Written By: Shefun Jiwani-Ali
For parents, switching to public schooling for kindergarten after two years in the Montessori Early Childhood Program is an attractive option. The draw of cheaper tuition or, in some areas, no tuition, wider spread availability of public kindergarten options, possibly less travel time to and from the school, are all viable arguments to switching from Montessori. The third year of the Montessori Early Childhood Program, however, is the critical point of the entire program, when your child will enter a new stage of development and understanding.
There are a number of disadvantages in choosing public Kindergarten over the Montessori:
The principle disadvantage of sending your child to public kindergarten instead of Montessori Kindergarten is your child will have to adjust to a different style of learning, new environs, teachers that teach in a different way, and will have to meet a different, often much lower, set of expectations. This is a critical disadvantage as, during the ages of five and six, children take the first steps of internalizing experiences and actions, and form abstract ideas about those experiences.
By switching away from Montessori, the child needs to quite literally forget everything they have learned thus far, and “start from scratch.” While this may not seems too important in the Kindergarten year, it cannot be stressed enough that if a child has a solid grasp of basic mathematics, language, grammar, and even basic scientific concepts through the Montessori Casa Program, having those concepts and ideas reinforced and internalized can lead to greater understanding and development in later years, as they will not have to “re-learn” the basic concepts that would otherwise be lost by a transition to non-Montessori schooling
Due to the methodology of the Montessori Casa program, a child is engaged in the learning process and each step along the way reinforces positive feelings of confidence and self-esteem. By switching to public or non-Montessori kindergarten, all of a sudden that same child is normalized out in a large classroom, and is not engaged on the one to one level that is such a key component of the Montessori method.
The Montessori method is a based on scientific observations about a child’s cognitive, neurological, and emotional development, with over a century’s worth of applied research. With this history, the most important part of a Montessori kindergarten versus others has to do with how it helps the young child, quite literally, learn how to learn.
Multiple studies have shown that in early grades and kindergarten, many children are not fully grasping concepts and ideas, and in effect do not truly understand what they are being taught. This leads to disengagement with the material, and disinterest in the entire learning process.
Montessori focuses on understanding and learning concrete concepts through sensorial and visual materials. Through the first two years of the Montessori, a child learns how to visualize and understand base concepts such as “How big is a thousand?” “How many hundreds fit into a thousand?” and “How does moving the period in a sentence change the sentence?” By using visual and hands on materials, the child learns in a natural way. Research has shown that in the first few years of a child’s life, learning is done almost exclusively through manipulation of the environment and through associating multiple senses together. This is the same concept that will cause a crying child to calm when he or she sees their mother’s face, and hears their voice. Montessori materials give children concrete sensorial experiences of abstract concepts, that can become a foundation of lifelong learning excellence and deeper understanding of materials learned.
Another advantage of the Montessori kindergarten classroom is that all Kindergarten children engage with first and second year children. While at first it may seem that this will limit a child’s development as they are spending more time teaching other children instead of learning, in fact the opposite is true. More often than not, the “teacher” child will learn more from the experience than the “student” child, as the “teacher” first of all needs to turn their own experiences on the concrete concept into an abstract concept to “teach” to the younger child. This promotes natural leadership and cooperation in the classroom, and the effect on a child’s self-esteem and personal confidence is measurable.
Kindergarten is a vital part of a child’s development. Many five and six year old children in the modern era are more engaged in the world, asking questions, connecting with information, noticing finer details, forming their own experiences and defining ideas in their own terms. The key concept that Montessori Kindergarten equips that child with is readiness. By being a young leader, with the ability to form abstract thought on concrete concepts, and by being developmentally ready to proceed in their learning, the Montessori child will learn and, most importantly for any child, feel good about it.