Primary: 3 to 6 years old
Children between the ages of three and six can learn information spontaneously and joyfully. Dr. Maria Montessori called the child’s mind at this stage “absorbent,” and compared it to a sponge soaking up water. She also discovered that during these years, there are “sensitive periods” when the child shows an increased interest in certain areas. It is actually easier for a child to learn during these periods than at any other time in life.
Since education is derived primarily from experiences, our classrooms in the Primary program are “prepared environments” where many things are scaled to the size and needs of the child. The child selects his activities and thus can experience the excitement of learning by his own interest and at his own pace. Since the hand is the main instrument of learning at this age, these activities are manipulative. Many of the materials also have a built-in “control of error,” so that the child learns to rely on his own senses to determine if he has made any mistakes and will work to “fix it” himself.
The teacher’s role in the Primary classroom is to prepare the environment, socially, psychologically, and physically to introduce the children to various activities in the classroom in a sequence which challenges the child, allowing her to move from success to success as she progresses from the simple to the complex, from the rudimentary to the refined, and from outer control to self control. In the Primary program, we prefer the term “directress” to “teacher,” for while the adult serves as a dynamic link to the environment, the child educates himself through his own experiences guided by this seasoned and well trained Montessori professional. The Primary child’s curiosity is kept alive with daily and weekly lessons that awaken his sense of awe at life in general.