Music education is often thought of as an extracurricular activity with isolated educational objectives and outcomes. But within Montessori schools, even as early as Montessori preschool, music education is held in the same esteem as the other elements of the classroom curriculum.
Music as a learning tool
The founder of this unique method of education, Dr. Maria Montessori, held several key beliefs about children and their capacity to learn based on her years of experience and research as an educator. Montessori felt that children have an innate curiosity and the ability to self-educate that, given the right environment and guidance, develops into independence, confidence, and a love of learning. Montessori saw music as yet another valuable tool in cultivating these characteristics and the Montessori method of education sees the potential in every child to learn, create, and express themselves through music.
The benefits of music education
As any musician will tell you, music education integrates and reinforces many academic subject areas, including mathematics, anatomy, physics, history, anthropology, and even the study of languages. Additionally, there are the social-emotional skills which music education cultivates such as engaging in a creative process and working with a group to create a harmonious collective outcome. Unfortunately, many traditional schools choose not to or aren’t able to support a robust music education program and children are left to discover and refine their innate musical capabilities outside of the shared space of the classroom and on their own time, if they have the opportunity to do so at all.
The Montessori method and music education
Within Montessori elementary schools, music education is woven into the school day and is approached in the same way as the other subject areas. Children are encouraged to choose how they want to engage with music and teach themselves, learn from peers, and receive guidance from a music specialist (who is often someone other than their Montessori teacher). The curriculum focuses on music literacy, singing, movement, listening, and the playing of instruments. Ear training is introduced early on in the Montessori Primary program through the standard classroom tool Montessori bells. For children in the first stage of their music education they will learn in a group setting with their usual mixed-age peers, while students who have progressed in their music education will have opportunities for private lessons with practice time incorporated into their classroom schedule.
Children as young as infants are able to start picking up important math concepts that will follow them through life. Not only are early math concepts taught in Montessori daycare and preschool, but they can also easily be applied to daily household activities. Using a hands-on approach to education makes it easier for kids to pick up these skills, and it may surprise you how quickly your children take them to heart.
The ability to count usually precedes the ability to recognize numerals, beginning even before your child attends a Montessori daycare. Counting begins in infancy, typically with counting fingers or toes, and progresses to the ability to count other objects. Since the earliest counting process uses a predetermined group of items such as fingers, the concept of grouping and sets are included in the process by default. In its simplest form, the basic set is a hand containing 5 fingers.
You can begin teaching children to recognize numerals even before they are able to talk. By the time they are in preschool, most children will have a good idea what the numerals for 2 and 3 look like, and will probably be ready to pick basic numbers from 1 to 9 out of a group of numerals.
More and Less
As children learn to identify their numerals they will also be able to pick up concepts such as more and less even if they aren’t yet able to count the number of items in a set. A group of three toy trucks is more than 1 toy truck, for example, and taking one of the truck out of the set means there are less than there were. This type of association is a good introduction to simple addition and subtraction, and an excellent way for children to compare sets of similar items.
After mastering the basic math concepts, children are ready to start exploring the complexities of math such as adding and subtracting items, dividing a set into equal parts (and recognizing when there is a remainder), and even learning the rudiments of multiplication by adding sets together. Introducing these concepts begins in your Montessori preschool and kindergarten, but the basic concepts they need for learning them starts within days or weeks of being born.
Attending Montessori preschool is an excellent head start, but the best way to help your children is to take a proactive role in their education. Giving him the opportunity t get outside and get his hands dirty is more than educational, it also has health benefits for his mind and body.
Provide the Right Environment
Your Montessori preschool makes good use of outdoor time, and so should you. Providing kids with a safe and interesting outside space encourages healthy activities like running, stretching and grasping. A lawn, for example, is filled with discoveries for the young mind but it must be free of trash, debris, and sharp objects. With supervision, cleaning up the lawn can be the activity they need and also gives them a sense of purpose-- and accomplishment as well.
Play Based Learning
Giving your child a small gardening space is an excellent incentive. Planting seeds and nurturing plants as they grow is both educational and builds self-esteem as children watch the result their activities grow, blossom and produce edible results. Gardening for children can be as simple as a pot or two filled with soil or as complex as a miniature vegetable garden with several different types of plants like squash, beans, and watermelon.
Even infants can benefit from time outdoors. Spread a blanket in the yard or at the beach and allow your baby to crawl about and discover new things. Keep in mind that little children are new to every experience and eager to try new things. Research indicates that our brains are naturally inclined for outdoor activity, so provide ample opportunity for it to take place. Physical activity is the primary goal and exploration is the bait which encourages it.
By giving young children the chance to explore and investigate, you encourage them to broaden their horizons, take on new roles and responsibilities, and learn about a myriad of things in their own way and at their own pace. Outside activity is fundamental to the human body and mind, so make it a practice to offer outdoor stimuli which boosts his personal potential.
A child’s formative years are the most important educational years of his life, and attending kindergarten at a Montessori elementary school is considered to be an essential part of the learning cycle. The American Montessori Society points out that children are constantly being observed and assessed in the classroom, and teachers use those observations to provide intuitive individual guidance which helps children learn more and develop essential social and real-world skills.
The 3-Year Cycle
Children who attend Montessori elementary school will stay in the same classroom from the time they are 3 until they are 6 years of age. This is known as the 3-year cycle, culminating in their kindergarten year when earlier lessons solidify into more complex education and exploration. This is the year that children are expected to put their earlier lessons and experiences into action and take on a more concerted role as responsible young members of the school and community.
Children Blossom in Kindergarten
Kindergarten is an explosive year for child development and is a critical step in Montessori education. This is the year that students become the critical thinkers and problem solvers the gentle lessons of previous years have prepared them for. In the prepared environment, materials which were once used as playful and exciting games become tools for learning directly about their world, their abilities, and their community. All of their efforts take on a new focus and their holistic education begins to take a definitive shape.
Self Development and Interaction
In kindergarten, children will learn to apply themselves in new ways, becoming more decisive and exhibiting self-control. They will develop more pronounced social skills and explore new ways to interact with their classmates, their student guides, and with the world at large. They will discover how to deal with setbacks and explore new ways to apply themselves to the projects they undertake.
Montessori kindergarten is one of the most important years for young students. That is the age when children become more self-aware and develop the skills necessary for applying themselves to many different facets of their education, from language and fine motor control to math and personal interaction.