The Three Year Montessori Cycle
Every year, parents of five year old Montessori preschool children are faced with the decision of sending their children to kindergarten or to the third year of Montessori education. Many send them back, but a few opt for kindergarten. The latter decision may work out well on the face of it for a number of reasons. After two years in a Montessori school a child is generally well-adjusted, alert, broadly stimulated intellectually, muscularly coordinated and has refined sensory perception. Such a child is adaptable and, thus, performs well wherever he finds himself. This is, of course, quite pleasing to teachers and parents, and makes the child feel good.
What is completely overlooked is that the child misses the fulfilling completion of the three-year cycle in a Montessori program. During the third year everything he has been doing for the past two years comes to maturity, resulting in exciting leaps in reading, writing and math concepts. The child often bursts forth into reading effortlessly and avidly, writing stories from real life, imagination and dreams. He begins to abstract the math concepts he has been working with sensorially for the last years. In the third year of Montessori program, the child brings together his geography to an intellectual level, a level of conscious understanding and meaningful relatedness. For example, the wonderful series of puzzles that the child enjoyed in the first two years become continents and countries in the third year. The geometric shapes which he traced, matched and named in his first years, in the third year have parts and definitions. The botanical parts which were traced, colored and labeled will have functions to learn about in the third year.
If the child goes off to kindergarten, all the careful building up for the big events of the final year, all the preparing of many tools and skills must be set aside. The kindergarten year is spent getting adjusted socially and getting ready to settle down to first grade work. Whereas this may be necessary for most children, for a child from a Montessori program it is a year of letting time pass and missing out on what could be done in a Montessori school. If it is necessary for a child to transfer to another system, it would be better if it came at the first or second grade level.
And, from another point of view, it seems a shame for the parents’ large investment of tuition and time to be interrupted just when it is about to yield such a rich reward.