The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each individual child reach their fullest potential in all areas of life—socially, academically, physically, and emotionally. The curriculum and the environment empower children, ignite their creativity, and build a strong sense of self, allowing them to enjoy the process of learning and the excitement of accomplishment.
For nearly 40 years, The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley has provided the children of the Mahoning Valley with a world-class Montessori education. The school follows the educational methods and philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori—physician, educator, and humanitarian—who discovered that children are born with an innate craving and ability to absorb information about the world around them through their senses and experiences.
When you choose to enroll your child at The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley, your child will benefit from the following Montessori principles:
The Prepared Environment
“These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying : 'Help me to do it alone!'" Dr. Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence
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—room, materials, and social climate—is mindfully prepared to ignite the child’s natural desire to learn through exploration and discovery.
When you enter our Montessori learning environments, you’ll see children working at tables designed to fit their bodies or on the floor, using mats or rugs to define their work space. Prints of great art works or displays from a variety of cultures are tastefully displayed on the walls positioned so that the children in the room can easily see them. Shelves of beautiful Montessori materials and interesting displays designed to entice and draw in the curious learner are organized into well-defined groupings for each area of the curriculum. A peace corner with a few well-chosen items of beauty act as a quiet spot for reflection; a spot to enjoy snack and polite table conversation with a friend or friends add to the comfortable, pleasant atmosphere. Natural elements, such as natural wood, organic materials, and living plants and animals, help children tune in to their environment, inspiring the respect and caring for nature which is the hallmark of a Montessori environment.
Each prepared environment meets the developmental needs of the children within it. The youngest children have shelves, furniture, and tools sized specifically for them, to allow the most opportunity for independence, small and gross motor movement, and intellectual and social development. The oldest children may have science lab tables for experiments, computer desks, and a casual literature circle of sofas and chairs to fit their growing bodies and spontaneous discussions.
The Prepared Environment provides the means for students of every age to explore and 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.
The three-year age span (or two-years, in the case of our Adolescent students) in each classroom is based on the philosophy of the family unit. Just like in a family environment where younger members learn from the experience of the older ones, children in a multi-age group setting learn from each other. Children learn to negotiate, cooperate, and accept ideas other than their own. Since all children are at different stages in their learning and development, negative competition between children is practically non-existent. The teacher continues to nurture each child’s development throughout the entire span of the child’s 2 to 3 year multi-age grouping.
Benefits for younger children:
- Learning from the older children they look up to
- Having role models and mentors
- Learning from peers as well as adults
- Seeing older children doing advanced work and striving to do the same
- Learning social graces, empathy, cooperation, and compassion
Benefits for older children:
- Develops self-confidence and leadership skills
- Feeling needed and proud to help someone else
- Practicing what they already know, therefore reinforcing their knowledge
- Learning patience, nurturing, and kindness toward others
- Being mentors and role models
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori
Through her extensive observation of children, Dr. Montessori discovered several activities children enjoy and repeatedly gravitate toward. She realized that movement of the body, use of all the senses, and work with the hands are critical in early childhood development. Dr. Montessori developed beautiful and ingenious materials that isolate a specific skill or concept. Montessori materials are hands-on, self-correcting, and multi-sensory. Lessons with them build successively, demonstrating concepts at the concrete level and giving the child the experience needed to make the leap to deeper, abstract understanding.
Lessons with the materials are first provided by the teachers, individually as each student’s interests and abilities dictate. Students are then free to select their work from the lessons they have been given, use the materials appropriately, and replace the work prepared for the next person—all without having to wait for or rely on anyone else. When working with the materials, students can determine for themselves if they have done the exercises correctly—the teacher does not need to correct it. If the work doesn’t look right, the child can figure out what needs fixed, ask a more experienced child for help, or check with a teacher on how to figure out a solution.
“Such experience is not just play…. It is work he must do in order to grow up.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori students treasure their classroom materials, and by following the example of the teachers and the other students, learn to handle them gently and carefully, and delight in caring for them, putting them away, and keeping them orderly. Although the children feel as though they are playing games with these materials, they are actually learning in a scientifically developed curriculum which moves with their individual development, step-by-step and sequentially, increasing in conceptual complexity. But for the child, they are interesting, inspiring, and fun!
Building on the foundation of their concrete learning in Primary program, Elementary students transition smoothly into abstract thinking. Their learning transforms and they begin learning the methods and importance of research. Their Montessori materials assist ethical experiential study and discovery.
Sensitive Periods: Windows of Opportunity for Learning
“All this was due to that special period of sensitivity; the mind was like soft wax, susceptible at this age to impressions which could not be taken in at a later stage, when his special malleability would have disappeared.”
- Dr. Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Through her scientific observation, Maria Montessori discovered sensitive periods in children. A sensitive period is a time in your child's life when they are deeply interested in and highly motivated to learn a particular skill or understand a piece of information. It is during this unique time that your child learns a task easily. It is the role of the Teacher to identify these sensitive periods in each individual child and link the child to the appropriate learning activities and materials found in the prepared environment.
"There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important part of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when a man's intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed. But not only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic powers."
-Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
The critical nature of sensitive periods is one of the most important reasons to start your child’s MSMV education at age 3.
Freedom Within Boundaries
“When the child is given freedom to move about in a world of objects, he is naturally inclined to perform the tasks necessary for his development entirely on his own.” Dr. Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
The Montessori Method allows children the freedom of choice in their prepared environment. Freedom to choose the work that they are inwardly driven to master; freedom to move and speak; freedom to achieve uninterrupted concentration—these freedoms are the stepping stones to your child’s independence and self-discipline, which is fostered at every level. Freedom, independence, and self-discipline help keep the intrinsic fire to learn burning within your child, now and on into life beyond school.
“The liberty of the child ought to have as its limits the collective interest of the community in which he moves; its form is expressed in what we call manners and good behavior.” Dr. Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child
With the Montessori Method, the boundaries of the classroom are those of polite society. These foundational lessons of courtesy and others extend to include other ways to demonstrate respect and cooperation; and all of this begins at MSMV at age 3.
“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self.”
― Dr. Maria Montessori
The development of independence starts at the very beginning of life, from the moment the child is capable of doing things. It is inherent in all humans to seek independence; it is a capacity achieved by an individual—it is developed, not given. Our teachers model independence by allowing your child space to figure things out, to explore and discover according to their own sensitive period. The aspects of freedom within boundaries and the prepared environment mentioned above support the development of independence.
“ Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
— Dr. Maria Montessori
We give the children space to attempt tasks at which they feel they can succeed—safely and consciously practicing tasks that are developmentally appropriate—because we recognize that by doing “for” the child, we would be getting in the way of the child’s natural development. By doing “for” the child, we would not be allowing the child to learn from making mistakes, or to develop grit and perseverance by seeing a task through to completion. By allowing the child to do for themselves, we are showing them the respect and confidence that we find them capable beings. This builds confidence and inspires further growth in independence, self-discipline, and the intrinsic motivation to learn.
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
― Maria Montessori
At the core of the Montessori Method is the focus on respect — respect for the child and the desire to learn all humans are born with; respect for the child’s natural psychological, intellectual, and physical development. Through the Montessori approach, the development of respect within the child expands to include respect for oneself, other living beings, and one’s environment.
Respect permeates all aspects of the social and academic curricula. The teachers model respect by respecting every child as an individual. Social relations are presented by means of lessons in Grace and Courtesy. Grace can be defined as the development of own bodily movements in a harmonious way. Courtesy is the extension of that grace to other people, what many would call “manners”.
At every level, Montessori children are exposed to the responsibility of being a community member. All the members of their community speak respectfully to one another. While there is a buzz of activity in the classroom, the voices are quiet out of respect for others; behavior is helpful and cooperative, not hurtful or rude. The environment is cared for lovingly by students and adults. People’s opinions and beliefs are respected, even when they differ, and the curriculum focuses on how humans are similar, not on their differences.