When a child is in a Montessori classroom, sometimes the "learning" that he/she is doing is not evident. A parent may wonder why the child hasn't learned what so-and-so has learned who is the same age as their child, or even why a younger child knows something that their child does not. This is especially evident when it comes to language and math. Some kids learn their numbers and are beginning to read when they are three, and others learn these at a much later age. Some homeschooling books (though not Montessori-based) that I've read even suggest that a parent can wait until age 8 or 9 before teaching their child to read, if the child is not interested. And I am reading Farmer Boy to Gene right now, and was just reminded that Almanzo (the "boy" of the title)didn't start school until he was almost 9.
So, that said, each kid has their own timetable for learning things, and some just take longer. However, being in a Montessori environment does teach children much more than just their numbers and letters. Here is a brief list of the things that the children in my preschool have learned since we started in September (some of these things one or more children may have known already):
-how to put their outdoor clothes away before beginning work
-the routine of washing their hands before beginning work
-how to wash their hands
-how to carry a tray without spilling what's on it
-how to use a work the way it was presented
-how to clean up a work and put it back in it's spot before choosing another
-how to clean up a mess before choosing another work
-how to wait patiently for a popular work (by putting their nametag in the work's spot on the
shelf, they can claim it next)
-how to work quietly without disturbing others
-how to speak quietly to each other when necessary
-how to ask a question of the teacher
-how to get ready for circle time (put work away, get carpet squares)
-how to take turns sitting in the middle at circle time (this was a BIG issue in September)
-how to let someone (especially a toddler) watch them work
-how to ask someone if they can watch them work
-how to wait patiently for a turn at the snack table
-how to eat snack and clean up the table for the next person
-how to cut food (bananas, pears, cheese) using a small knife and cutting board
-how to spread (peanut butter)
-how to drink out of a non-lidded cup
There are probably more I haven't thought of, and we are definitely still working on some of these, but it is a pretty extensive list.
One more point, that I have been realizing lately...many of these things will prepare a child for later work in language and math. Especially "using a work correctly"...many of the works, if used correctly, are SPECIFICALLY meant to prepare a child for later reading and writing work, as well as math. I won't go into detail on this, as it would take too long, but many materials that Maria Montessori originally included in her classrooms were designed for these purposes.
And one final point, the kids have learned how to concentrate, and have been perfecting their concentration skills. They have learned that no one else will touch what they are working on, and they can work on it as long as they want. And they typically work with materials for 15-20 minutes at a time, or sometimes more. This REALLY does wonders for their mood at the end of preschool. If they have had good periods of concentration during the morning, they are usually quite happy and peaceful at the end of our work period.
That's all for now. The kids really have come a long way. Sometimes I wish I could do much more with them (as in, supply many more materials) but when I remind myself how everyone was at the beginning of the year, I am ok with where we are now. And we still have more school days to come...