The Montessori preschool curriculum is interdisciplinary and interactive. It encompasses five broad areas:
1. Practical Life exercises instill care for self, for others, and for the environment. Activities include many of the tasks children see as part of their daily routine in the home such as preparing food and washing dishes. The exercises of Practical Life allow the children to learn to function independently by caring for their own needs and the needs of the class environment. They learn to complete such tasks by developing their powers of control and concentration. One distinct group of Practical Life exercises is referred to as “Grace and Courtesy” which aids the development of social relations (greeting, serving, accepting, apologizing, thanking, etc.)
2. Sensorial Area focuses on the development of sensory perception. All five senses are engaged as children learn to differentiate among sizes, colors, weights, forms, textures, scents, tastes, and musical sounds. Aristotle said, “There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses.”
3. Language Area offers the young child the opportunity to develop oral language through discussions, storytelling, poetry, vocabulary lessons, etc. A phonics approach to reading is incorporated. The “Sandpaper Letters” help children link sound and symbol effortlessly, through a sight-sound-touch presentation of the alphabet. Numerous studies have found that explicit and direct phonics instruction offers significant benefits to children learning to read. The earlier children receive phonics instruction, the better. Many reading experts as well as the National Reading Panel stress that phonics instruction must be individualized for every child. One-size-fits-all phonics instruction doesn’t always work. A Montessori classroom offers just that: individualized phonics instruction starting in the Primary class. Writing and reading skills are generally developed consecutively. To further enhance reading development, children are taught grammar.
4. Mathematics activities help children learn and understand the concepts of math by manipulating concrete materials. Various activities allow the child to internalize concepts of quantity, sequence, decimal system, place value and to explore the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This work gives children a solid understanding of basic mathematical principles, prepares them for later abstract reasoning, and helps develop problem-solving capabilities.
5. Geography, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art and Music are integrated in the pre-kindergarten curriculum. Children learn about people and cultures in other countries with an attitude of respect and admiration. Art programs give children every opportunity to enjoy a variety of creative activities and gain knowledge of the great masters. To enrich the Music program Dr. Montessori designed a set of bells corresponding to the keys on the piano. Teachers are trained to use “The Bells” to teach the children the pitch of musical notes. This type of “ear training” is excellent preparation for any further pursuit in music.