Joshua currently attends a parent-toddler Montessori class once a week. I believe that he has benefited immensely from attending as there is no substitute for firsthand experience. I have done a lot of reading on Montessori at home and in the classroom to date and seeing the theory in practice is invaluable.
So why attend a Montessori parent-toddler group? These are our reasons for attending:
- The materials are prepared and presented for your child. There are a far wider range of things available so your child has a good chance to access and have a go at these. It provides inspiration for home and can give rise to new interests that you can support at home.
- The teacher is Montessori trained and can answer any question about the different Cycles in the school as well as provide support on Montessori education and for me, a general parenting sounding board.
- The Montessori trained teacher who you have access to who can engage your child but also observes and transitions them to the environment that they will be in when they attend kindergarten.
- Meeting like minded parents – The Montessori community here in Melbourne is reasonably small so it is nice to be able to foster some relationships with people who feel the same way about educating their children.
- This is a great introduction to the Montessori classroom. The only differences are the parents attending (which is good so they can understand a little what environment their child will be educated in) and the fact that there are not the 3 different ages of children you would find in the Cycle 1-3 classrooms. The next stage is the Early Learners program. It is optional to attend (it is highly recommended to transition though), some parents are more comfortable to continue with the parent-toddler program which is also fine however at some stage the separation to the Montessori classroom for longer periods of time is required. The parent-toddler class is once a week for 2 hours. The Early Learners class is 2 x 2 hours per week. Cycle 1 is 5 x 3 hours per week (in keeping with the 3 hour work cycle Montessori advocates).
- It is a lovely space for him to interact with other children, have access to activities and materials and enjoy a space outside of home that is calm, orderly and filled with beautiful apparatus for him to select to satisfy his curiosity.
We have modelled our work space at home on the same principles as the classroom so that the bridge between home and the classroom is not as vast. This makes reinforcement of expectations and behaviour much easier to reinforce.
I thought I would show you a little of the toddler Montessori classroom and a typical session that Joshua attends.
Joshua comes into the room – he knows it very well – and we put our coats, bags and other items up on a hook. On arrival his teacher will greet him and ask him how he is. Eye contact is made, a little handshake, a wave hello.
I usually offer the toilet when we arrive and then Joshua will walk around the room to take a look around at what is available (remembering that the materials are rotated regularly) and then decide what he wants to work on.
The room is organised with arts and crafts in one corner, food preparation in another (kitchen), apparatus for mat work and tables and chairs where other suitable apparatus to work on are located. Books are located in another area along with a general area for sitting. This order encourages the child to stick to those areas to use certain apparatus as they generally are not as suitable for use in other areas. For example some of the posting activities are better to be attempted at the table which is closer to child height so they can see what they are doing whereas activities such as cylinders or the small pink tower (stacking) are better done on the floor with a mat. Joshua chooses what he would like to work on, this is a child led environment. There are only a few rules:
- No yelling/disruptive behaviour. The classroom is a peaceful place. At this age it is inevitable that there may be some shrieks but this is discouraged.
- No interfering with another child’s activity – if another child says no to playing together quietly on an activity they are working on then I will encourage Joshua to find something else to work with.
- No physicality (e.g.shoving, pushing, hitting).
Other than this the child is free to pick and choose what activities they would like to work on.
Today Joshua decided to work with a container of butterflies. He is very interested in butterflies at the moment. He loves to bring them out of the container and flutter them around and examine the texture and detail of the butterflies in the box. He opens the container, engages with the activity then closes the box and returns it to the shelf.
There is a coin box that Joshua finds that he posts some coins into. This is an activity suitable for the mat. He carries the coin box over to a mat he gets out and engages with this activity for a while.
Threading is an activity that Joshua has been engaging with a bit. This one is blocks on a string, he seems to enjoy the worm going through the apple a little more than this one.
These are the Knobless Cylinders. These are presented in a small wooden box and are there are 10 red cylinders. These particular ones are the same height but different diameter. The size differential is slight so it takes a reasonable ability to discriminate and differentiate these in order to stack and sort successfully. They also only fit back into the box if placed correctly so this is also testing the child’s ability to either recall how or work out how to put these in so that they fit and the lid closes.
Joshua then chooses the yellow cylinders to work with, these are different height and different diameter. He builds these into a wonky tower before they fall down, this is what happens when you place a small cylinder in the centre of the structure. He packs the activity slowly away, the differing heights and diameters of these cylinders makes it trickier to replace in the box.
Threading with reels and plastic hose. Joshua concentrates so he threads through not just the middle but the outside holes.
Fruit cutting exercise. Just a fun way to name fruit, introduce the concept of cutting up fruit. This particular activity engages quite a few of the children each class.
A snack is taken at the communal snack table. Joshua is expected to get his placemat out, plate, cup and water and place them correctly at the table before helping himself to a snack. We are still working on him using the tongs to get food from the platter, he gets very enthusiastic to eat his snack and hands are faster.
Joshua manages to fit in some painting. His enthusiasm for painting started here when the setup appealed to him. His lovely teacher saves each one of his artworks and presents them to him to take after they are dried and collected in subsequent weeks.
After this a little bell rings and we sit on the mat for songs and each child is given the opportunity to identify and collect a personal item from a communal basket before heading out to the playground for some physical activity. At the moment there are vegetables in the veggie patch that are growing nicely that are tended to by some of the older children as well as some chickens that have been hatched and are laying eggs each morning. Then back to the classroom, we sing our goodbye song and class finishes for the day.
We love these classes. What I love the most about these is the constructive work that the children undertake. If you decide to enrol in one I would suggest getting your child on the waiting list as soon as possible as demand for the classes is quite high.