Children enter the primary community of 28 children around age three once they can use the toilet independently. Each classroom has a Montessori trained guide and an assistant. The child will, hopefully, have the opportunity to mature within their mixed-age classroom for the next three years. From their first year, when they are looking to the older children to learn what to do and how to do it, until their final year, when they are the leaders of the classroom. The youngest children will be drawn to the practical life work where they will develop concentration and small motor control as a preparation for later academic challenges. The sensorial shelves may also attract them to refine their senses and give language to what they experience. Art activities and puzzles are just some of the work they can choose freely and independently. They are responsible for putting their work away and cleaning up any messes before going on to another activity. In a Montessori classroom, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. Adults will help them to resolve conflicts with other children using words to say, “stop” and communicating their needs.
As their powers of concentration develop, they will want to do some of the work they see the older children doing. They will learn the sounds that the letters make by having one-on-one lessons with the guide. Eventually, they will blend the sounds to make words until they are writing sentences using a box of letters. By building on the small motor work they have done, they will be able to write the letters as they learn the sounds. The entire class will be involved in studies of different continents by biomes and the animals that live there. The child’s interest in this topic will motivate their use of language to express themselves and learn more.
Lessons in math progress in much the same way, building on previous skills, one incremental step at a time, so that they child is always successful. Each child tracks individually through the progression of the curriculum so that their love of learning is kept alive and they are never waiting for the rest of the class or miss a step and get lost.
As you consider a Montessori education for your three year old, please consider the entire three-year cycle. The foundation laid in the first and second year comes to fruition in the third and it is a marvelous thing to behold the child who has reached her own potential. We teach children how to learn to learn so that, for the rest of their lives, they can achieve whatever they desire. Upon completion of the three year cycle, children are moved into our Elementary Program.