Absorbent mind

The formative period of intense mental activity from birth through approximately age 6 which is the foundation for intellectual and psychological development. The child can effortlessly and spontaneously absorb from the environment 

Abstract understanding

grasping an idea as a thought without physical existence.  For example mathematical equations are abstract concepts in symbolic form.

Adolescent Program

the Montessori program designed for 7th and 8th grade students, ages 12-15.


in Montessori environments, it is “a consistent activity concentrated on a single work — an exercise on some external object, where the movements of the hands are guided by the mind.” (The Secret of Childhood)  It is a state of being deeply focus and engaged in meaningful work.  Concentration develops during the period from birth to age 6.

Concrete materials

Instructional materials which give tangible, visible form to abstract concepts.  Dr. Montessori designed concrete materials to address all aspects of children’s development. For example, the Montessori materials known as the Golden Beads embody the concept of the mathematical decimal system, and by grouping them into units, tens, hundreds, and thousands in the hands-on method designed by Dr. Montessori, children can access this abstract concept.  The care and treatment of the materials addresses the child’s need for social development, as well as gross motor and fine motor skills.

Concrete to Abstract

A developmentally appropriate progression a child makes when introduced to “concrete materials”—materials which give tangible, visible form to an abstract concept—and through working with the hands, the child’s brain formulates the necessary architectural pathways to facilitate the transformation from manipulation of concrete work to the understanding of the concept it embodies.  This transformation allows the child to gradually understand the same concept in symbolic form.

Control of error

An aspect of Montessori materials which provides the child discovery avenues for mistakes made while working.  The child discovers the error on their own, which is the moment of learning, and can independently solve the problem to arrive at the solution without adult assistance.  This key trait of Montessori materials helps children see themselves as capable problem-solvers, which spurs them on to more and more challenging work.  Self-esteem, self-motivation, and independence are all supported and developed through this process.

Cosmic Education

At the Montessori Elementary levels, children ages 6-12 are introduced to what Dr. Montessori called a “vision of the universe”. She developed a series of lessons call “the Great Lessons” which supports the children at this developmental plane as they begin to think more expansively about the world and the universe.  The Great Lessons include history, social studies, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, geography, anthropology, botany, zoology, and much, much more.  Through this Cosmic Education, children discover the interconnectedness of all parts of the cosmos.

Developmentally Appropriate

that which has been scientifically proven to be suitable for the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social growth of the child at a certain age;  materials, lessons, programs, and curriculum that suit the needs and cultivate children’s natural growth at a certain age or period, based on what has been scientifically proven as the way children are hard-wired to learn.  For example in a developmentally appropriate preschool environment you would find children happily working on independent activities, participating in individualized lessons, with self-motivated choices and problem-solving practice.


in Montessori education discipline is not that which is applied externally by an adult, or the promise/implication of rewards and punishments, but that of the emergence of personal self-discipline, the willing suppression of impulse, and the choice to make positive choices in personal behavior.  Also known as “discipline from within”. The development of the will and self-discipline are directly related.

Freedom and Responsibility

Free movement and choice of constructive activity within an environment which respects the child’s rights and promotes the development of will and discipline.  Freedom to take action; responsibility to act within the confines of purposeful activity.

Grace and courtesy

Lessons aimed at building critical social skills. These foundational skills help children to build healthy social relationships in school, at home, and later in life.  Examples of lessons include asking for assistance, greeting guests, conversing politely, waiting rather than interrupting, empathy, nurturing, etc.

Human tendencies

Montessori philosophy maintains that since Man first walked the Earth all humans are predisposed to certain universal tendencies, regardless of age, culture, period of history, or race.  These tendencies include exploration through the senses, work, communication, a quest to understand where we are in space and time, striving for external and internal order, abstraction, mastery of skills and our bodies, precision, and a spiritual life.


The continual quest to overcome dependence on others, and gain autonomy and self-regulation, in order to achieve freedom and growth.  Children are working toward independence by striving for various developmental milestones—for example learning to walk or talk—throughout the four Planes of Development from birth through young adulthood.

Isolation of difficulty

In order to ensure that a task is just the right amount of challenging to a child—neither too difficult nor too easy—the Montessori professional first isolates the most difficult aspect of the lesson and presents it as a foundation for the larger, more complex lesson to come.  Before learning table washing, the child has lessons on pouring, folding, wringing, etc.  This keeps thing interesting for the child as they gradually grow their skills sets and independence.

Indirect preparation

The natural method by which the brain builds intelligence.  Conscious interest prepares the mind for future activities, problems, and thought.  In Montessori education, the works in the prepared environment meet the needs of the child’s interest.  As they follow that interest, the brain is developing synaptic connections that will enable the child to more readily grasp related concepts in the abstract.  For example, a child can derived great delight in combining geometric shapes to create other geometric shapes—without any awareness that this prepares the mind for Geometry. Indirect preparation prepares the mind ahead of time for learning down the road.

Learning explosions

Indirect preparation, maturation, and physical and mental development over a period of months culminating in a rapid, sudden external manifestation of that growth.  For example, children seem to explode into spoken language suddenly, because months and years of internal growth precede that explosion.


The name “Montessori” can refer to either the founder of Montessori education—Dr. Maria Montessori—or to the method of education she developed.  The name of The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley is also shortened to simply “Montessori” by the families enrolled here.


A natural developmental process which results in happy, enthusiastic, generous, and helpful children, characterized by several key manifestations:  a love of work, sustained concentration, attachment to reality, and peaceful love of silence and working alone.  Dr. Montessori observed that children become normalized through work.  Normalizing events are completed each time a Montessori student fulfills a basic work cycle including choosing an activity, completing the activity, returning the materials prepared for the next person, and experiencing a sense of satisfaction.  Normalized students make good work and behavior choices, and their level of development is reflected in their work.  See Socialization. 

Planes of Development

Periods of growth and learning that each act as the foundation for the subsequent plane of development. Each plane is characterized by particular areas of intellectual, physical, social, and psychological growth. There are four distinct planes:  The First Plane is the period of the Absorbent Mind (ages 0 -6); the Second is the period of the Reasoning Mind (ages 6-12); the Third Plane is the Construction of the Social Self (or beginning of emotional independence, ages 12-18); and the Fourth is Understanding of One’s Place in the World (ages 18-24).  At The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley, we serve children beginning at age 3—the middle of the First Plane—through 8th grade (the early years of the Third Plane).

Points of Interest

Elements of Montessori materials or activities scattered throughout the work which act as markers toward the intended goal, sparking interest throughout the exercise, and driving the child’s further engagement.  Points of interest help keep the child engaged and interested through lengthy or complex tasks, and to have the motivation to master necessary details.  For example, placing the tiniest cube at the top of the Pink Tower is a point of interest for children ages 3-6 during the sensitive periods for order and interest in tiny objects.

Practical Life

Those skills needed by the child for self-care, care of the environment, and grace and courtesy with friends.  Self-care includes personal hygiene such as hand washing, nose blowing, and skills to take care of one’s personal needs such as dressing, preparing food, etc.  Care of the environment includes various domestic work such as washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, etc.   Practical life exercises assist children in the development of concentration, fosters their independence, and builds their self-discipline and self-esteem.


the Primary classrooms at The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley are made up of children ages 3 to 6 and include All-Day Primary (Kindergarten) students.

Prepared environment

One of Dr. Montessori’s earliest observations was that the child’s environmental experience is key to their development. Children learn by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and listening.  To that end, the whole Montessori learning environment—classroom, materials, and social climate—is mindfully prepared to ignite the child’s natural desire to learn through exploration.The Prepared Environment provides the means for students to discover for themselves the answers to their own questions. The resources available include the teacher as mentor and ally, peers as guides and collaborators; and the Montessori materials as tools for exploration, progress, and inspiration.

Purposeful Movement

Movement which is not superfluous to the task at hand.  Montessori students learn through work that requires purposeful movement, which promotes and strengthens gross motor and fine motor skills.


 Performing a task again and again to achieve mastery of the movement and the skill.  While adults are oriented to view successful completion of a task as the goal in work, for the child the innate goal is to perfect the movements and skills of the work. In other words, to the child, the process of the work is more important than the successful completion of the work.  This causes the child to repeat works until that intrinsic goal to master skills is achieved.

Sensitive Periods

In the course of human development, critical “windows of opportunity” for the acquisition of skills and abilities occur when a child has reached biological preparedness and receptivity.  When engaged in activities which align with these windows of opportunity, a child demonstrates spontaneous concentration and freely chosen repetition, without reliance on encouragement, reward, or adult intervention.  Dr. Montessori observed that young children are intrinsically motivated to engaging in activities within the environment that satisfy their developmental needs.

Sensorial Exercises

Activities with specific Montessori materials and other elements which refine sensory discrimination, and act as a launching point for language, math, and writing.  Primary classrooms include an area for sensorial exercises which address refinement of all five senses.  The Primary sensorial area includes such iconic Montessori materials such as the Pink Tower, Red Rods, Color Tablets, Geometric Solids, and the Binomial and Trinomial Cubes.


Developing awareness of the expectations of behavior within the boundaries of their society.  This includes the norms, values, and cultures.  Socialization is learned through experience and observation, and the foundation is one of respect. Respect for others, treating other people as we would wish to be treated, cooperation, contributing to the community, and doing our share. Montessori students learn these lessons through guidance from older peers in the multi-aged classrooms, Grace and Courtesy lessons, and observation of the adults in their lives, including teachers and parents. This socialization is not only the foundation for classroom friendships, but for lifetime success with people.

Three Hour Work Cycle

The scientifically proven, predictable phenomenon naturally occurring in children consisting of a productive period  cycle of choice, concentration, and satisfaction observed and documented by Dr. Maria Montessori.  In Montessori schools, children engage daily in a three hour, uninterrupted time where they are free to choose work independently.


Purposeful activity.  In Montessori schools, work is freely chosen by students, and all the activities are called work because although it is pressure-free and joyful—and children feel like it is “play”—Dr. Montessori observed that in a prepared environment children will freely choose meaningful activities over frivolous ones.

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Inside the Montessori Classroom

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