The Montessori preschool environment for ages 2.6 through 6 years old is a ”home” for children. Children choose their work from among the self correcting materials displayed on open shelves, and they work in specific work areas. Over a period of time, the children develop into a ”normalized community”, working with high concentration and few interruptions. Normalization is the process whereby a child moves from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused through work in the environment. The process occurs though repeated work with materials that captivate the child’s attention. For some children this inner change may take place quite suddenly, leading to deep concentration. In the Montessori preschool, academic competency is a means to an end and the manipulatives are viewed as “materials for development”.
In the Montessori preschool environment, five distinct areas constitute the prepared environment:
- Exercises of Practical Life: Leads to refinement in motor co-ordination, independence in care of oneself and one’s environment, social behavior and co-ordination of physical movement.
- The Sensorial: Help the child develop consciousness and intelligent exploration of the environment.
- Mathematics: Helps the child to evaluate and establish relationships with parts and aspects of things precisely.
- Language: Most basic means of communication and scope for expression. Includes oral language development, written expression, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics and children’s literature. Basic skills in writing and reading are developed through the use of sand paper letters, alphabet cut outs and various presentations allowing children to link sounds and letter symbols effortlessly and to express their thoughts through writing.
- Cultural Activities: Expose the child to basics in geography, history, botany, zoology and life sciences. Music, art, dance and movement education are part of the integrated cultural curriculum