"The goal of Early Childhood Education should be to activate the child's own natural desire to learn."
- Maria Montessori
Children in a Montessori program spend three years in the same classroom. At each level (Children's House, Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary) this allows them the opportunity of being an explorer, an experimenter and an expert on all things in their environment.
The classroom environment will be rich in activities, beautiful and calm in atmoshpere. The space will be divided into curriculum areas and the works on the shelves will be sequentially ordered from left to right; from the most simple activity to the curriculum's most difficult concept. All items your child will need from a towel, to a glue stick, to getting their jacket will be made available, and accessible.
You will not see rows of desks but rather low tables and chairs and a lot of open floor space. Children enjoy working on the floor. Your child will have the freedom to choose his or her activities and where and how they wish to work. Your child will be limited in how the environment is prepared. For example, there will probably only be a limited supply of items -- 3 pairs of scissors. If your child wishes to complete a work with scissors (freedom) and sees that they have each been taken by a peer (limit) your child will wait. This helps the teacher manage the freedom of the environment and helps your child learn patience.
A Montessori program should have Montessori materials and guides or teachers who have been trained to present lessons. These materials are scientifically designed and have a control of error. A control of error allows your child to independently assess, correct and fix their work without intervention or interruption by an adult.
There will be a major focus on process over product in a true Montessori program. Children will be intrinsically motivated to begin, and complete work because they know the work they are completing has meaning. With a recommended daily 3-hour work cycle, children also know that they have the time to complete their important work.
A true Montessori program will follow each child and meet them where they are when they begin. It's not a one size fits all mentality. Teachers work one on one with children, and give lessons in small groups based on skills and interests not just age.