This is a summary of a 1998 article, “Montessori for the Elementary,” written by Tim Seldin, President of The Montessori Foundation.
As the child approaches six, parents are faced with a choice of whether to continue their child’s Montessori education or transition them to a more traditional school setting. Here are some important reasons to consider enrolling your child in Montessori Elementary.
In the elementary classroom, Montessori students move from the more concrete world of their preschool years to a more abstract world that leads them to question “why?” The elementary curriculum encourages and nurtures this natural curiosity through an organized mastery of fundamental skills and basic core knowledge. The curriculum is blended with Maria Montessori’s Great Lessons on the origin of the universe and individually chosen research. This environment, with its strong sense of community and led by a teacher who serves as a mentor and guide, fosters within students a “habit of academic excellence.” In the same way that the Montessori preschool addressed many styles of learning, the elementary program also reaches children through various forms of intelligence, thus educating the whole child. Most importantly, the structure of the elementary classroom teaches students to think for themselves. Teachers focus on asking questions that inspire students to inquire, analyze and evaluate as fully engaged learners.
**It is important to realize that the elementary program is structured in two three-year cycles, the second being dependent on what is learned and accomplished in the first. For this reason, if you are considering Montessori elementary for your child, understand that he/she will need to begin the program at age 6.
Maria Montessori recognized that children in the second plane of development (ages 6-12) are at a sensitive period for moral reasoning. The elementary Montessori program integrates character development and family involvement throughout the curriculum and guides children as they examine world issues through a moral lens. By giving students the freedom and responsibility to direct their own learning through individual research, children gain a sense of dignity in the classroom and feel respected by their peers and teachers.
The elementary curriculum has a decidedly global view. Students learn a foreign language, and world geography, international cultures, world history, and global economics are woven throughout the fabric of the curriculum.
Students in the Montessori elementary classroom work within a written study plan for the day or week. This study plan includes the basic tasks they should complete, but allows them the flexibility to decide how long to spend on each task. In addition to the study plan, students explore subjects that interest them and share them with their classmates.
Assessment often takes the form of oral examinations given by the teacher or presentations made by the student to the class. Students may also demonstrate their knowledge by teaching a classmate what they have learned or by preparing their own written tests to administer to friends.
Students are given standardized tests at certain grade levels. These are used simply to give a baseline for the student, not to predict achievement or compare students.