentration, coordination, and independence. “The education of even a very small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school but for life.” (Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child) Luckily, with order, concentration, coordination, and independence the child is prepared for both school and life.
Children from birth through age 6 are especially tuned into order. This is not the adult sense of order with a place for everything and everything in its place, though the classroom is very neat and tidy. This is the order of process. Children are developing their awareness of all types of relationships and have an innate—at times almost compelling—need for order to make sense of the world around them. This is why they thrive on routines such as bedtime rituals and hearing the same story or song over and over again. The Montessori environment uses this natural love of order to help the child organize all the sensory impressions and life lessons they encounter in all areas of their lives.
The general view of young children is that they have very short attention spans. Montessori discovered that even very small children are capable of profound, deep concentration. How is this possible? The rich and varied Montessori environment, as seen in Fountainhead’s classrooms, provides the child with the opportunity to find an activity that precisely meets an interest or developmental need. Just as important, this environment allows the child the chance to use that activity by herself, without interruption. Of course, after such intense effort a child needs the opportunity to rest, perhaps observing others at work or trying several familiar activities. Then another session of concentration may be possible. It is important to note that this choice of activity and concentration must come from the child herself to be successful. That is why we say that we follow the child.