Dr. Maria Montessori did all the heavy lifting of creating a completely new way of looking at young children. Like many jewel-like things of beauty, this practical application of her work is wonderfully simple.
At Gift of Grace Montessori, we understand that children of different ages have different needs and abilities. We make sure that our classroom has developmentally appropriate activities and expectations. When something new is discovered about the growing brain, we are taking notes, ready to back it up with our educational practice.
We observe our children. The child has so much to teach us about learning. By watching closely, we can modify our lessons and materials to best suit the child’s interests and growth. We try to anticipate what the child will need next and make sure that this experience is available for when the child is ready to explore the subject or skill. We call this “following the child.”
We believe that the environment itself is the best teacher, and we prepare it like a mama bird would craft a proper nest for her babies. We design the classroom to fit the needs of the child, rich experiences balanced by beauty and order. This takes a great amount of effort, but we are rewarded when a child enters and is inspired to learn.
In our classroom, you would see objects in baskets, trays, or boxes attractively arranged on a shelf. Each work contains a purpose that is designed to teach a specific concept.
We model grace and courtesy (good manners), treating our children as we wish ourselves to be treated. We use calm voices when teaching and speak with respect in regard to the children’s feelings. We carry ourselves with poise and handle objects with care. We believe that the children are acutely observing us even when we aren’t aware of it, and they will mimic our behaviors and attitudes.
We do not use rewards and punishments to force children to comply with rules or to combat ill behavior. When a child misbehaves, we first examine the reasons why the child is exhibiting those behaviors (hungry? tired? overstimulated? testing boundaries?) and then we contemplate whether a change in the prepared environment would help or if we need to teach certain problem solving skills to prevent another occurrence. Never do we use shame or humiliation. We try to help the child understand appropriate behavior in a social context in a gentle, firm manner.
We believe that children learn best when they are free to move their bodies throughout the day. Children are allowed to move around in their environment, visit the bathroom as often as they like, and work in a variety of sitting or standing positions. We want to teach our children to respect their bodies and control their movements, and by allowing this freedom, we feel that this helps the growing brain learn more effectively. We encourage this independence, but also teach respect for others. No one’s freedom should infringe upon another’s right to concentrate.
We believe that the materials a child works with should be carefully chosen to support the current developmental stage. Natural materials are preferred, and the works themselves are arranged attractively on the shelves. Concrete experiences are always offered first and abstract thinking presented later, when the child has a firm grasp on the concept. We believe that education can change the world for the better. The children themselves represent a “bright, new hope”. We feel that the work we do as educators, guiding children toward self reliance and compassion is incredibly important. How our children are treated when they are young is going to impact our entire world when they are all grown up and making decisions that affect others. We are humbled by the great possibilities that exist within the tiniest of humans, and we respect their inner wisdom.
Gift of Grace Montessori 8097 Vineyard Parkway Kalamazoo, Michigan 49009