Hi Ruby and all!
I am glad you started this thread. There is alot of conflicting info. and experiences. Just because a school says Montessori, doesn't mean the classroom is operating harmoniously (M called this "normalization") or that the directress is dedicated to the practice. The woman who started AMS actually took M to court to defend her right to use the name - now it is in the public domain) AMI is the organization that Dr. Montessori began to safeguard her work. It is a comprehensive theory of education as an aid to life. M wrote extensively about education and peace. It takes years of hard work and determination to understand the theory and put it into practice. I have training from AMI (3-6), and luckily found a wonderful school with dedicated admin. (8 years now!) We are currently constructing a green building, everyone is committed to recycling, gardening/compost, cloth napkins, etc.
I will copy a page I have on general characteristics of Montessori (3-6) [*]3-6 year olds in the same classroom[*]3-6 is a critical time in the child's development-the "absorbent mind" allows effortless and joyful learning[*]children want to know the facts about the world around them[*]children love purposeful work and learn by doing - mind working with the hand. Use of concrete objects to help learn concepts[*]emphasis on independence, concentration, respect for self, others and environment[*]the materials develop coordination and self-control[*]teacher acts as a guide. children learn to choose work, complete an activity, and replace neatly. freedom to move about the room.[*]lessons are given to individuals or small groups
The classroom is organized into areas:
Practical Life: materials for care of self and the environment, food prep, art: for practice with concentration, coordination, independence, grace and courtesy.
Sensorial: exercises that enable children to classify their impressions of the world around them, based on the senses: touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing. To encourage discrimination.
Language: all materials lead from simple to complex and address one skill at a time.
Math: materials move from concrete to abstract. many opportunities for repetition and real experience with numbers: odds and even, sets, decimal system, operations.
You have to observe to see the degree of skill the directress has in guiding the children and nurturing their joy in learning. Discipline should never be punitive, Dr. M wrote of "Freedom and Discipline" The Absorbent Mind, C. 26, The Discovery of the Child, C. 2, 4 and 24. See also Rewards and Punishments: Discovery of the Child, C. 4, Absorbent Mind C. 24 and Secret of Childhood, p. 130.