Dr. Maria Montessori worked with many children over three decades and designed materials to appeal to the child’s inner needs. By keen and thorough observation of how the child worked with these materials, she made modifications in their design and presentation methods to make sure the child is naturally attracted to it, introducing it to the child at the appropriate age in which s/he had natural inner urges to learn each of these concepts. Based on this the below areas of work have been categorized by Dr. Montessori.
Exercises of Practical Life (EPL)
Exercises of Practical Life are activities that are a part of our daily routine. We humans have a set of activities that we do on a daily basis which are crucial for the upkeep of ourselves and our space. The child is exposed to these activities from birth and wants to do them for themselves e.g.: dressing, serving, cleaning, stitching, socialising etc. Each time a child achieves one of the above their confidence in themselves increases with an “I can do it too” attitude. It also aids in developing one’s fine motor skills, hand strength, hand-eye coordination and balance.
EPL also covers development of social behavioural skills. The child needs an environment where these activities are offered to him with the right sized materials and the freedom to repeat them to strengthen his limbs and fine tune his skills.
Children between the ages of birth to 6 years are “Sensorial” children. This means that they learn and understand through their senses. The child’s brain first needs to understand the physical nature of its surroundings to be able to make use of it in any manner. Therefore nature has provided him with five senses to achieve this. And most of the learning happens unconsciously. For e.g. the concept of gravity is understood first when he starts trying to move in this three dimensional world but he is not conscious of it. Dr. Montessori has scientifically designed these Sensorial materials in a way which allows the child to make sense of the impressions all around him and use it to his advantage.
The sensorial materials are what provide the child with an understanding of dimensions, shapes, colours, textures, sounds, tastes etc, strengthening the various senses of the brain which makes him a completely capable adult. This also forms the base for Arithmetic, Geometry and Language activities in future.
Arithmetic is all around us; in nature and in our lives. The child has a natural inclination to understand quantities at a certain age. But.. numbers are a man made system to determine quantities and their symbols are a way to represent them during communication. Now if we put a symbol of a number in front of a child and tell him the quantity it represents, will it make sense to him? For e.g. if we show the symbol of “4” and tell him it is four, can he understand that it is the quantity of an object or a thing? No… The concept of quantity does not involve the symbol at all because four is written differently in different languages. When a child is taught in this manner he is confused and therefore memorizing is the only option.
But in a Montessori, Arithmetic concepts of 0-10 (base 10 system), decimal system and operations are all designed with materials to deliver the concept to the child so he can understand it and will not need to memorize it.
The foundation of our language program is Phonetics. Speech is made up of various sounds. In the Montessori House of Children we believe in respecting the child’s achievements prior to his entering the place. At the age of 2 years, the child can speak and express himself to a certain extent. Our Language program focuses on building on this knowledge of the child. Hence we begin with phonetics which brings the child’s attention to the different sounds that each word is made up of and then introduce alphabets that correspond to those sounds and after he has understood the method of co-relating sounds with their symbols which gives him a boost in Reading and Writing he is then given the names of the symbols (alphabets).