Three, four, and five year-old preschool and kindergarten students attend mixed-age classes daily for a three-hour morning or a three-hour afternoon session. There are 24 children in a class with one teacher and one classroom assistant. Kindergarten students attend free, as in any other public school. There is a tuition fee for three and four year-olds.
In the Preschool/Kindergarten program, much emphasis is placed on the development of the child’s personal responsibility and independence in the classroom. This applies to using materials and to showing respect for the people in the environment, both staff and students. Children choose their own materials from open shelves filled with self-correcting materials and work at their own pace. Over time, the children develop a learning community in which they are able to work for extended periods of time in deep concentration with few interruptions.
Activities in the classroom are grouped into five main areas:
PRACTICAL LIFE: These activities help the child develop organizational, fine-motor, and large-motor skills. They involve care of self, care of the classroom, exercises of grace and courtesy , and refinement of physical movement. The child cuts, pours, polishes, sorts, washes, rolls rugs, ties laces and says “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”. The child is gaining control of his physical environment and his movements in it. He is also learning to work with others in a peaceful manner.
SENSORIAL: These materials help the child fine-tune the senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell. The child practices classifying and ordering sounds, colors, smells, textures, sizes, and weights. The ability to sense differences in objects and classify by a variety of characteristics helps the child develop keen senses and patterns for organizing information in her mind.
MATHEMATICS: Montessori math materials are hands-on, self-checking materials that have been carefully developed to allow the child to experience abstract math concepts in a concrete way. Through independent work with a wide variety of colorful materials, the child learns the concepts of number, symbols, operations, basic facts, and geometry.
LANGUAGE: This work includes oral language development, writing, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics, and children’s literature. Children develop basic skills in reading and writing by working with sandpaper letters, moveable alphabets, and other hands-on materials.
CULTURAL SUBJECTS: The classroom also offers the child a wide variety of materials and activities to study history, geography, science, music, art, and physical education.