the three year montessori cycle
The primary Montessori program is designed as a three-year cycle. Ideally children from 3 – 6 years old stay with the same teacher right through their kindergarten year.
Because some things take time to develop, that final year is so important. In the first two years, children work on activities and materials that build the foundation for more complex and abstract work. For example, over the course of the first two years, children work with concrete math materials, such as the golden beads. Working with concrete materials gives the child an increased understanding of concepts and they become deeply internalized. As third year students are guided to more and more complex work, concrete materials are no longer as necessary and the child moves to more abstract pencil and paper math exercises.
In addition to the academic, there is also a social component. During these three years, children experience different roles, responsibilities and expectations. The younger children learn quickly and enthusiastically from their older peers. They look up to the older children as role models and learn how to behave and what is acceptable. They also observe the more advanced work of the older children, something the child will be aspiring to do one day. In turn, the older children have the unique opportunity to be mentors and community leaders. Their understanding of concepts and skills is strengthened by practicing and sharing with the younger ones. These opportunities to lead help build confidence and self-esteem.
So it is unfortunate that some parents will enroll the child in our Montessori school at age 3 but will pull their child after 2 years in order to enroll him in the Kindergarten of their future elementary school. A Montessori education, even if cut short, is beneficial to the child, but that child is robbed of that precious last year. The child laid the foundation for something that was never completed. Additionally, when the child leaves the program early, it affects the overall integrity of the class. There is a negative effect on the dynamic of the classrooms if there are only a few 5- and 6 – year old children who remain.
For these reason, we ask families to consider their plans for kindergarten prior to enrolling their child in a Primary classroom. We do expect families to choose Montessori Foundations of Chicago because they believe in the Montessori philosophy, understand the advantages of staying through the Kindergarten year, and are willing to commit to a partnership with us to provide their child the best possible beginning to a successful school career. Placement decisions not only of the enrolling child but also the siblings of that child are influenced by a family's commitment to completion of the full Primary cycle.