Nurture and Nature

What is Montessori?

At Nurture and Nature Montessori Preschool, we use a blend of Traditional and Montessori principles, to reveal each child’s innate love of learning and prepare our children to thrive in a complex world.

Nurture and Nature Montessori Preschool seeks to educate the whole child, applying Montessori philosophies, in a family-oriented environment. The philosophy is based on the principles of Dr Maria Montessori (1870-1952) whose holistic vision of education focuses on the cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of the child. For Dr Montessori, and for Nurture and Nature Montessori Preschool, education is preparation for life.

The benefits of a Montessori education are realised in the skills which the child acquires whilst enrolled on the program.

Independence, self-confidence and a growth mindset.

Montessori children acquire a level of physical and intellectual independence rarely seen in other preschool environments. From day one they learn to take care of their own needs (dressing themselves, preparing snack) and their environment (cleaning up after lunch, taking care of classroom plants and animals.) This daily experience of being trusted with real responsibility for meaningful tasks—and rising to the occasion by successfully meeting that responsibility—results in children who have the earned self confidence that comes from actual mastery (against shaky self-esteem based on empty praise by others.) And because we acknowledge that mistakes are necessary for learning, because we greet spilled water or a broken glass with a calm, constructive attitude, children discover that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that we can and should learn from them. Our pre-schoolers acquire a growth mindset, a fundamental attitude about the world that is invaluable to a joyful, successful life.

Joyful acquisition of reading, writing and arithmetic in preschool.

While many preschools pride themselves in their “pre-reading” or “pre-math” curriculum, Montessori preschool children actually learn to write, read and do arithmetic into the thousands, while in preschool. They do so joyfully, with activities they choose, such as drawing pictures and writing stories about them, or participating in a small group addition exercise with the Golden Bead materials. The work Montessori 5-year-olds do is astounding.

Executive function skills, from attention span to graceful social interactions.

Recent research shows that executive function skills (self-control, organization, time management) are more highly correlated with school and life success than even IQ. Montessori preschool purposefully develops these skills. When a child has to wait for a material another child is working with, or when he stands calmly to observe a friend at work, he practices impulse control. By executing multi-step processes, such as table washing, and by always completing a full cycle of work—from taking a material from a shelf, to doing the activity and replacing it in its proper spot—the pre-schooler learns organization and problem solving. Grace and courtesy lessons and a daily emphasis on respecting the rights of friends and teachers foster a benevolent environment where pro-social skills emerge naturally.

What are the key differences between Montessori and conventional teaching practices?

Multi-age, family like communities.

Most play-based programs segregate children by age into the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s, and so on. Montessori preschools instead group 3 to 5-year-olds into one class. A child stays with the same teacher for two years. This builds a strong, family-like community, with lasting relationships between child and teacher, and friendships between children of different ages. Young children look up to and learn from older ones; while the 5-year-olds gain confidence as they become classroom leaders and mentors for their younger peers.

Uninterrupted “work periods.”

Most preschools follow tight, adult-led schedules, with a new group activity every 15-30 minutes. In contrast, authentic Montessori preschools offer long, uninterrupted work periods that allow children to fully engage in tasks that they have chosen for themselves, under the careful, individual guidance of their teacher. Montessori children thus have repeated opportunities to get really engrossed in their activities, and experience regular states of concentrated focus. Visit a good Montessori preschool, and you may see a 3-year-old spending 30 minutes carefully arranging colour tablets in a rainbow pattern, or a 4-year-old tracing, colouring and labeling a map of the world. As adults, we can’t focus when we know we’ll be interrupted soon; neither can children. Unstructured, child-led time is key in building concentration skills at the foundation of all learning.

A carefully sequenced, activity-based curriculum that engages hand and mind.

Recent research shows that executive function skills (self-control, organization, time a

While most play-based preschools have the same type of toys you already have at home—think lego, dress-up corners, colouring pages, trains and blocks—Montessori preschools offer something different to your child. Displayed beautifully on low shelves, you’ll find dozens of scientifically designed learning materials: a Pink Tower, Colour Tablets, pouring activities, a Movable Alphabet, maths materials that teach the decimal system and arithmetic into the thousands, and so much more.

Each activity has been selected because children at hundreds of Montessori preschools chose it freely, repeatedly. Each one teaches multiple skills and enables the preschool child to problem solve, to use his hands and all his senses, to repeat an activity and achieve mastery. By progressing at his own pace through these activities, a Montessori preschool child joyfully refines his gross and fine motor skills, and, ultimately, progresses to reading, writing and arithmetic into the thousands, all while in preschool.

management) are more highly correlated with school and life success than even IQ. Montessori preschool purposefully develops these skills. When a child has to wait for a material another child is working with, or when he stands calmly to observe a friend at work, he practices impulse control.

By executing multi-step processes, such as table washing, and by always completing a full cycle of work—from taking a material from a shelf, to doing the activity and replacing it in its proper spot—the pre-schooler learns organization and problem solving. Grace and courtesy lessons and a daily emphasis on respecting the rights of friends and teachers foster a benevolent environment where pro-social skills emerge naturally.

The foundations of the Montessori methodology

Encourage natural curiosity

Full of energy, a three-year-old never stops exploring, bombarding her parents with “why’s” from the moment she wakes until her final night time breath. We recognise this natural tendency and use it motivate children to learn by guiding children to ask real meaningful questions about the world first. We then help them discover the answers.

Teach sequentially

When the child really understands, he knows the sequence of facts that demonstrate the truth of a given idea – as against just citing a book under a teacher’s authority. We want children to understand the world so they can act in it; memorized chains of words or symbols are not knowledge, and undercut motivation.

Example: Mathematics: In Montessori, children learn concrete, simple number concepts with specialised tangible equipment which provide a context for how number values relate to each other before introducing numbers in an abstract form (pen and paper).

A personal touch

At Nurture and Nature Montessori, the child’s choice to learn is central to our approach: real learning (as opposed to memorizing, or engaging in “hands-on projects” without further meaning) has to be built on sincere interest of the child. To engage the child’s interest, we take his full context into account: his background knowledge, his skill level, his values and interests. This is done in 2 ways. Firstly we provide children with choice in terms of the work which they engage in during the Montessori work cycle. Secondly, we provide dedicated one- on-one teaching periods which gives children undisturbed time with their teacher in order to ensure all areas of the curriculum are covered and all questions are answered.

Apply through 'work'

To keep knowledge meaningful and fun, we create real application opportunities in each subject. Throughout, we create applications that engage the children’s minds on the topic they are learning: they think about the content we want them to remember, and thus make the knowledge their own.

Prepared environment

At Nurture and Nature Montessori we create an environment that facilitates a child’s choice to work. From the child-sized furniture, to the self-correcting materials; to his choice of mats or table and work partners; from the plants and animals in the classroom, to the type of teachers we hire: everything is tailored to help the child choose to learn and to concentrate on productive work and personal development.

Montessori Myths

Myth #1: Montessori is for gifted kids.

Montessori is for all children. To the casual observer, Montessori students may appear advanced for their age, leading to the assumption that the schools cater to gifted children. In reality, Montessori schooling helps each child develop individuality in a way that accentuates his or her innate intelligence. Montessori gives the child the opportunity to gain mastery at a pace that allows each child to be successful. Montessori takes full advantage of the young child’s intense desire to learn while respecting his individuality. The teacher takes her cues from the child’s interests, and learning is organised to make the most of those interests.

Myth #2: Montessori classrooms are chaotic.

Although this may appear true to the untrained eye, anyone who observes a Montessori classroom for several hours will see something very different than chaos. The Montessori system at its best is all about allowing children the opportunity to do things for themselves. We encourage self-discipline even in the very young child, and always aim for a minimum of interference from the adults in the environment. The “teacher” is really more of a “guide” – he enables the child to educate himself using the materials that have been designed for that purpose. Children are not moved about the classroom in groups and asked to all do the same activity at the same time. Rather, a wide range of self-correcting (auto-didactic) materials are made available to the child. After the initial demonstration of a material by an experienced adult or an older child, the child in a Montessori classroom is free to choose whatever activity is interesting to him. The student is left alone to experiment and practice with the material, teaching himself and developing concentration, coordination, and independence in an orderly world that does not require the interference of any authority. Montessorians believe that the normal state of any child is to be relaxed, peaceful and absorbed in activity. In the classroom, disputes between children are almost always settled by the children themselves. They absorb conflict management skills from the teachers, who are trained to be deeply respectful of themselves, others and the world around them. The role of the adult (teacher) in the classroom is observer of activity and facilitator of self-discipline as opposed to director of activity and enforcer of rules.

Myth #3: Montessori classrooms are too structured.

On the contrary, in the Montessori classroom, children are allowed to move freely about to access all the learning materials they need. Additionally, for children, play and “work” are often the same thing. In other words, when children engage with the Montessori learning materials, they are indeed learning but it feels like play to them. For example, think of how your own child can joyfully while away the hours manipulating and arranging objects like toys or blocks. The two experiences are similar, but in the Montessori environment, the student is actually working toward mastery of skills and subjects. Montessori students are allowed to work with specific learning materials for as long as they desire, and the fact that they will until they feel they have mastered it is testimony to the power of the method. Children in Montessori choose to work toward mastery and are internally motivated by a natural love of learning.

Myth #4: Montessori is an outdated method that peaked in the Sixties.

An education based on the observation of children, and on your child in particular, is hard to outdate. Everyone knows the approximate ages children begin to walk, to talk, to lose teeth, even to learn to read. Fads in education come and go because they are not based on observation of children. Often they’re not even based on child development. The Montessori Method, on the other hand, represents a solid body of observation of child development that has been successfully employed internationally for over a hundred years. Montessori methodology is closer to a true scientific method of instruction than any other educational program in the world today. Myth #5: The Montessori method is really just some special materials. Montessori materials are specifically designed to develop the child’s powers and means of observation through the senses. The development of the senses precedes intellectual activity, and Montessori educators understand how to use the materials to facilitate this development. When the senses are finely developed, the child teaches himself. Experience has shown that the child will discard the materials and work without them when the senses are adequately developed.

Myth #5: Montessori does not permit social development.

The respect the teacher shows each child is a model for children to follow in learning to respect each other. Young children interact with each other and with the adults, gradually becoming more giving and more sensitive to others. The two to three year age span within each class causes the learning of younger children from older ones to be a natural occurrence. Montessori respects the child and the child’s need, from time to time, for privacy. Areas and activities in the classroom provide for solitude, as well as, interaction with peers. Older children often tutor and assist the younger children and children may work together or by themselves as they choose.

 

Myth #6: Montessori teachers are strict and overly concerned with academics

At its core, the Montessori philosophy is based on respect. Respect for the planet, for ourselves and for each other. What Montessori teachers are actually being with the children is: respectful. To some, this might at first appear as emotional distance or hard-heartedness. It’s not! Respect for the child runs deep and means, among other things, that we don’t invade their personal space without being invited. They try not to define children by their appearance, so we don’t make a habit of remarking on their outfits: as a matter of fact, they feel that it’s more important that the child dress him or herself than that their socks match! As teachers, the love for your children runs very, very deep indeed. You’ll find, as the children do, that it is a firm, fair, steady type of affection without hysteria and not conditioned upon “good” behaviour. We strive to avoid patronizing the child; our voices when speaking with them are our normal voices, not high-pitched or saccharine sweet. We cherish children, and when your child needs that extra helping of compassion, hugs and kisses, the child will find it.