Children are of mixed ages, typically three to six-years-old, with the older children helping the younger ones. Kids are encouraged to work at their own pace and build their own foundation of knowledge. When they emerge from Montessori, they are cooperative, organized, respectful of other children`s work, and able to work independently. This is the type of program I chose for my kids and we loved it. Here, the philosophy is that children need to explore and learn through imaginary play, art, and block building. The progressive classroom is usually set up as a series of "centers" where learning can take place using open-ended materials. There might be a fantasy play area, a cluster of easels with paint, a block corner, a water table, puzzle area and more. Teachers set these environments up in response to what they see the children are interested in. They move among the areas and encourage the kids to pursue their own projects and ideas at these centers. Play is considered the "work" of children and is taken seriously.
In a Montessori classroom, the main interaction is between the child and the materials, not the teacher and the children. At first, the teacher demonstrates to the children the proper use of each set of materials. Then, the child can take the materials out, place them on a mat, and use them as the teacher taught her. When she is finished, she puts it away before starting another project. The emphasis is on self-directed learning. Once the teacher has demonstrated the use of the materials, children work on them individually or in small groups. With this level of individualized instruction, children with learning delays or who are gifted often do well in a Montessori classroom. The materials used in a Montessori classroom are built around three areas. 1) Practical life skills (folding shirts, tying shoelaces); 2) Sensory (handling geometric shapes, putting blocks into the right holes) and; 3) Language and mathematics (handling sandpaper letters and numbers, counting beads on a long chain). As you can imagine, children learn a great deal with this curriculum - numbers, letters, adding, subtracting, practical life skills, information and more. The Montessori classroom is usually very bright, warm and inviting. There are usually several learning centers where children can explore via hands-on, tactile materials.
Having the little ones pretend to be "big people" with responsibilities is always enjoyable. Giving them play money for fruit shopping, or simple recipes for "fake" food preparation allows them to apply math. Adults assist or play the small children so mistakes in computing or even just counting or numbering can be corrected. And the last tip to make this subject and after school tutorial programs enjoyable is to present a reward for good work. Rewards don`t have to be grand; they can be small toys, a trip to the ice cream parlor, a trip to the cinema to watch a new movie, and other forms of recognition for their effort. Give your child something you believe he deserves.