A Helping Friend

Third-Year Montessori

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“To prepare our students for world stewardship, we provide them with a foundation of learning that embraces the cultural, social, visual, historical, and physical aspects of life.” – HBMH Philosophy

This philosophy builds the structure of our kindergarten program.

From early infancy, we have been preparing our students for this very moment. Everything leading up to this point has been a preparation for their kindergarten year, and on. The most important commitment a parent can make to a Montessori child is to promise, both to the child and school, that the child will be allowed to complete the full three to four year primary cycle. The three-year old year is a time of discovery. The four-year old year is a time of solidification. The five-year old kindergarten year, hereon referred to as the “third year”, is a time for application of all the child has learned since early infancy.DSC_0286

The primary third year is critical to the development of self-confidence and independence. It is also the last chance to take advantage of the amazing abilities of the Absorbent Mind before it disappears forever.

Montessori children are given freedom to choose their own work. They know the expectations of the classroom, and they treat one another with grace and courtesy. Their work is respected by the guides and fellow classmates. We never interrupt their concentration, allowing them to develop their full potential.

Some parents choose to enroll their child in a new school for kindergarten because they believe this is the norm; that children of this age must go to public school. Montessori primary communities are well equipped for kindergarten-aged students. The curriculum is based upon the expectation that the child will remain in the same program through their 5th or 6th year.

Imagine working on a machine. You know you have six years to complete the project; the last year, you’ll have an opportunity to use the machine in the real world. You spend years perfecting and manipulating each piece of the machinery, preparing it for the last year when you’ll be able to present it to the community. Now imagine being pulled from the project on the 5th year, only to be told that you’re being moved to a new project, in a completely different environment. This is similar to what our kindergarten-aged students experience when they’re pulled out of their school environment before that last, critical year; the “application” year.DSC_0462

Unfortunately, not every school practices Montessori. A child who is used to working independently, getting one-on-one attention from the guide, completing each step at their own pace and not being rushed, working at the table or on a floor rug, and so forth, is now forced to sit at a desk all day, with restricted movements, listening to one teacher speak to the group as a whole. Montessori prepares the child to appreciate learning, develop a passion for discovery and research, use their creativity, problem solve, grace and courtesy, care for the environment, self control, amongst many other things. We want our children to leave our school, prepared to face each of life’s challenges and milestones with optimism and motivation. We want them to be young leaders of this world, tolerant and accepting of all cultural diversities.

In order for the child to succeed, they need to perfect their Executive Functions. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Executive Functions are a set of particular mental skills that help the child reach maturity, such as memory, mental flexibility, and self control. These skills, along with many others, are embodied in the lessons and materials that our students work with every day.DSC_0620

The primary third year is a time for the child to master life skills; skills that they’ve been working on their entire life. Skills that help prepare the child for the modern 21st Century. Many public/private preschools do not include these skills as a component of their curriculum, which are actually very critical to the child’s development. For instance:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Collaboration and Leading by Influence
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Assessing and Analyze Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination
  • Love of Work

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

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“We need every worker to be a ‘knowledge worker’. How do you do things that haven’t been done before, where you have to rethink or think anew, or break set in a fundamental way, it’s not incremental improvement.” – Hellen Kumata, Managing Partner at Cambria Association

“Our children are allowed to choose, explore, manipulate objects. They are encouraged to formulate ideas, try these ideas out, and accept or reject what they learn.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Collaboration and Leading by Influence

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“My greatest concern is young people’s lack of leadership skills. Kids just out of school have an amazing lack of preparedness in general leadership skills and collaboration skills. They lack the ability to influence versus direct command.” – Mike Summers, VP of Global Talent Management at Dell Computers

“Classroom communities encompass a two-or three-year age span, which allows younger students to experience the daily stimulation of older role models, who in turn blossom in the responsibilities of leadership. Students not only learn with each other, but from each other.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

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“Leadership is the capacity to take initiative and trust yourself to be creative. I say to my employees if you try five things and get all five of them right, you may be failing.” – Mark Chandler, Senior VP and General Counsel at Cisco

“We encourage curiosity, creativity and self-directed development. The prepared environment creates innovation competence by means of including trained adults and the correct works and resources. The classroom is organized to support experimentation and learning rather than dictating what will be learnt and what the experiment will be.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Oral and Written Communication

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“We are routinely surprised at the difficulty some young people have in communicating: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills. They have difficulty being clear and concise; it’s hard for them to create focus, energy and passion around the points they want to make.” – Mike summers, VP for Global Talent Management at Dell Computers

“Our students are encouraged to think for themselves and articulate their own opinions. Socially, they care about others, know how to work well in groups; take a long-term project and break it down into “do-able” parts, and they see assessments as feedback.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Assessing and Analyzing Information

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“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.” – Mike Summers

“Montessori children are encouraged to observe, explore, question, and investigate everything. They are allotted the freedom and time for the conception of a problem or situation and the discovery of its solution. This gives them the opportunity to produce ideas through flexibility which allows for the ability to switch from one perspective to another.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Curiosity and Imagination

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“I want people who can think – they’re not just bright – they’re also inquisitive. Are they engaged, are they interested in the world.” – Clay Parker, President of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards

“Children can compare, find similarities, and refine the powers of discrimination in order to create abstractions. They learn to distinguish similarities and differences, and learn to place these variables into an ordered progression. We foster an environment that inspires “what if” and curiosity.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Love of Work

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“Children know when their work is worthy and good. They know when it measures favorable against their inspirations, talents, efforts, values, and abilities. They learn to assess themselves and their ideas honestly.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

HBMH’s kindergarten program gives children the opportunity to perfect all of these skills in a safe learning environment. Every parent must eventually make the decision where their child attends kindergarten. Of course, we respect your choice, whatever it may be. Our goal, as educators and Montessori mentors, is to encourage each child and family to reach and exceed their full potential. We are here to guide you through this decision, and find the right path for your child’s upcoming academic career.

My Child’s Teacher is 6 Years Old

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No matter what side of the argument you stand on, there is concrete evidence and scientific proof that mixed ages in one classroom can be very beneficial. Starting in her earliest primary communities, Dr. Maria Montessori incorporated children as young as 2.5 years in a classroom with children as old as 6 years. This is a very common practice in many Montessori schools today, including our precious HBMH.

For many parents, putting their young 2.5 year old in a classroom with much older students (sometimes over the age of 6), can be quite intimidating. Especially if their child has never been in a daycare setting before. Children grow exponentially between 3 and 6 years of age. It’s quite impressive to see what the younger ones are capable of doing while learning and growing under the leadership and influence of students twice their age.

In Montessori, we want the materials to teach the children, allowing them to work independently. The same goes for their fellow peers; we want the older children to teach, guide, lead, influence, and motivate their younger friends. Through this structure, the younger students observe and imitate the older student’s actions, and the older students gain leadership skills as they guide and support their fellow classmates. They learn to be patient and compassionate for those who rely on them for help. Competition in the classroom is eliminated because every child is at a different stage of learning.

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Children learn more readily from other children than they do from adults…think of when you used to play “school” with your other childhood friends. It comes naturally to our little ones.

Maria Montessori observed that children are eager to learn, and she identified self-directed, observational learning as a central theme of childhood. Describing the phenomenon of observational learning in a multi-age group, Montessori wrote that the child “…suddenly becomes aware of his companions, and is almost as deeply interested as we are in the progress of their work.”

Through my observations in our primary community, I’ve witnessed multiple occasions of older students voluntarily helping their younger friends. I’ve witnessed lessons being given between the two, as if they themselves were the Guide. I’ve seen a 5 year old help a younger friend carry a full water pitcher to the hand washing basin, showing them how to walk with much precision while balancing the container, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I’ve watched as older students volunteered their time to help roll up nap rolls for those who couldn’t yet do it themselves, tutoring them on each careful step. I have to restrain myself from interfering when I see a young child struggling to carry a full block of knobbed-cylinders, and watch as it tumbles to the floor, because I know that it will only take a few seconds for their older friends to rush over and help clean up the work. These opportunities are so precious to our older students, and play a large role in their growth and development.

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Angeline Stoll Lillard describes the Montessori multi-age setting this way, “Montessori encourages learning from peers in part by using three-year age groupings. This ensures that as children move through the classroom they will be exposed to older and younger peers, facilitating both imitative learning and peer tutoring… Dr. Montessori was quite clear about the need for this mix of ages.” (Montessori: The Schience Behind the Genius)

In conclusion, many parents look at a multi-age classroom and ask, “How does one teacher take care of so many students with such an age difference?”. The answer is simple…she doesn’t. The only way this is possible is with the help and participation from the older students. They know their expectations and roles in the community, and take on the role of being a leader, guiding and teaching their younger peers. Montessori is beautiful in this way; the children work together in a harmonious and peaceful learning environment, helping one another to achieve their full learning potential.