In the past month, parents touring our private school in La Jolla have asked great questions as they prepare to place their kids into traditional or Montessori preschools. For example,
Three years old is a good age to start your children on the path to Kindergarten readiness.
Children start with the basics: learning social skills, like waiting their turn; listening; following directions; learning sequences to complete tasks; and, concentration. Then, they learn within four key areas, including practical life, sensorial, math, and language.
Core differences between Montessori preschool and traditional preschools are many. First and foremost, Montessori focuses on individualized learning rather than group learning. From the get-go, the focus is on each child. Students are taught by highly accredited teachers who learn to understand each child’s abilities and interests. Kids are also taught by watching age-range peers, thereby learning from older children.
Importantly, La Jolla Montessori School teaches a daily English/Spanish bilingual immersion program designed to deliver verbal understanding by the end of Kindergarten. Dual language skills are helpful in opening kids’ learning pathways—they absorb language easily at age three.
Maria Montessori was Italy’s first female doctor and her educational philosophies have stood for 110 years. Her takeaway: set children up for success via observing them and giving them the ability to go at their own speed with their own subject matter. A key: letting them do for themselves at all times with very little teacher or parental interference. This ability to ‘DIY’ builds independence and self-confidence going forward.
Whether Montessori preschoolers are helping teachers and fellow classmates with the guts of meal preparation, table preparation or post-meal clean-up, they are learning that they can do it! And, after school, parents are encouraged to continue these behaviors as ways to integrate children into family life.
These components comprise what Montessori preschoolers learn from both social and academic sides. What should every child learn in preschool? At day’s end, the core difference is that Montessori is child-driven and child-directed rather than teacher-directed. It is that core difference that separates Montessori from traditional preschools and builds confident, independent children. And that is what every child should learn in preschool.