Montessori observed that the child up to his 6th year has an absorbent mind and learns without effort, taking information in like a sponge. He learns through observation, movement and exploration. The child has certain sensitive periods and an inner developmental drive, which leads to the acquisition of many skills such as language, refinement of the senses and social behaviour. During the sensitive period, the child acquires skills without effort. If it is missed, the child then has to learn it later with great effort. The carefully prepared Montessori environment responds to the needs of the child at these stages and provides maximum opportunity for their development.
It is important that the child stay until their 5th year to benefit from the method. Children who stay on until 7 or older will be able to progress through the material going from the concrete to the abstract. The child is ready to explore culture – the sciences, the arts, and the universe. Each has acquired enough basic reading and writing skills to initiate research into the profound questions and interests emerging at this age. Why repeat skills and drill when the child clamours for enrichment? The Montessori child has been exposed to cognitive development for three years and he is ready for a new stimulant.
A small school is like a family, children must make an effort to get along with each other. Shared work, ideas and free movement and verbalisation enrich the social life. Because of the mixed age group there is a wider programme for varied levels and wider options for the child’s individual pace. Each stage of the child prepares for the next. The 3 year old learns how to be independent; the 6 year old takes imaginative steps beyond his environment and explores his universe. The sensitive period for imagination is not present in the younger child. The order, which is the basis for the young child is on a new level for the older child – the abstraction. The older child wants facts about his world and to classify it.
The classroom introduces palaeontology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology, physics and chemistry. Initially, language was learning the names of things, later it defines the relationship between acts including moral questions. Language expresses the conscious development of the human mind and ability to reason.