Two complementary curriculum frameworks guide the development of our educational program: the Montessori Curriculum and Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
The Montessori Curriculum
Montessori education is described as education for life as we provide learning environments designed to support children in their growth towards social, intellectual and ethical independence. There are five core learning areas in the Montessori Curriculum.
Practical Life exercises help children learn to care for themselves and their environment. Activities include:
- food preparation
- dressing oneself, for example, managing buttons and zips
- looking after plants
- cleaning windows, washing tables and sweeping the floor.
As children develop the skills necessary to become increasingly independently they also grow in self-confidence and improve coordination and concentration. Activities also indirectly prepare children for reading and writing.
Practical Life exercises also include lessons in Grace and Courtesy. These lessons help children develop behaviours that promote their positive social and emotional development and may include lessons in how to:
- greet a friend
- offer help to a friend
- say “please” and “thank you”
- using a tissue.
Executive function skills are not only widely recognised as being crucial for learning and development but also have lifelong benefits. Importantly, Practical Life exercises help children learn these skills, such as the ability to:
- focus attention
- remember instructions
- control impulses.
“The exercises of Practical Life are formative activities. They involve inspiration, repetition, and concentration on precise details. They take into account the natural impulses of the special periods of childhood. Though for the moment the exercises have no merely practical aims, they are a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education.” Dr Montessori
Children explore and learn about the world through the use of their senses: sight, feel, touch, hearing and taste. As children are particularly receptive to developing their senses up to the age of 6, it is important to provide them with as many sensorial experiences as possible. The carefully designed Montessori sensorial materials help children communicate, classify and refine their sensory experiences.
The sensorial materials:
- isolate the concept (for example, all pieces of the Pink Tower are the same colour and shape and vary only in size)
- have a control of error (for example, the tower will not be stable unless it is constructed in order, with the largest block on the bottom)
- prepare the child indirectly for future learning (for example, the Pink Tower has 10 blocks ranging from 1cm3 to 10cm3 as an indirect preparation for the decimal system).
In offering children the sensorial materials we help prepare them to think and reason.
“Any object presented, any ideas given, any invitation to observe is greeted with interest, because the child is already sensitive to such tiny differences as those which occur between the form of leaves, the colours of flowers, or the bodies of insects” Dr Montessori
Our Preschool classroom immerses children in a rich oral language environment providing a strong foundation for learning to read and write and enhancing children’s ability to express their feelings, needs and ideas.
The language materials, activities and emphasis on oral language, including the careful use of precise vocabulary, enhance not only the acquisition of new vocabulary, but support children to confidently enjoy discovering and playing with language.
Preparation for reading and writing begin in the Preschool as the Practical Life activities prepare children to strengthen the fine muscles of the hand as well as develop coordination. Concrete language materials and activities, such as the I Spy Game, sandpaper letters and the moveable alphabet, help children to identify spoken sounds, learn the phonetic sounds of letters and compose phonetic words.
Concrete sensorial materials introduce children to basic mathematical concepts. Through manipulating these beautifully designed materials, children learn to associate number words with quantities and symbols, to sequence numbers and to recognise patterns.
Once children have a sound understanding of the numbers 1-10, they are introduced to the concept of zero, the decimal system and mathematical operations. Children progress at their own pace, ultimately developing a sound understanding of mathematical concepts through manipulation of concrete materials.
The Montessori Cultural Studies Curriculum engages children in exploring:
- crafts and stories from the child’s community
- physical and chemical sciences
- botany and zoology
- geography and history.
Through cultural activities, children develop an awareness and appreciation of the world around them, and a sense of belonging.
Children enjoy daily art, music and drama experiences. Songs and rhymes are embedded in the daily routine while the Montessori bells, for example, support tone matching and composition. Children develop artistic skills through exploring different media. They create art that is unique to each child and are introduced to art appreciation.
Geography activities include an introduction to land and water forms such as lakes and islands, awareness of different environments, exploration of globes, maps and flags, and a beginning insight into different cultures through photos and cultural stories.
History activities introduce children to the concept of time. Activities include an introduction to the calendar, an awareness of seasonal change, beginning of the clock studies, an introduction to simple tense (past, present and future), and experience of personal history.
Science activities support children to explore the physical and life sciences to further develop their understanding of the world. Children are introduced to concepts such as magnetism, buoyancy and weather. They participate in scientific classification: living/non-living, plant/animal. Children are also encouraged to closely observe and care for plants and animals.
Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years learning Framework
It is an expectation that services are guided by an approved learning framework in the development of programs for children. The EYLF is the approved framework identified in the National Regulations. The ELYF is not a curriculum or syllabus
The EYLF comprises three interrelated elements: principles, practice and learning outcomes. The elements are fundamental to early childhood pedagogy and strongly align with Montessori philosophy and practice:
- Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships
- High expectations and equity
- Respect for diversity
- Ongoing learning and reflective practice
- Holistic approaches
- Responsiveness to children
- Learning through play
- Intentional teaching
- Learning environments
- Cultural competence
- Continuity of learning and transitions
- Assessment for learning
- Children have a strong sense of identity
- Children are connected with and contribute to their world
- Children have a strong sense of wellbeing
- Children are confident and involved learners
- Children are effective communicators
Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, 2009