By Annika Voynow, Assistant Head of Inly School
There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.
—Dr. Maria Montessori
When visitors come into our Children’s House classrooms one of the first things they remark on is how beautiful the classrooms are. The simple wooden furniture, carefully displayed art, thoughtfully arranged flowers, and inviting work create a peaceful and inspiring environment. The children are strongly connected to their classrooms and enjoy working there, as well as caring for the space and materials. Above, a preschool boy meticulously washes a table in the classroom.
Table washing is a skill introduced in the Children’s House classroom. Lessons on pouring, folding, sweeping, food preparation, grace and courtesy, and many others, are part of the practical life curriculum. The practical life curriculum is the foundation of the Montessori curriculum, especially at this level. The work and lessons in this area focus on teaching skills used in the child’s day-to-day life. These activities teach not only to the direct skill acquisition, but also teach language, mathematics, and socialization skills. Children at this age are particularly interested in the real life skills that they see adults using around them, and in their desire to attain these skills, hone their focus, concentration, coordination, and independence. While the direct goal of the table washing work is for the child to wash the table and help care for the environment, the work indirectly serves to develop the strength and control of the hand, practice following a series of steps, and work with care.
In the multi-age classroom, children learn from and teach one another. Many children, after receiving a new lesson from a teacher, are eager to master it, and then teach a younger friend. Among the many benefits of the multi-age classroom is the sense of community and stability that is created. This sense of community builds confidence and allows children to feel more comfortable trying new things and advancing socially, emotionally and academically. The younger children benefit from the nurturing and mentoring of the older children and the older children grow as they help their younger peers. Through this they learn to become helpful and kind members of their community and the larger community both in and out of school.