“The purpose is not to create walking encyclopedias of knowledge… The ‘stuff’ the students learn is almost incidental to the enrichment of the context they gain for understanding themselves and their place in the universe.” – Maria Montessori
A Cosmic Education at MMA
The Monmouth Montessori Academy elementary is a peaceful environment where children foster a love of learning and embark on the inward journey of knowing themselves. Maria Montessori observed that children this age are changing. They are moving from the concrete to the abstract, moving into their social selves and evolving their moral compass. They will certainly master the basics, but there is more to learning than facts. Montessori believed in the higher importance of learning one’s place in the community, the world, and the cosmos.
An MMA day begins with circle time where students share what they’ve learned and develop their public speaking skills. After that, it’s time to get to work, joyfully. The Montessori ideal is giving students a two- or even three-hour uninterrupted work period so that they are able to become truly engrossed in what they’re working on without the frustration of arbitrarily being ordered to work on something else.
We find that this period of great change offers fantastic opportunities for learning at each age: The six year olds are very enthusiastic and eager to tackle the interesting new lessons in the classroom. Their works are shorter, more numerous, involve more movement, and are more tactile.
By second grade they tend to mellow, preferring more sitting while reading and writing and that freedom is given to them. Second graders also tend to be the most sensitive and help their classmates to remember to be kind and courteous.
By third grade, they relish difficult learning tasks and take on self-imposed and chosen research assignments. Third graders also act as the leaders in the classroom, further building their self-confidence and leadership skills.
Seeing these academic accomplishments keeps the younger students working hard to emulate them while the third graders mentor the younger students helping them learn while reinforcing their own skills.
Meeting and Exceeding the State Standards
It is natural for parents to question how Montessori will prepare students for the ‘real world’. After all, students choose their own work, there are no tests or grades, and no competition. How does that work?
Firstly, students also know that they are expected to learn in all academic areas. They choose which work they will do, they do not choose if they will work or not.
Also, Student’s curiosity is encouraged and lessons are tailored to a child’s interests and learning style. This makes learning more interesting and enjoyable for them, causing the learning to be easier.
Finally, MMA complies with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards. MMA teaches many content areas in greater depth many years earlier than a non-Montessori school. In the three-year elementary cycle, students are likely to meet and exceed the core curriculum standards.
Nurturing the Whole Child for All of Life’s Roles
Every great explorer begins their journey with a mystery. At MMA, those mysteries are presented to the group as “Great Lessons” in science, geography, history, language, and math. The teachers enable the students to see a thousand doors of mystery. It is up to them to choose their avenue of learning.
At MMA, we know that classroom materials could never be enough for the explorer. The world is their classroom. That’s why an important part of the Montessori experience is ‘Going Out’. When the explorer wants to learn more about their subject, they are encouraged to use resources outside the school. They can choose whatever materials they find engaging or even plan a visit to a library, museum, or workshop.
Elementary children are communal creatures with a strong drive to interact socially and to collaborate intellectually. They thrive when they work together in pairs or small groups.
The collaborator sees and celebrates the strengths of peers, learns from the successes of others, and shares resources instead of doubling back unnecessarily. The collaborator has ample opportunity to share knowledge, delegate tasks, support good ideas, brainstorm new ones, and to practice the social skills that will serve them for a lifetime of working with others.
The Knowledge Seeker
Innovation and progress begin with the knowledge seekers who continually ask “Why?” and then dig for the answers. MMA teaches students to probe deeper into a subject area. It’s not just about giving them the facts – it’s what those facts mean in context. It’s about empowering students to find the answers on their own.
The MMA classroom is designed to cultivate freethinkers through imagination, reason and critical thinking. The MMA student knows that at the end of every answer is yet another question, there is always another “Why?” and they see themselves as the person to answer that question.
The Montessori Method rejects the idea that a teacher spoon feeds knowledge to students who passively and unthinkingly accept it. Instead, the child learns by doing things herself and the teacher acts as their guide. MMA students have a great deal of control over the direction of their work and how they are taught.
The teacher is not insulted when a student questions their methods. They are thrilled to see students take ownership of their projects and to offer their guidance if and when it is needed. They are watch students become leaders with great pleasure.
The Citizen of the World
Who Am I? That is the question we start asking in elementary school. MMA encourages exploration of the world and exploration of the self. In Montessori philosophy, this is termed “cosmic education”. This approach develops awareness in the child that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent, forming a harmonious whole and they are a contributing part to that whole.
A Montessori graduate has a strong center and sees themself as a citizen of the world. They believe that they matter. Their moral character matters. Their work matters. How they treat themselves and others matters.