The Children’s House groups children aged 3 – 6 years old together in mixed-age classrooms, providing children both younger and older a wonderful opportunity to practice their social skills and learn as part of a greater community. At these ages, the children are in the first plane of development, which lasts from birth to age six. During this stage of life called the motor-sensorial period, the children enjoy and are driven to explore their environment through their five senses, gaining control of their body and adapting to the world in which they live.
To support this stage, the classroom environment of the Children’s House is specially designed to be child sized and child centered, allowing the child to work tirelessly, joyfully, and passionately with the material they’ve chosen for their self education.
Keeping track of belongings, putting things away, sharing an adult, taking turns using materials, and respecting the limits of the community are some of the initial challenges of this Montessori class and the foundation for the achievement of independence. The children are also introduced to a systematic Montessori approach to reading, mathematics, and the sciences.
The materials in the Children’s House classroom can be divided into three main groups:
1. The Practical Life Exercises
The exercise of practical life gives the child incentive for intelligent movement and for self correction. Untrained adults might have the impression that the children are just playing. Instead, they are doing meaningful work needed to gain movement, coordination, and self perfection. Work such as cleaning, setting the table, and pouring grains from one pitcher to another attracts the children. Their spirit finds expression in activities, and their interest is kept alive by the difficult exactness of the actions, by the attention to fine details. Gross and fine motor skills are being honed in preparation for more advanced work like writing.
2. The Sensorial Materials
The sensorial materials constitute another fascinating work attraction for the refinement of their five senses. These include sound cylinders where a child orders like-sized wood cylinders by sound, softest to loudest, jars with 2 colors that mix to create a third color when shaken, and sand letters that give visual, muscular, and auditory impressions, to name only a few.
Not only are the children of the first plane of education sensitive to perfecting movement and sensorial perceptions, they are also ripe to absorb early language formation and basic mathematical concepts. Sensorial materials not only engage the senses, but also act as learning tools towards this language and mathematical development. Object boxes, phonograms, the moveable alphabet, pink tower, binomial cube and more make letters, phonics, numbers, volume and size tangible.
3. The Academic Materials
Simple and classified nomenclatures for botany and zoology (i.e. genus/species names) on laminated cards are available for those children who have discovered reading. Geography puzzles at the national, continental, and global scale teach a child their location within a larger world while they also learn colors, shapes, naming and sorting. The foundations for higher math are laid through the use of the famous beaded rods, each of varying lengths that can be counted alone or together, assembled as a cube and visually and tangibly represent decimals, logs, and a variety of other mathematical principles.
Through indirect and direct interaction with the variety of materials a well prepared classroom provides, slowly the child’s hands and mind get ready for reading and writing. Then suddenly one day the child discovers that she can write, as if she has invented writing. Further along in their work, the child discovers how to read, on their own, as if by magic. A love for learning and the work of learning is sparked. Moments like these are a driving force of a Montessori education – the children’s discovery of their own mastery of the materials.