In determining where to send your child for elementary school, it is important to ask yourself several questions. What do I want my child to learn in elementary school? How do I want my child to feel about school? What do I remember about my elementary experience? The best choice you can make for your child is an informed choice.

Freedom Within Limits

One of the key components of a Montessori Elementary program is that children are guided through a very specific learning process but with enough freedom to help them develop self-discipline and critical time management skills. As in Primary, Elementary children are given extended cycles of uninterrupted work time (2-3 hours) in both the morning and the afternoon – something you will not find in the public or private schools following a more standard structure. This allows the children to appreciate the process of focusing on a certain subject matter and promotes concentration as well as task completion. Children have clearly established academic goals with the freedom to plan their work each day so as to meet these goals. Guidance is provided in this area as needed.

In a Montessori classroom, Elementary students follow their interests. While there is a formal curriculum with concrete milestones by which to measure achievement, there is not a prescribed schedule for the day. What that means, for example, is that a child will not be told to put their science work away because now it’s time to do math. Furthermore, they are given the autonomy to do more work in a specific area that interests them if they have completed their required work or feel they will be able to do so. They experience freedom with responsibility when they are given time to plan and organize independent choices. All the while, they continue to strengthen their academic skills including critical thinking, reading, writing, and computation.  Concepts students learned in Primary are internalized and become a permanent part of who they are.

Character Development

Conflict is inevitable, and in this small community the children have the opportunity to develop their conflict resolutions skills. This gives them the ability to solve their problems using their words – building on a concept introduced in Primary. Montessori Elementary students have a great deal of respect for each other as individuals, recognizing the differences that each one has.  During this age, they develop a keen awareness of the world around them.

Montessori comments that a child in this developmental stage (especially the latter half, 9-12 years old) is capable of intense learning – respecting, admiring and wanting to learn from the adults and peers around him. In this self-sufficient community, the children are learning to be leaders, how to function as a group, and how to make good choices. Nine to twelve-year-olds are developing a sense of tact and are becoming more responsible for ordering priorities. There is a noticeable improvement in memory and an increase in creativity. Children of this age are developing their character, something that will stay with them forever. A Montessori Elementary environment is a trustworthy place for these developmental changes to be taking place.

Individualized Education

One specific reason Montessori benefits a child’s development at this stage is that each child is considered an individual. This does not change when the child moves from Primary to Elementary.  In a Montessori classroom at any level, the whole child is educated – social and emotional, as well as academic. The supportive, nurturing environment of a Montessori classroom helps the older Elementary child through a period of growing emotional bursts, both positive and negative. We help them understand not only how to handle these emotions, but also that they are a natural and normal part of their development. During a time when friendships can often outrank relations with parents, the Montessori classroom helps the child develop skills that will get them through difficult social situations.

Opportunities

The Elementary program provides the students with many unique opportunities including an annual trip to Nature’s Classroom Institute, an exemplary outdoor educational experience incorporating all subject areas as well as trust and team building activities. Our students acquire strong research, writing, and study skills. The continued used of concrete math materials allows the Elementary student to not only be introduced to, but also develop a strong understanding of, advanced mathematical concepts such as square root, powers, bases, volume, and cubes. These skills will stay with the children for their entire lives and will help them become efficient and effective independent learners.

The Montessori Elementary classroom requires little homework from its students. Current research shows that there are no benefits of homework to younger children, and it may not even help older children. Homework does not reinforce what students learn in school – correct answers don’t necessarily signify understanding. Those that grasp concepts easily are wasting their time with rote practice and those that struggle could be cementing their misunderstandings. There is no data to support that homework builds character, promotes self-discipline or teaches good study habits. However, homework does have drawbacks: frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, lack of time for other activities, possible loss of interest in learning, and it may actually serve to extinguish the flame of curiosity that defines great thinkers.

We want children to return to school each day ready and eager to learn. Therefore, in Elementary, homework is only given when necessary and the students play an active role in planning the assignment. We ask ourselves – will this help students think more deeply (as opposed to cramming facts into short-term memory)? Will this help them to become more excited and to love learning? Possibly the best predictor of an exciting and successful college experience is not a matter of skills but of disposition – the desire to learn, question, explore and discover. These are all things developed in a Montessori classroom.

Preparation for Life

Upon completing the Montessori Elementary program, students are prepared to transition to the next phase of their education.  They have developed strong time management and organizational skills, problem solving skills, and a high level of self-confidence.

At the end of the Montessori elementary program, your 12-year-old is ready for a very important transition: becoming an adolescent. His elementary years have given him the freedom to develop as a unique individual. He has experienced the challenges and rewards of working with a group of children of various ages and has seen his skills and talents put to use in many group projects. He has developed proficiency in all areas of academic endeavors and looks forward to the new opportunities beyond Montessori elementary. He loves and trusts the adults with whom he works. Above all, he is flexible and adaptable. These skills, the culmination of the 6 year Montessori elementary program, will help him easily assimilate into new academic and social situations in middle school, high school, college and beyond.

Ask yourself again – What do I want my child to learn in Elementary? How do I want my child to feel about his own life and about school? Our goal is not ensuring that children develop at a predetermined rate, but providing the experience to ensure that whatever they do, they do well and master.

 

Carol Martora10365787_10204261764287267_5566746969908206389_nno, M.Ed., has been working in Montessori for 20 years as both a teacher and administrator. She is the parent of two teenagers who attended Montessori through the elementary years and is currently the Head of School at the Montessori School of Long Grove, in northwest suburban Chicago. She has her Montessori credentials in Elementary I and II, as well as Administration. She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and sits on the board of the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools.

 

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