Holly Brook Montessori

Third Primary Year

The Kindergarten Year – Montessori’s Third (or Fourth) Primary Year

Montessori materials give the child concrete sensorial impressions of abstract concepts (examples are long and short with the Red Rods, small and large with the Pink Tower). These impressions become the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Two, three and four year olds have absorbent minds which soak up knowledge like a sponge. The five year old is in a transition year where as the child nears the 6-12 abstract mind, he begins to reflect on and notice more details, and in turn, ask more questions. The child attempts to define and explain the world in his own terms based on the impressions he has gathered before. It is a time for the child to discover his own “rules” of life – many of these, we as adults take for granted –in the classroom though, it is an exciting time to have a child come and excitedly explain that they have figured out something – “did you know that 0 + any number is the same number” or that “1 + a number is the next number”? The third (or fourth) year in a primary classroom is a year of integration of everything the child has learned in the first 2 (or three) years.

The Montessori Educational Method is probably the world’s first brain-based educational method – in fact, we believe it to be the best. Within a Montessori classroom, a child can make creative choices while exploring and discovering the world. The method is hands-on learning at its best, developing self-expression, collaboration and responsibility in a beautiful classroom that promotes happiness, respect and joy of learning.  Long before we could look at the brain with MRI’s, Dr. Montessori developed an educational method that helped a child’s brain develop between the ages of 0-6.  It is important to note that Dr. Montessori saw the primary Montessori model we offer in our three schools as perfect for the child ‘s development between ages 3 and 6 or roughly 2½ and 6½ not ages 3-5.  The reasons families choose Primary Montessori classrooms at age 3 are still valid at age 5, the kindergarten year. In fact, we might argue that the reasons are actually more important during the 5-6 year old year since this is the transition year between the absorbent mind and the rational mind.  Parents should seek to protect their investment by allowing the child to complete the three (or four) year cycle and thus enable the child to take full advantage of their learning in the 2, 3, and 4 year old years.

In contrast, traditional kindergarten programs utilize a method designed for the rational older mind and try to adapt the program to 5 year olds. This can result in methods which do not allow the child to truly learn. An example is workbook pages.  Current educational research tells us that children do not learn from workbook pages – that they have simply memorized the correct approach and answers and that when challenged they have difficulty applying the knowledge in different settings.  In a Primary Montessori classroom, we are focusing on the underlying foundations of knowledge – our goal is for the child to be able to take what he has learned and knows and move into other areas and solve problems.

The third (or fourth) year is an increased opportunity to develop the child’s independence.  In traditional kindergarten programs, the kindergarteners are back on the bottom of the school starting over in terms of seniority and skills.  In a primary Montessori classroom, the kindergartners can help with the younger children; they can be leaders; they can reinforce their own learning and knowledge by working with younger children.  Many adults have had the experience of cementing and improving their knowledge through teaching something to someone else – so it is in a Montessori primary class.  In addition, the learning is joyful – reading is so much more joyful when an adoring three or four year old is listening to you read versus the method often employed in traditional classrooms where one child reads a sentence, each child taking turns until the paragraph or story is complete.  Interaction between the mixed ages of the classroom allows the kindergarteners to practice responsibility, to be leaders, to teach others, to help and console others – a Primary Montessori classroom is a real life community.