The Three Year Cycle
In the Montessori environment, students are grouped in mixed ages in three year spans: birth to 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12. Birth to age three is considered Infant/Toddler and age 3 to 6 is Early Childhood. Children work together in the Montessori classroom. The classroom equipment in the Montessori environment spans over the developmental cycle of three years (0-3,3-6, 6-9, 9-12 years old). In order for the classroom to be challenging enough to provoke a learning response, it must appropriately match the standards which the child has already developed in past experiences. These experiences are varied and the most satisfying choice is made by the child. The Montessori classroom offers a wide range of academic materials that provide opportunities for the child to choose from a variety of graded materials. The child grows as his interests guide from the concrete to the more abstract and complex concepts. The mixed age groups permits that younger child a graded series of models for imitation and the older child an opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by assisting the younger one (Wolf, 2009). The mixed age environment also provides modeling from the older child to the younger child. Through the younger and older child interactions, they are learning from one another; the former of things to come and the latter, a rehearsal of lessons once attained. This collaborative learning environment allows for the the development of self-confidence and leadership skills, and builds community life.
Wolf, A. D. (2009). A Parent’s Guide to the Montessori Classroom. Altoona, PA: Parent Child Press.
In the Early Childhood Program, the Kindergarten year is a critical component of the three-year cycle. During this year, the children’s earlier experiences are internalized and reinforced. When they leave Montessori before the completion of the third year, the experiences and skills acquired may be lost because they are not reinforced or completely understood. One important difference between what Montessori offers the five year old and what is offered by many traditional programs has to do with how it helps children learn how to learn. We teach this through process driven, hands-on learning experiences with the Montessori materials and the natural world.