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Monday, March 30, 2015

Slow is Fast in Montessori preschool

Piyush, a parent of 3 year old child, called me up as he had gone to a Montessori pre school for getting admission for his child in Montessori (M1 to M3) preschool. After hearing what a child learns in the first year of Montessori - M1 - Piyush said that he was disappointed. According to him, while in a normal pre-school, the child learns to write alphabets A to Z, count numbers 1 to 100, learns to sing rhymes, a child in Montessori M1 does not learn any of this. So Piyush asked me if this is because Montessori offers too much of freedom to the child? Is the progress of child in Montessori too slow?



A girl doing Geometrical cabinet by the end of first year in M1 which requires 35-40 minutes of focused attention 

If you compare M1 (equivalent to Nursery) to Nursery year of a normal pre-school, the above statement may seem to be true. So why is the first year slow in Montessori?

Because in the first year, the foundation is being led. The initial period is spent on helping the child sit on the mat without getting distracted. This is done through EPL activities like pounding, cutting cucumbers and self management activities like buttoning shirt and washing hands. In the first year, sensorial activities utilise the 'senses' of the child which help him activate his 'senses' and develop patience. A large set of practices are adopted in Montessori to ensure that the child sees 'mistakes' as a source of learning, instead of being embarrassed or punished by them. As a foundation for teaching English, the child is introduced to at least 100 new words in English per month in the first year through cards and object boxes. Morever, the Montessori adult always speaks with the child in English. Combination of these -  EPL, Sensorial and language - enable the child to work patiently for a longer time without fear of 'mistakes'. 

By the end of first year, with the attention span increased to more than 30 minutes, with no fear of mistakes, the child is willing to learn new things at a faster rate, be it in language, mathematics or Geography. More importantly, his learning is fast because he chooses his activities himself without being forced. He learns it individually at his own pace, not in the group.

So what does this foundation of one year help the child learn in the second and three year of pre-school? By the third year, a Montessori child learns to count add, subtract, multiply and divide 4-digit numbers. Some children even learn fractions. All children learn to count 4-digit number, some even count 6-digit numbers. ( Typically this is learnt in second/third class in normal schools!) In English language, the Montessori child not only speaks, writes English in his own words, but can also read English story books ( which is called comprehensive reading as compared to Mechanical reading). As though this is not enough, a Montessori child is introduced to Geography, Zoology and Botany ( with botanical names for leaves) in the third year, besides being introduced to second language, which could be either Hindi or Marathi in Maharashtra, or Kannada in Karnataka.

At the end of three years, a Montessori child is far ahead of a child in Normal pre-school, both in terms of learning ( be it maths, language or geography) as well as in terms of development ( be it patience, concentration and ability to make his own choices). Piyush understood the benefits of laying doing sound foundation of a child.

As Piyush said it succinctly, Slow is fast in Montessori. It takes time to lay down the foundation in the first year, but once it is laid, then it can achieve huge results in the next two years. 

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