Dr. Montessori believed that education should fit the child's stage of development. Young children from three to six have particular sensitivities to specific areas of learning at definite times. Children from six to twelve have particular characteristics that lead them to learn about different areas. The Montessori curriculum follows a definite plan that takes into account these sensitivities and characteristics.
Each Montessori classroom includes specially designed materials and equipment that enable children to work independently. Children learn responsibility by the real-life practice of properly using and returning the materials to the shelves so that they are ready for the next person.
For young children ages 3-6, the main areas of work include practical life, sensorial, language, and math as well as work in the areas of geography, biology, art, and music.
Examples of practical life exercises are zipping, tying, pouring, sweeping, flower arranging, and table scrubbing. These exercises are designed not only to teach the children to care for themselves but also to help them learn how to sequence an activity, to keep order in their work, and to put it away ready for the next child to use.
The sensorial exercises help children to refine their senses and to give names to their experiences, such as tallest, bitter, sphere, and maroon. The sensorial materials include the bells, which help the children learn musical tones. In the language area, children learn to hear individual sounds in words, along with seeing and feeling these sounds by using letters cut from sandpaper and mounted on boards. They learn that these sounds can be put together to form words.
The foundation of the math work is the "golden bead" material. The children count these beads and learn how they group into units, tens, hundreds, and even thousands.
Children from 6-12 undergo a very definite change. They become more social and peer oriented. They want to find out how and why.
These children now are given many lessons in the form of stories. These stories are based on fact but told with a sense of wonder to fire the imaginations of the children. Some stories set the whole stage, such as the one about the formation of the universe. Others tell about natural laws such as how wind is created.
After listening to these stories, the children are guided to do their own research and find out more about the subject. They often work in groups, stimulating each other by sharing information.
Language work continues, but now the children explore grammar and sentence structure. Spelling rules are given in the light of the history of the English language.
The math work branches out so that the children are using concrete materials to explore fractions, algebra, squaring, geometry, and more. The teacher gives lessons to keep the children interested in learning, observes the children so their needs can be met, and guides the children in their choices.
The teacher and each child work together to make sure all the MPS grade-level requirements are met. In this way, elementary children learn to be responsible decision makers.
The teenage years of 12-15 mean yet another change for the growing human being, so the curriculum again changes to meet the student's needs. The adolescent program focuses on communication and career possibilities.
These students want to express themselves fully, so writing, debate, and theater are a part of their studies. Math is taught using real-life projects and examples, such as designing an engineering project. Students may do a history project by interviewing senior citizens and writing up their stories, including background research about the time of their youth.
Teens may also spend some time working with a "mentor" in a business or service to see what the work world is like. Classroom teachers provide the main course of study, but they also set up experiences with a variety of professionals to give the teenagers exposure to many different parts of society.