Children attending the Casa programme possess what Maria Montessori called ‘the absorbent mind’. She believed that a child was born with the ability to absorb all aspects of its surroundings without effort or fatigue, if given the freedom within that environment to explore at will. The teacher’s role is to aid the child during this period of self-construction. The following areas of activity cultivate the children’s adaptation and ability to express and think with clarity by allowing “hands-on” experiences to take place:
Practical Life Area
The Practical Life area helps to develop the powers of control, coordination, self-confidence, self-discipline, concentration skills, the ability to make small distinctions, as well as life skills. Exercises instill care for self, others, and for the environment. Many exercises may be familiar to the child as part of the daily routine at home, such as dusting, cleaning tables, washing cloths, sewing, shoe polishing, along with exercises of grace and courtesy. These exercises develop children’s muscular coordination, enabling movement and the exploration of their surroundings and concentration. Children learn to work from beginning to end, at their own pace, in a non-competitive environment, and at their own level. This area is most important as it builds an “I can do it all by myself” attitude.
The Montessori program embraces the thought that from birth the child is a “sensorial explorer.” Sensorial exercises refine the senses. (Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory, Visual, Tactile, and Stereognostic) as a means of helping the child make sense of his environment. In strengthening the senses, a child is given keys to classifying, organizing, and making sense of things in the environment. As a result a child begins to organize his or her intelligence and ability to adapt to his or her environment.
The sensorial area helps the child learn through his or her own experiences rather than verbal instruction, leading the child to make abstractions and distinctions in his or her environment.
The vital development of language is strengthened by enabling ample opportunities for oral expression. The Montessori classroom allows the child to experience conversations with peers and teachers, and allows for opportunities to read and listen to stories and poetry. Acquisition of reading skills begin by learning the phonetic sounds of the letters of the alphabet using the sandpaper material. This exercise has multiple functions allowing children the ability to link sound, symbol, and formation of letters effortlessly, as well as encourage the development of written expression and reading skills. Children learn to build a repertoire of sight words, how to compose sentences, and the purpose of words by introducing the parts of speech. Writing is introduced at an early age. With guidance, children learn to hold a writing instrument properly, how to place letters properly on the guidelines, the proper formation of letters, and how to compose a sentence using proper punctuation.
Exercises in this area help children learn and understand math concepts by manipulating concrete materials. Practise provides a solid understanding and foundation of basic mathematical principles, as well as prepares the child for later abstract reasoning and problem-solving capabilities. Much time is spent associating symbols and quantities for the first four hierarchical categories. Learning to linear count up to 9,999, and completing operational calculations using materials assist children in the process of memorizing their facts. A child works at their own pace and through repetition moves from concrete manipulation to abstract thinking.
Cultural areas (Geography, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art, and Music
These areas are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language exercises. Children learn about different cultures and people in other countries with an attitude of respect and admiration. Over the three year period, children become familiar with the lessons, thus, feel connected to the global human family. Presentations and first hand experiences with nature inspire a reverence for all life. Art and music lessons are comprehensive and provide every opportunity to enjoy a variety of creative activities as well as gain knowledge of the great masters from the past and present.