A Montessori preschool classroom is specially designed to take advantage of the child’s super sensitive years (3-6) when he/she can absorb information from an enriched environment. Observers of Montessori children have described them as having developed self-discipline, self-knowledge and independence, as well as an organized approach to problem-solving and academic skills. Our children are enthusiastic learners who are respected as individuals. The Montessori program is sequential and meant to be experienced over a three-year time span and not in individual, successive, one-year sessions. While a child may gain much from attending a Montessori program for any length of time, full benefits are likely to require extended exposure. The early years lay the foundation for the child’s entire educational life, so we need to treat these years with great care to enable the child to have a strong foundation.
The 3-year cycle relates to Dr. Montessori’s idea of multi-aged classrooms. The younger children will learn from the older ones, who in turn, are well on their way to becoming self-directed. The kindergarten, 3rd grade, & 6th grade year give each child the opportunity to share his/her knowledge and guidance with his/her younger peers completing the cycle.
Changing teachers every year adds unnecessary challenges for the child. Having the same room and the same teacher frees the child to concentrate on the learning process without having to waste precious time getting to know a new adult and a new environment. It is also beneficial for the teacher, giving her the time to get to know the child over a longer period. The more time the teacher has with the child, the more understanding is gained, giving her the ability to base the education on each individual child’s needs. This is one of the main benefits of the three year cycle in a Montessori classroom.
There is another very important benefit in a three year cycle. The three year cycle benefits by having a mixed age group in the same room, the importance of which is often overlooked. The first year in a three year classroom the youngest learns a lot from just observing the others who have been there longer. Yes, they get lessons from the teacher, but they are learning all the time by just observing and listening in to the other lessons. The second year the child is in the room is a period of firming up and getting very secure. The third year gives the child the opportunity to be a leader and share what has been learned with the younger children.
Walk into any Montessori classroom and you will see all the younger students being assisted by the leaders, who themselves are learning responsibility by helping the younger ones. It is our experience that children who have completed all the three-year cycles in a Montessori school become very well adjusted socially and emotionally. They enter any new school system with excellent academic knowledge and social skills necessary for a successful transition.