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Montessori Education

Ask my teenage daughter what school she has liked best she will always answer nursery. This was a time in her life and in fact my life when we made life long friends with a special bond.

Early Years education is as important to a child’s development as primary and secondary so choosing the right nursery is something that should be considered carefully. When checking out prospective nurseries you often see the word Montessori. I have often wondered what a Montessori nursery is so this week I visited one here in Dubai.

I was welcomed to Little Land Nursery by Siog Moore the owner who trained as a registered general nurse (RGN) in Ireland and later became a neonatal specialist, however it was her interest in child psychology and her own children’s pre-school experience that led her to set up Little Land in 1994. As we walked through the shaded play area Siog asked me what I knew of Montessori and I answered “children are just allowed to get on with it” – I was soon to learn how wrong I was.

The name Montessori came from Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) who was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. In 1902, whilst working with children with special needs, she was inspired to design a variety of learning materials which proved very successful with these young pupils. The opportunity to have these materials used by a larger and more diverse group of children came in 1907, when she was asked to direct a pre-school project for socially disadvantaged children in Rome. Her Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) became world famous and educational observers came from many countries to watch the young children absorbed in learning.

On entering the Montessori classroom I was struck by how calm it was even though there were many activities going on at the same time unlike in a traditional nursery environment when all the children will be doing the same activity at the same time (eg all playing with play dough). The classroom was divided into six areas Art, Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Culture. The child is given the freedom to choose from any of the areas. To really get the feel of the classroom Siog encouraged me to get down low so I could observe the classroom from the child’s perspective. All the furniture is designed to be at the child’s level so that they all have a part to play in where things were and they all help to maintain order and cleanliness. Each time a child finished with a piece of equipment they walked over to the shelves and carefully put it away. This clearly develops not only a certain responsibility but also a sense of achievement and control.

The practical life area had a little boy spreading jam on a cracker, over in the maths corner a girl proudly showed us her maths addition and in the Language area children were carefully carving out letters. In the practical life area I observed that no child was doing exactly the same activity they had all chosen something different but all were practical life skills chopping, spreading, pouring etc. Another lovely observation was that any child playing with anything messy was doing it on a small tray so if they spill for example some liquid it didn’t go all over the table and spoil the other children’s enjoyment this gives a control of error and the child that did spill something simply took a small sponge and mopped up the water leaving him feeling happy and in control of the situation. Another child was happily perfecting his fine motor skills by threading a piece of card. Children are encouraged to finish the task in hand and then are free to move to another area. The children all had freedom in a structured environment where the teacher directed the play but it was very child centered. The children were obviously learning from doing. Each class had two qualified Montessori teachers and an assistant . The Montessori-qualified teachers worked individually with each child, carefully charting his/her progress and recognizing when he/she is ready to move on to the next stage.

In a Montessori classroom the equipment on the shelves is always arranged from simple to complex so when a child completes a task they can move onto a more complex task. The equipment is “sensorial” meaning the material covers the five senses and helps the child gain important knowledge and language. The equipment in the language area helped the child with the shapes of the letters and the phonic sounds leading on to the introductions of writing and reading skills. The cultural area of the classroom had equipment covering Biology, Geography, History and Science. I noticed with the Geography equipment the colors of the continents were always consistent no matter what the equipment was eg Africa was always green. Topic themes are used to introduce children to the world.
There was a group in the far corner looking at books. The group consisted of old and young children and this is because in a Montessori class children are always of mixed ages. This is known as Vertical Age Grouping. It means that the older child is often found teaching the younger child some new knowledge or skill they have learned which helps to reinforce and perfect their own understanding and inspires the younger child. This leaves the older child with a sense of achievement and a feeling of “I can”.
I left the classroom really understanding how a Montessori education can really help each child work towards their full potential at their own pace starting each task from simple to complex. I very much liked the idea of Vertical Age Grouping as believe this will develop a child’s confidence by being one of the older children at the end of their nursery years leaving nursery with a real sense of “I CAN”.

At Little Land they have a traditional nursery section for children aged 14 months to 2 ½ years. The children learn through play using toys such as Duplo, stickle bricks, puzzles, cars, home corner etc, painting, music and movement and exploration of the environment. The Montessori section is for children over 2 ½ in September of that Academic Year taking them up to 4 years old. All of the teachers have a formal nursery teaching qualification and the assistant staff are encouraged to study Nursery teaching methods. There are no nannies to clear up as the teachers all handle this as Siog believes this can be a very important time with the children. The children do not watch TV or videos as this would be completely non-interactive.

Should you wish to find out anymore information about Montessori then contact Little Land nursery directly as they will be holding some information evenings.

3 Responses to “Montessori Education”

  1. Elham Khalil Hassan says:

    I want to study your English and where’s your Location

  2. Saeeda says:

    My experience with the school is outstanding I can find a great difference in my daughter in from her social behavior to learning skill she is just accelerating. The fees they are charging is justified student :teacher is according to the montessori common standard and student get due attention.

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