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Pre-Primary: Why Montessori?

 

Dr. Maria Montessori was an educational theorist who lived from 1870 to 1952. She wrote several books that give extensive guidance to educators of all ages of children, from the infant to the university student. The system she developed dovetails beautifully with the classical liberal arts method, and we embrace it for our youngest students.

learning is for the person, not a profession

Like the classical liberal arts model, the Montessori method rejects a utilitarian view of education that concerns itself primarily with preparation for wage-earning. Instead, learning is a thing to be loved for itself; its most important reward is not a salary or even a certain skill-set, but wisdom.

Our pre-primary classroom is carefully designed to create the most ideal conditions for joyful learning. Our expert teachers create an atmosphere that encourages independence, freedom within appropriate limits, and order. The multi-age groups naturally allow younger students to learn from older, and older students to hone their knowledge through teaching, just as in a family of affectionate siblings.

cognitive development: a matter of stages

Exactly like the classical liberal arts method, the Montessori method recognizes that, just like physical development, children’s cognitive development occurs in aged-based stages. Birth to age six is considered “early childhood,” and our expert teachers adhere to methods specifically designed for this crucial first stage.

The formation children receive in our pre-primary classroom is the ideal foundation for further learning in first grade and beyond: Students smoothly and seamlessly progress from one year to the next, never losing their sense of wonder and delight.

habits of heart & mind are caught more than taught

Both Montessori and classical liberal arts educators believe that the best way to develop not only the mind, but also the heart and soul, is to offer students active encounters with the world around them. Lively discussion, hands-on labs, and field studies, for example, are crucial elements of a student’s intellectual and moral formation.

In our pre-primary classroom, this takes the form of play. We believe that play is foundational not only to learning, but even to moral development. It is not an idle activity or busy work; rather, it is an age-appropriate form of activity, experience, and action.

a place of virtue

Just as for classical educators, the most important thing for Dr. Montessori was that school children grow up to become adults “who will be called to exercise an influence upon the civilization of their times.” The highest purpose of education, therefore, is to train students in virtue -- to foster the development of values and skills with which they may live out lives of service to others and eternal purpose.

And, so in the school we now wish to establish by the same method of science a sort of people who will be stronger morally and spiritually, who can better fight the evils existing in the world about them, who will be better able to combat the difficulties which may come to them. - Dr. Maria Montessori

truth, goodness, and beauty

The Montessori method coincides especially well with a Catholic classical education in its orientation towards truth, goodness, and beauty.

First, it rests on the premise that truth exists and is knowable. It emphasizes objective “universals” and trains students not only to seek truth, but also to witness to it.

Dr. Montessori also wrote extensively on the imperative to train students in moral goodness: “Moral Education is the source of that spiritual equilibrium on which everything else depends and which may be compared to that physical equilibrium or sense of balance, without which it is impossible to stand upright or to move into any other position.”

Finally, the Montessori method recognizes the importance of beauty, particularly in the classroom, which is itself beautiful. Inviting and thoughtfully arranged with soft colors, comforting woodwork, and cheery, uncluttered spaces, the classroom is designed to foster an atmosphere of focus and calm, and to instill within young hearts a longing for more beauty.

children deserve the best

Dr. Montessori championed deliberate and careful selection of music and literature for students, theorizing that it ought to evoke nothing but the best of humanity. As classical liberal arts educators, we are committed to giving even our youngest students an encounter with nothing but the best that has ever been thought and created throughout human history. We simply do not get enough time with them to waste it on anything less.

Our pre-primary students learn from enchanting literature that has stood the test of time, and they become voracious and discerning readers because of it. They encounter music that, while at first glance may seem far too challenging for young voices to master, they fall in love with and learn to sing with unparalleled beauty. They are immersed in some of the loveliest art in human history, and they naturally grow impatient with coarse facsimiles.