Here is a Classic Overview of a Child's Experience in Montessori from Infancy through Adolescence:



Assistance to Infancy (2 months - 3 years)


The first three years of life are the most fundamental in the development of human beings and their potential. The infant's physical development is phenomenal and apparent and inspires our care and attention. Yet a profound and less obvious development is taking place within the child. Montessori refers to the child at this period as the spiritual embryo. A second embryonic period occurs after birth during the first three years of life when the child's intelligence is formed, when the child acquires the culture and language into which he or she is born. It is a period when the core of personality, social being and the essence of spiritual life are developed. An understanding of the child's development and the development of the human mind allows environments to be prepared to meet the needs of the infant and foster independence, psychomotor development and language acquisition.

For children under the age of three, there are several Montessori environments. Created especially for working parents, a Nido is an environment prepared for children from 2 or 3 months until they are walking well. The Parent-Infant class provides a setting in which parents and their children, aged two to sixteen months, are gathered under the care of a trained adult. After they begin to walk, the children join the toddler group where their primary motor coordination, independence and language are cultivated. Rather than a classroom, it is a nurturing environment where very young children experience their first structured contact with other children.

Primary (also called Casa dei Bambini or Children's House) (Ages 3-6)

Children of this age possess what Dr. Montessori called the Absorbent Mind. This type of mind has the unique and transitory ability to absorb all aspects physical, mental, spiritual of the environment, without effort or fatigue. As an aid to the child's self-construction, individual work is encouraged. The following areas of activity cultivate the children's ability to express themselves and think with clarity.

Practical Life exercises instill care for themselves, for others, and for the environment. The activities include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily life in their home washing and ironing, doing the dishes, arranging flowers, etc. Elements of human conviviality are introduced with the exercises of grace and courtesy. Through these and other activities, children develop muscular coordination, enabling movement and the exploration of their surroundings. They learn to work at a task from beginning to end, and develop their will (defined by Dr. Montessori as the intelligent direction of movement), their self-discipline and their capacity for total concentration.

Sensorial Materials are tools for development. Children build cognitive efficacy, and learn to order and classify impressions. They do this by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, and exploring the physical properties of their environment through the manitpulation of specially-designed materials. Primary children are allowed to discover and explore these properties themselves.

Language is vital to human existence. The Montessori environment provides rich and precise language. When the children come into the classroom at around three years of age, they are given in the simplest way possible the opportunity to enrich the language they have acquired during their small lifetime and to use it intelligently, with precision and beauty, becoming aware of its properties not by being taught, but by being allowed to discover and explore these properties themselves. If not harassed, they will learn to write and, as a natural consequence, to read, never remembering the day they could not write or read in the same way that they do not remember that once upon a time they could not walk." (Maria Montessori)

Mathematics materials help the child learn and understand mathematical concepts by working with concrete materials. This work provides the child with solid underpinnings for traditional mathematical principles, providing a structured scope for abstract reasoning. The mathematics materials help the child learn and understand mathematical concepts by working with concrete materials. This work provides the child with solid underpinnings for traditional mathematical principles, providing a structured scope for abstract reasoning.

Geography, History, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art and Music are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about other cultures past and present, and this allows their innate respect and love for their environment to flourish, creating a sense of solidarity with the global human family and its habitat. Experiences with nature in conjunction with the materials in the environment inspire a reverence for all life. History is presented to the children through art and an intelligent music program.

Elementary (Ages 6-12)

Elementary children, typically, can be characterized by their questioning minds, their ability to abstract and imagine, their moral and social orientation and their unlimited energy for research and exploration. They move from the concrete, through their own efforts and discovery, to the abstract - thus greatly expanding their field of knowledge. In a research style of learning, elementary children work in small groups on a variety of projects which spark the imagination and engage the intellect. Lessons given by a trained Montessori teacher direct the children toward activities which help them to develop reasoning abilities and learn the arts of life. Children, at this age, are driven to understand the universe and their place in it and their capacity to assimilate all aspects of culture is boundless. Elementary studies include geography, history, science, botany, zoology, language, mathematics in all its branches, science, music and art. Exploration of each area is encouraged through trips outside the classroom to community resources, such as library, planetarium, botanical garden, science center, factory, hospital, etc. This is an age where children assume more and more responsibility for their own caretaking, learning, and exploration.

Adolescence (Ages 12-18)

The Montessori program for children aged 12 to 18 years is based on the recognition of the special characteristics of adolescence. Adolescence is an age of great social development, an age of critical thinking and re-evaluation, and a period of self-concern and self-assessment. It is a transition from childhood to adulthood with the corresponding physical, mental and sexual maturation. In early puberty the adolescent finds it hard to concentrate on academic and structured learning. Above all, adolescence is like an odyssey - an arduous yet exciting adventure - where the adolescent tries to find his or her place in the world. Dr. Montessori recommended that the adolescent should spend a period of time in the country away from the environment of the family. This would provide an opportunity to study civilization through its origin in agriculture. She suggested they should live in a hostel which they would learn to manage and open a shop where sale of produce would bring in the fundamental mechanics of society, production and exchange on which economic life is based. She outlined a general plan for their studies and work but believed that the program which she called "Erdkinder" (German for "land children") could only be developed from experience."