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Tag: Private School Elementary Salt Lake City

Social Development in the Montessori Classroom

Through the years I have often been asked about Montessori students and their development of social skills. Some parents, when considering a Montessori education, become concerned that because of the size of the facility, the mixed age groupings, or the limited number of classrooms that their child will somehow be “missing out” on some aspects of social development. The short answer is that although there might not be as many children on our campus, the opportunities to develop socially are unlimited in the organization of the classrooms and curriculum.

“Social life does not consist of a group of individuals remaining close together, side by side, nor in their advancing en masse under the command of a captain like a regiment on the march, nor like an ordinary class of school children. The social life of man is founded upon work, harmoniously organised and upon social virtues – and these are the attitudes which develop to an exceptional degree amongst our children. Constancy in their work, patience when having to wait, the power of adapting themselves to the innumerable circumstances which present themselves in their daily contact with each other, reciprocal helpfulness and so on, are all exercises which represent a real and practical social life and which we see, for the first time, being organised amongst the children in a school. In fact, whereas schools used to be equipped only so as to accommodate children, seated passively side by side, who were expected to receive from the teacher (we might almost say in a parasitic manner), our schools, on the contrary, have an equipment which is adapted to all those forms of work which are necessary in an active and independent little community. The individual work in which the child is able to isolate himself and to concentrate, serves to perfect his individuality and the nearer man gets to perfection, the better is he able to associate harmoniously with others. A strong social movement cannot exist without prepared individuals, just as the members of an orchestra cannot play together harmoniously unless each individual has been thoroughly trained by repeated exercise when alone.”

Maria Montessori

The Early Childhood Aspens class invites the Willows class to a formal lunch to celebrate their friendship in November. 


As her philosophy developed, many standards were set into place which help a student develop socially. Some of those include:

  • Grace & Courtesy: An essential part of the Montessori curriculum is the opportunity for children to develop skills of grace and courtesy. Children learn to interact appropriately with one another through dialogue with adults, they learn to greet and host guests into their classroom, and they learn to dialogue with their peers in classroom meetings. As early as three years old students use the “peace table” as a place to they learn to recognize personal feelings and express themselves. They often share a “peace object” of some kind (ie; rock, flower…) that can be passed back and forth as they work to solve problems with their peers. As part of the Grace and Courtesy curriculum, children prepare and share snacks within the classroom. They are given lessons on appropriate meal behavior and sometimes teachers will join students at the lunch table to model appropriate meal behavior.
  • Small Group Lessons: Though many lessons are presented to students individually, at all levels students participate in small group lessons. These lessons allow students to express their thoughts and ideas in a safe environment. As they dialogue with one another regarding their thoughts about a particular subject, teachers can assess conversational skills as well as how much or little a child may be grasping an important concept. When a child is uncertain or misunderstands a concept, teachers will represent material in a different way or within a different setting rather than reprimanding or shaming a child for misunderstanding. In these group lessons, students learn to listen to and respect other children’s perspective.
  • Care of Environment: At entry into a Montessori environment children are given lessons on care of the environment around them. They are taught that the space in which they learn is their space, it belongs to them. They are taught the value of community and learn their role in a community. They are also taught to respect and value the roles of their peers within the same community.
  • Freedom to solve problems: Along with lessons on how to solve problems, children are given the freedom to actually practice the skill in a safe environment with caring and observant adults nearby. Montessori believed that children like to work out their own social problems and she said, “When adults interfere in this first stage of preparation for social life, they nearly always make mistakes….Problems abound at every step and it gives the children great pleasure to face them. They feel irritated if we intervene, and find a way if left to themselves.” In order to accommodate this freedom, teachers use lunch, recess, and transition times to continually model appropriate social interactions. The time for lessons does not stop once the bell to step outside the classroom rings.
  • Lack of Competition: Mixed age classrooms, individual progression, and self-correcting materials are all contributors to the ability to avoid competition among children in a Montessori environment. Students have a natural tendency to assist one another and collaborate. Oftentimes only one material of its kind will exist within a classroom, teaching children patience as well as allowing them to plan ahead, and accommodate change. Montessori said, regarding classroom materials, “The chid comes to see that he must respect the work of others, not because someone said he must, but because this is a reality he meets in his daily experience.”
  • Self-Correcting Materials: Work in the environment is set up to allow the child to use the materials to check their work. As students discover mistakes for themselves, the ability to correct becomes innate and they do not lack confidence for fear of being told they are wrong. It also allows the children to have purposeful movement.
  • Celebration of Individuality: As students are allowed the opportunity to choose what to work on and how long to spend on an activity and the ability to not be rushed to understand concepts, they are able to celebrate their individuality. Some children will grasp a concept more easily than another, some students will embrace one subject at a different time than their peers and as they work with those sensitive periods they grow as individuals. Then, within their roles as an important part of the classroom community, they are able to share concepts with others.

In these ways and others, children in a Montessori environment are given the very best opportunities for appropriate social development.

2017 – 2018 MCS Parent School Alliance

Montessori Community School Parent School Alliance

L-R: Gaea Rindflesh, Teresa Nelson, Jordan Stein, Jeannette Shaffer,
Dave Quisenberry, Jaymison Peterson and (below) Jen Zivkovic

The MCS Administration is delighted to introduce you to our 2017 – 2018 Parent Student Alliance (PSA). We are pleased to have a larger number of PSA representatives than ever before. We appreciate Jeannette, Dave, Jaymison and Jen for joining us again this year as our veteran PSA and we thank Gaea, Teresa, and Jordan for joining the team!

The PSA is already looking forward to and has a jumpstart on planning many PSA sponsored activities this year. We anticiapte seeing many of you at the upcoming Welcome Picnics where you can meet members of the PSA and will be introduced to the Community Builders from your child(ren)s class.

We are also looking forward to our first Coffee Thursday, this coming week September 7th, from 8:30am-9:30am in the lobby. Don’t forget to bring your cash because the Uinta (Upper Elementary) Class will be hosting their first Montessori Market of the year. Montessori Market is a quaint student-hosted event where hand made items are sold for reasonable prices. Baked goods are among the items you can expect to see at each market. All proceeds from the market go towards the Uinta class Adventure (read about last year’s adventure here.)

Along with your delicious baked goods, be sure to enjoy a complementary cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate while enjoying the company of fellow MCS parents. Coffee provided by Hub and Spoke Diner 1291 1100 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84105.

Victory and Peace…Marc Seldin

This morning, after spending several hours in one of our classrooms for a most lovely observation, I was lucky enough to open my email and find this beautifully inspiring message waiting for me from our Montessori friends at CGMS.  Written by Marc Seldin.

Click here to read full blog post on CGMS’s site. 

The four-year old girls were good friends, but now they’re angry. One said something to the other, tempers flared, and a friendship is in jeopardy. Fortunately, the children are in a Montessori classroom. Montessori schools use many techniques for harmony, but in this classroom they have a peace rose. One little girl retrieves the flower from its shelf, expresses her hurt, and passes the rose to her friend. Together they explore their feelings, and conflict is transmuted into understanding. The children have learned a process to maintain harmony.

In a time of resurging intolerance, we may turn to our classrooms for reassurance. They are gardens of peace, the fields where we sow the seeds of a better world. We may seek solace in the work we do, knowing that the beauty we nurture will in time blossom into magnificent flowers of justice, kindness and equality.

Recently I have found myself thinking again and again about victory. We know that peace is more than just an absence of war. But what is a Montessori victory? Do we conquer our enemies? No. We will not repair this world by subduing those who disagree with us.

Do we shout down the bigot? How much better for the world if the bigot abandons their bigotry? How much better if the criminal no longer commits crimes, if the sinner no longer sins? The second World War was conceived when the victors of the first war mistreated the vanquished; a third world war was averted when the conquered became allies. Force without justice is domination, not victory.

A Montessori call to arms is a call to the classroom. This is where we cultivate real victory.

True and lasting peace will arise from our schools, where we prepare the next generation of peaceful leaders. The work we do is ever more vital, and I urge you not to despair at the territory we still have to cover.

Let’s recall how far we have traveled from 1907, when Dr. Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini in Rome. Nominated three times during her life for the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Montessori worked tirelessly to improve the rights and conditions of women and children. Justice informed her methodology, and peace infuses the very DNA of our classrooms. The strides made for liberty in the past century – the advances made for children, for women, for minorities, for gays and lesbians – do not doubt that even today we see the ripples of her work throughout all the social progress we’ve made.

That the task is not yet complete should not surprise us.

Wherever we look globally, we see the anger and the outrage of those who have felt excluded from the political process. Income inequality is at an all-time high. Far-right parties are rising across the world, fueled by bigotry, economic uncertainty and a populism born of the sense of neglect by elite powers. The political turmoil is only one of the symptoms of our broken world. We do not forget the millions of refugees fleeing war, and the victims of the terrible wars themselves.

Do not be disheartened, for as long as we teach peace there will be a light in this world.

Yes, our work begins in the classroom, but shall we stop there? What else can our school communities do?

It will not be enough for us just to stall some current agenda. When we work to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Africa, or unseat some political adversary at home, we earn but a moment’s respite. Unaddressed, hatred and violence will always return in a new form. A lasting peace requires us to heal the deeper wounds of this earth.

Dr. Montessori taught us that when children act out, it is because they have unmet needs. Is this not true of adults as well? Perhaps at no time since the second World War has the planet been so united in angst about the future. Montessori has a healing message for a broken world, and this is the time for us to recommit to telling the story, both inside and outside of our classrooms.

We can begin by speaking our healing message. Shout it from the mountaintop, whisper it in the halls of your school. Organize, promote justice, discuss difficult topics. Model peace in and out of your classrooms. Educate the children and adults in your community. Participate. Engage.

It begins and ends with our conviction that Montessori has a message of peace which will mend this world’s wounds.

Here is my attempt to formulate a Montessori statement on peace. We urge every school to create such a statement and share it. Feel free to use or modify mine as you see fit.

A Montessori Statement on Peace

  • We believe that we can change the world.
  • We believe that when you work with children, you touch the future.
  • We believe that peace is more than the absence of war. We will repair this planet by building a lasting peace.
  • We believe that anger comes from hurt and that hatred comes from fear.
  • We believe that a lasting peace comes from understanding, respect and love for all life.
  • We believe that Montessori is education for the 21st century, and the 22nd, and the 23rd – that this is the best and truest method for preparing children to become the next generation of leaders.
  • We will prepare the peace by addressing the causes of suffering, and prepare the children in our classrooms to look suffering in the eye and say “no more.”
  • We believe in the dignity of the child and of the adult. We believe that it is possible for mankind to live in peace and harmony. Moreover, we are going to make that happen.
  • We believe that all people have a place at our circles. We commit to bringing into our circles those who have been most excluded.
  • We believe that all voices should be heard. We know that when people shout, it is because they do not feel that we are listening.
  • We will always stand with the oppressed, but never fail to hold a hand out in peace to the oppressor – for we know that someday they will take it. On that day we will all be free.
  • We believe the world may be made forever safe from demagogues and dictators. As Montessorians, we know our students will laugh off the shackles of fear that tyrants use to bind the populace. Furthermore, what tyrant could ever arise from our beautiful, peaceful classrooms?
  • We believe that we may go forward so that we will never go back again.
  • We know that when we march forward from dark spaces, we will bring all of our sisters and brothers with us into the light – and leave none behind.May we all increase our efforts to make peace.  May we all have peaceful hearts.  May we all believe in the beauty of a future full of hope, love and peace.With love,

The Uninterrupted Work Cycle – The Basics of Success

A Montessori teacher put it this way: “Protect the three-hour work period with your life! It’s one of the most important ingredients in our method.”

Parents!  Exciting things are happening around here.  Already, we are beginning to see the inklings of classrooms running like well-oiled machines.  Below you will find a very meaningful article about the uninterrupted work cycle.  While this sounds like more fancy Montessori-esque language, it has great meaning in a successful Montessori environment.  This is the place where the students natural instincts to find meaningful learning experiences is most honored to prepare the child for future learning opportunities.  This is where one child’s need for movement is given as much respect and space as another child’s need for full concentration on a task.  This is where Montessori shines like a bright star in a sky full of educational opportunities for kiddos.  I hope you’ll take just a few short minutes to read below and learn why we want so badly for your child to arrive to school on time each and every day and what great opportunities this important beginning of day time has to offer your child.


“When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work,
they appeared rested and deeply pleased.”
—Maria Montessori (author), Paul Oswald (editor),
Basic Ideas of Montessori’s Educational Theory

Children as young as three-years-old, after several months in a Montessori classroom, are able to choose their own work and focus on and finish their tasks. Through observation and experimentation, Montessori discovered the importance of a two-and-a-half to three-hour uninterrupted work period. The last hour of a lengthy work period is usually when children are most likely to choose challenging work and concentrate deeply.

Montessori once observed a three-year-old repeat the knobbed cylinders activity 44 times. The girl’s concentration did not waver when Montessori tested it, first picking up the girl in her chair and placing her (still in her chair) on top of her desk and then asking classmates to sing. When she stopped working of her own accord, “…she looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if waking from a refreshing nap.” Montessori called this a “never-to-be-forgotten” discovery. (Spontaneous Activity in Education)

Phases of the Work Period

Montessori and her directresses carefully observed the phases of children’s work during long work periods. They noted that in the first hour and twenty minutes children often chose an easy initial task, followed by a moderately challenging activity. After this, ten minutes of “false fatigue” occurred as children appeared restless and classroom noise increased. This is the time when many teachers get uneasy and end the work period. However, false fatigue is actually “preparation for the culminating work,” when children choose challenging work and concentrate deeply. When finished, there is a period of “contemplation” as children appear deeply satisfied and at peace. (ibid)

False fatigue is similar to adults taking a coffee break after working hard. If children are disrupting others, they can be quietly redirected, but too much interference actually prolongs the period of false fatigue. Instead of anxiously over-controlling or ending the work period, we must trust children to return to work. We can then observe whether they choose their most challenging task of the day.

Click here to read on.

Montessori for Elementary: Why Our Students Thrive

Trevor Eissler
Montessori Madness

Montessori elementary classrooms are fundamentally different from traditional elementary school rooms. In fact, they are so different that it can be hard to understand how they work, and why they are so great at helping children thrive.

While it would be easy to write volumes about this topic (and some have: read Paula Polk Lillard’s book,Montessori Today, if you want a detailed description of the Montessori elementary classroom), here are five key differences, and how they matter to your child’s success.

Teachers are guides, not lecturers. They individualize instruction to keep each child optimally challenged. In traditional elementary education, much instruction happens at an all-class level; students generally move through the same curriculum at the same pace. This is more true now then ever, as mandatory standardized testing forces teachers to ensure that all students meet common minimum standards. This approach by definition fails to optimally challenge most of the students, most of the time: a child who is advanced in a subject will be bored; one who is behind will quickly become anxious and concerned about his shortcomings. Montessori is different. Most instruction happens in small groups: teachers observe students and bring together children who are ready for a particular lesson. After a lesson, each child has time to practice a skill or further explore an area, either alone or with freely chosen partners. Writes Lillard: “Because the children are in a period when they have immense energy and curiosity, the secret to maintaining their interest is to keep them challenged.”In a Montessori classroom, an advanced student will be challenged to perform at his best: it’s not unusual for a 3rd grade Montessori student to tackle what would typically be considered 5th grade math, for example. At the same time, a child who struggles can get the extra support he needs, without suffering the negative effect on his self-esteem that comes from needing remedial work in a traditional elementary school setting.

Children have choices, there’s no one-size-fits all curriculum. Students are encouraged to be curious; they are engaged and love learning.When do you do your best work: when someone makes you do a task, or when you freely choose it? Autonomy is a huge factor in motivation, and Montessori elementary enables children to have a say in their learning. Of course, each child has to learn certain skills; mastering arithmetic isn’t optional. But instead of forcing each child to complete the same worksheet, the Montessori elementary classroom ensures repetition by offering a variety of materials for practicing a given skill: multiplication practice includes work with the Bead Chains, the Stamp Game, the Checkerboard, the Large Bead Frame, and the Flat Bead Frame. When we take our students on field trips, the people we encounter, from museum guides to park rangers, regularly comment that our students are the most curious and engaged group of children they have seen. This is a common refrain for Montessori elementary schools: the children love learning, because they have a chance to be actively engaged in the process.

The classroom is full of materials instead of textbooks and worksheets. Children learn to solve problems and think, instead of repeat memorized jargon. Much traditional elementary school work is unfortunately focused on work with textbooks and worksheets. While there is nothing wrong with books (we love free reading time!), you will not find traditional textbooks and worksheets in the Montessori elementary class. Dr. Montessori viewed the early elementary years as a critical stage in the mind’s development, when the concrete thinking of the preschool years matures into abstract thinking. During the Primary years, children explored many materials, such as the Trinomial Cube or the Golden Beads, primarily for the sensorial interest. Now, in elementary, children use materials to understand how the world works. They are interested in the why and the how of things; they’ve become “reasoning explorers of the abstract”, in Lillard’s vivid description. The materials in Montessori are not mere instructional aids:  Just like in Primary, much of their learning happens as the children use the materials to explore topics from grammar to division, from the fundamental needs of man, to the role of water in erosion. With the materials, learning is focused on the world; children acquire a mindset of thinking about things and figuring them out, rather than memorizing words or processes on an adult’s say-so.

The day has two 2 – 3 hour work periods, instead of a schedule where activities are constantly changed. Protecting children from interruptions when productively engaged is key to their development of concentration and interest in their work. Dr. Montessori commented that traditional schools have broken up the day in many short time periods, in an attempt to hold the children’s interest, and that they have failed miserably, as children remain mentally fatigued despite the alleged benefit of variety. In contrast, writes Montessori, Montessori schools have proven that children need a cycle of work for which they are mentally prepared; such intelligent work with interest is not fatiguing and they should not be cut off from it by a call to play. Interest is not immediately born, and if when it has been created, the work is withdrawn, it is like depriving a whetted appetite of the food that will satisfy it.

This is why there is no morning recess in your child’s class, and why we don’t provide you with an hour-by-hour schedule. It’s one of the often-overlooked benefits for Montessori elementary students: author Paula Polk Lillard notes upon observing in a Montessori elementary class that the children “have time to think. That is what impresses me most, I realize. These children are thinking.”

Children learn with and from each other, in a mixed-age environment.  Instead of competing with each other, they grow into a community, and practice all-important social skills every day.  In traditional education, the emphasis in preschool is on “socializing” the child, and children are expected to do much together in groups. Come elementary schools, class time is largely focused on individual work, in strictly same-age classrooms, and social interactions are limited to recess and lunch.This approach—focus on group activities in preschool, and individual activities in elementary school—is fundamentally wrong, according to Montessori. Young children in preschool, left to their own devices, often choose to do things by themselves, and much activity in a Montessori Primary class is in fact individual work. As children near the end of Primary, they often start to work together in pairs. In fact, becoming interested in and able to work with a peer is one indication that a child is ready to move up to elementary!In Montessori elementary, children interact with each other, across age groups, all day. You’ll often see 2-4 children working together on projects, negotiating roles and learning social skills in a safe, supervised setting as they choose co-workers and figure out that they can work with a range of companions, not just with their closest friends.

A Montessori elementary classroom is very different from traditional schooling. These five highlights are just a start to understanding this unique learning environment. We encourage you to explore more: Read up on how we teach each of the subjects on our web site. Pick up Paula Polk Lillard’s book. And, most importantly, make time to observe in your child’s Montessori elementary classroom!

Larson, Heike. “Five Differences That Enable Montessori Elementary Students to Thrive.” Web log post. Http:// N.p., 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.

The Basics of Montessori Learning

As Montessori teachers and parents…


1. We follow the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952). She was a medical doctor, a teacher, a philosopher, and an anthropologist. Her progressive view of children was way beyond her time, and her writing is still very relevant today. Interested in reading some of her work yourself? You should! Try The Secret of Childhood for starters. Read more about her life and take theMontessori challenge for fun.

2. We understand that children of different ages have different needs and abilities. We study child development theory (for example, sensitive periods) and make sure that our classrooms and homes have developmentally appropriate activities and expectations. When something new is discovered about the growing brain, we are taking notes, ready to back it up with our educational practice. (More often than not, the research simply confirms the Montessori method!)



3. We observe our children. The child has so much to teach us about learning. By watching closely, we can modify our lessons and materials to best suit the child’s interests and growth. We try to anticipate what the child will need next and make sure that this experience is available for when the child is ready to explore the subject or skill. We call this “following the child”.

4. We believe that the environment itself is the best teacher, and we prepare it like a mama bird would craft a proper nest for her babies. Rather than dictating what a child should learn and when, we design the classroom or home to fit the needs of the child, rich experiences balanced by beauty and order. This takes a great amount of effort, but we are rewarded when a child enters and is inspired to learn. In a typical Montessori classroom, you would see objects in baskets, trays, or boxes arranged on a shelf attractively. Each work contains a purposeful work that is designed to teach a specific concept. (Pssst: We don’t randomly select concepts to teach, remember? We base them on our observations of the child.)


5. We model grace and courtesy (good manners), treating our children as we wish ourselves to be treated. We use calm voices when teaching and speak with respect in regard to the children’s feelings. We carry ourselves with poise and handle objects with care. We believe that the children are acutely observing us even when we aren’t aware of it, and they will mimic our behaviors and attitudes. We know that humans aren’t perfect, but we really try to bring out the best in ourselves.

6. We recognize that children are unique individuals who are not likely to master the exact same concepts or have the same interests at the same time. We celebrate this uniqueness and allow each child to develop at his or her pace. We believe that learning is a natural process that develops spontaneously. When we place our trust in the child, we are often surprised at the immense amount of learning that takes place through the child’s interaction with his or her world.


7. We do not use rewards and punishments to force children to comply with rules or to combat ill behavior. We believe that each child is on the way to developing self discipline and that the rewards should be intrinsic (within oneself) rather than externally imposed. When a child misbehaves, we first examine the reasons why the child is exhibiting those behaviors (hungry? tired? overstimulated? testing boundaries?) and then we contemplate whether a change in the prepared environment would help or if we need to teach certain problem-solving skills to prevent another occurrence. Never do we use shame or humiliation. We try to help the child understand appropriate behavior in a social context in a gentle, firm manner.

8. We believe that children learn best when they are free to move their bodies throughout the day. Children have physical rights. They should not be constrained to desks. They should be allowed to move around in their environment, visit the bathroom as often as they like, and work in a variety of sitting or standing positions. We want to teach our children to respect their bodies and control their movements, and by allowing this freedom, we feel that this helps the growing brain learn more effectively. We encourage this independence, but also teach respect for others. No one’s freedom should infringe upon another’s right to concentrate.


9. We believe that the materials a child works with (one could just as easily call them “toys”) should be carefully chosen to support the current developmental stage. With few exceptions, natural materials are preferred, and the works themselves should be arranged attractively on the shelf. Concrete experiences are always offered first and abstract thinking presented later, when the child has a firm grasp on the concept. Maria Montessori herself developed and sanctioned specific materials for learning that are considered classic and essential to a Montessori classroom.  You might want to take a look at the pink tower, the moveable alphabet, or the golden beads. Oh, and yes, we call it work and not play. Really it’s just semantics, so don’t let it bother you.

10. To Montessori teachers, presenting a lesson to a child is an art form. For example, for the 3-6 age child, we captivate the child’s attention by talking very little during the lesson and instead making our movements slow and deliberate. This allows the child to focus on our actions and remember the little details that may be forgotten if we were speaking at the same time. One of the classic Montessori lesson techniques you might want to investigate is called The Three Period Lesson.

11. We believe that education can change the world for the better. We are advocates for peace. The children themselves represent a “bright, new hope for mankind”. We feel that the work we do as educators, guiding children toward self reliance and compassion, is incredibly important in the grand scheme of future life on Earth. How our children are treated as babies is going to impact our entire civilization when they are all grown up and making decisions that affect others. We are humbled by the great possibilities that exist within the tiniest of humans, and we respect their inner wisdom.

What’s The Big Deal About Kindergarten?

This is the time of year when many parents, particularly those of children with second year Early Childhood students, are faced with deciding where their child will attend school for the coming year(s). Kindergarten can seem like a natural transition to a local public school or an elementary program you may have had your eye on for some time.  However, the third year in an Early Childhood program is a very magical experience that we hate to see our students missing out on.  Below is an article written by Tim Seldin and Dr. Elizabeth Coe, experienced Montessori teachers, parents, trainers and advocates, about the benefits of kindergarten in a Montessori environment.  

Why Montessori for the Kindergarten year?

By Tim Seldin with Dr. Elizabeth Coe

Magnolias Third Year student works on a botany project.

It’s re-enrollment time again, and in thousands of Montessori schools all over America parents of
four-almost-five-year-olds are trying to decide whether or not they should keep their sons and
daughters in Montessori for kindergarten or send them off to the local schools.

The advantages of using the local schools often seem obvious, while those of staying in
Montessori are often not at all clear. When you can use the local schools for free, why would
anyone want to invest thousands of dollars in another year’s tuition? It’s a fair question and it
deserves a careful answer. Obviously there is no one right answer for every child. Often the
decision depends on where each family places its priorities and how strongly parents sense that
one school or another more closely fits in with their hopes dreams for their children.

Naturally, to some degree the answer is also often connected to the question of family income as
well, although we are often amazed at how often families with very modest means who place a
high enough priority on their children’s education will scrape together the tuition needed to keep
them in Montessori.

When a child transfers from Montessori to a new kindergarten, she spends the first few months
adjusting to a new class, a new teacher, and a whole new system with different expectations.
This, along with the fact that most kindergartens have a much lower set of expectations for fiveyear-olds
than most Montessori programs, severely cuts into the learning that could occur during
this crucial year of their lives.

This Sequoias Third Year Student gets creative. 

Montessori is an approach to working with children that is carefully based on what we’ve learned
about child development from several decades of research. Although sometimes misunderstood,
the Montessori approach has been acclaimed as the most developmentally appropriate model
currently available by some of America’s top experts on early childhood and elementary
education. As a “developmental” approach, Montessori is based on a realistic understanding of
children’s cognitive, neurological and emotional development.

One important difference between what Montessori offers the five-year-old and what is offered
by many of today’s kindergarten programs has to do with how it helps the young child to learn
how to learn. A great deal of research shows that quite often students in traditional programs
don’t really understand most of what they are being taught. Harvard Psychologist and author of
The Unschooled Mind, Howard Gardner, goes so far as to suggest that, “Many schools have
fallen into a pattern of giving kids exercises and drills that result in their getting answers on tests
that look like understanding.”

But several decades of research into how children learn have shown that most students, from as
young as those in kindergarten to students in some of the finest colleges in America do not, as
Gardener puts it, “understand what they’ve studied, in the most basic sense of the term. They lack
the capacity to take knowledge learned in one setting and apply it appropriately in a different
setting. Study after study has found that, by and large, even the best students in the best schools
can’t do that.” (On Teaching For Understanding: A Conversation with Howard Gardner, by Ron
Brandt, Educational Leadership Magazine, ASCD, 1994.)

Montessori is focused on teaching for understanding. In a primary classroom, three and fouryear-olds
receive the benefit of two years of sensorial preparation for academic skills by working
with the concrete Montessori learning materials. This concrete sensorial experience gradually
allows the child to form a mental picture of concepts like “how big is a thousand, how many
hundreds make up a thousand”, and what is really going on when we borrow or carry numbers in
mathematical operations.

The value of the sensorial experiences that the younger children have had in Montessori is often
under-estimated. Research is very clear that this is how the young child learns, by observing and
manipulating his environment. The Montessori materials give the child a concrete sensorial
impression of an abstract concept, such as long division, that is the potential foundation for a
lifetime understanding of the idea in abstraction. Because Montessori teachers are
developmentally trained, they normally know how to present information in an appropriate way.


Third Year Students from the Willows Class lay out the decimal system in preparation for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in to the thousands.

What often happens in schools is that teachers are not developmentally trained and children are
essentially filling in workbook pages with little understanding and do a great deal of rote
learning. Superficially, it may appear that they have learned a lot, but the reality is most often
that what they have learned was not meaningful to the child. A few months down the road, little
of what they “learned” will be retained and it will be rare for them to be able to use their
knowledge and skills in new situations. More and more educational researchers are beginning to
focus on whether students, whether young or adult, really understand or have simply memorized
correct answers.

In a few cases, kindergarten Montessori children may not look as if they are not as advanced as a
child in a very academically accelerated program, but what they do know they usually know very
well. Their understanding of the decimal system, place value, mathematical operations, and
similar information is usually very sound. With reinforcement as they grow older, it becomes
internalized and a permanent part of whom they are. When they leave Montessori before they
have had the time to internalize these early concrete experiences, their early learning often
evaporates because it is neither reinforced nor commonly understood.
In a class with such a wide age range of children, won’t my five-year-old spend the year taking
care of younger children instead of doing his or her own work? The five year olds in Montessori
classes often help the younger children with their work, actually teaching lessons or correcting
errors. Many Montessori educators believe that this concern felt by some parents is very

Anyone who has ever had to teach a skill to someone else may recall that the very process of
explaining a new concept or helping someone practice a new skill leads the teacher to learn as
much, if not more, than the pupil. This is supported by research. When one child tutors another,
the tutor normally learns more from the experience than the person being tutored. Experiences
that facilitate development of independence and autonomy are often very limited in traditional

By the end of age five, Montessori students will often develop academic skills that may be
beyond those of advanced students. Academic progress is not our ultimate goal. Our real hope is
that they will feel good about themselves and enjoy learning. Mastering basic skills is a side

Montessori children are generally doing very well academically by the end of kindergarten,
although that is not our ultimate objective. The program offers them enriched lessons in math,
reading, and language, and if they are ready, they normally develop excellent skills. The key
concept is readiness. If a child is developmentally not ready to go on, he or she is neither left
behind nor made to feel like a failure. Our goal is not ensuring that children develop at a
predetermined rate, but to ensure that whatever they do, they do well and master. Most
Montessori children master a tremendous amount of information and skills, and even in the cases
where children may not have made as much progress as we would have wished, they usually
have done a good job with their work, wherever they have progressed at any given point, and
feel good about themselves as learners.


This Third Year Student from the Aspens class refines his small motor skills in the Practical Life area. 

About the Authors

Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Coe is the Past President of the American Montessori Society and Director
of the Houston Montessori Teacher Education Center in Houston, Texas.

Tim Seldin is the President of the Montessori Foundation and Headmaster Emeritus of the Barrie
School in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Admissions Information Meeting – Open to the Public

Montessori Community School will be hosting an Admissions Information Meeting for all adults interested in learning more about any of our programs for 2016-2017 Admissions.  Parents are invited to join us for a presentation about Montessori method, curriculum and philosophy and how they are implemented in our program to educate the whole child. Then, visit individual classrooms to learn more about each program and to meet and greet with our administrative and teaching staff.  2016-2017 Application Packets will be available.

  • Meeting starts promptly at 6:30pm
  • Adults only – sorry, no child care provided
  • Bring a friend!


Unable to attend this event?  Contact the school at to schedule a tour.

Lower Elementary Student Thanks His Teachers



Lower Elementary student, Diego Reyes-Lisieski, prepared a 5 star meal for his teachers Monday, May 18th . Not only did Diego share his superior talent and passion for cooking, he was also able to express his appreciation and love for his teachers’ dedication and hard work.

Diego started with a beautiful table setting for four. Shortly thereafter, the MCS kitchen started to really heat up. Attractive aromas began entrancing every person who was within walking distance of Diego and, at the time, his kitchen.



Diego prepared Beef Wellington, Mashed Potatoes with Leeks, and a Cheesecake. For those of you who are not in the culinary know-how, Beef Wellington is a preparation of filet steak coated with a Pâté (a mixture of cooked ground meat and/or fat minced into a spreadable paste, commonly mixed with other vegetables, herbs, and spices) and then wrapped in puff pastry. This is a very complicated dish and if it is not cooked correctly, this dish can be a disaster.

Fortunately for Diego, the Beef Wellington was executed with excellence. The meat was tender, juicy, and full of rich, overlapping flavors. The Mashed Potatoes with Leeks were not only gorgeous to look at, but possessed the perfect balance of flavors. Often, leeks can be overpowering in a dish that uses a mild, starchy base; however, Diego nailed it.  Diego plated the dish and served each of his Lower Elementary teachers with grace and courtesy.


Both teachers and Administration were overwhelmed by Diego’s talents, generosity, and care he put into planning, preparation, and implementation of this beautiful way of saying thank you. It is agreed there is no better thank you for teacher than one that comes from the heart (and especially leads to the stomach!) and showcases a students talents, passion, and love of of those talents and passion.

MCS implements a Montessori education in such a way that emphasizes the entire child. This adds an increased focus on practical life skills that empower and connect with a child’s energy and curiosity for learning. Essentially, a Montessori child learns to how to learn and how to love what they are learning.

Diego has been at MCS for the last 5 years. He has relished and thrived in this Montessori environment. A Montessori education has allowed Diego to be able to magnify his talents, abilities, and demonstrate his love of learning. Through Montessori Community School’s Lower Elementary teachers, and Maria Montessori’s method of education, Diego is a wonderful youth maturing into an incredibly talented, responsible, and brilliant member of our community.


Diego is currently a member of the Salt Lake Culinary School and has been featured on KSL’s Good Things Utah for his cooking prowess.  We are excited to follow Diego and his talents through the years to come