Montessori gives children a foundation for abstract understanding, but the process is anything but complete as they begin kindergarten. Two-, three-, and four-year-olds absorb impressions from the world around them like sponges. Their learning is generally unconscious.
Five-year-olds are beginning to reflect upon the world. They pay closer attention, notice more details, ask more questions, and begin to explain the world in their own terms. The kindergarten year is a time when the child begins to integrate everything she learned in the first few years. Although many parents have heard, and on some level appreciate, that the years before first grade are the most important years in a child’s education, decisions about a child’s preschool and kindergarten often receive less objective analysis than goes into selecting a new car. There is a tendency to assume that the local schools are fundamentally good enough. In doing so, parents underestimate the amount of learning that takes place in the third year of Montessori.
By age five, most Montessori children are well on their way to understanding the decimal system, place value, mathematical operations, and similar information. With reinforcement as they grow older, it becomes internalized and a permanent part of who they are. When they leave Montessori before they have had the time to internalize these early concrete experiences, their early learning often evaporates because it is neither reinforced nor commonly understood.
Montessori is an approach to working with children that is carefully based on what we’ve learned about child development from several decades of research. By the end of kindergarten, Montessori children are generally doing very well academically. Montessori offers them enriched lessons in math, reading, and language, and if they are ready, they normally develop excellent skills.
“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” – Dr. Maria Montessori