Every year, around this time, parents of four and almost five-year-olds at our school start thinking about options for their child’s further education. What does it mean to leave your child at Capital once they are five (the first year of their primary education) and what benefits does it bring them over joining their local primary school’s new entrant class? You’re probably also grappling with the question ‘Should I continue with Montessori and enrol at the local Montessori Primary Unit?’ It’s a lot to think about, and for many of us, especially when it’s our first or only child, an important decision.
A Montessori 6-12 Primary programme will always be our first recommendation. It provides continuity of the environment for the children, and an abundance of choice and independence in navigating their own learning. While children are engaged across the curriculum, often working in multi-ability groups, each child is considered as an individual learner. They hold their own planning conferences with teachers every week and have an influence on what is expected of them. This allows Montessori teachers to challenge each child according to their own developmental needs and abilities.
However, we understand that not all families make the decision to continue with Montessori for their child’s primary years, and that for those families, staying until six can be a trickier decision.
The advantages of joining the local primary school often seem obvious, especially if you have an older child already attending and doing well. It’s also most likely the choice your family and friends have made, and there is a strong tradition in our country of children attending their local neighbourhood school, which might not have a Montessori option. What to do? The advantages of staying that extra year from 5-6 at Montessori preschool are not always clear, so here are some things to think about that might help you make the best decision for your family and your child.
Whatever your hopes for your child and their further education, you have offered them a Montessori early childhood education and chosen Montessori as part of your family’s philosophy. You might also take a Montessori approach at home, follow Montessori blogs, come to Parent Academy and try to stay within the philosophy the best you can. As teachers we always appreciate your efforts and so does your child.
The Montessori 3-6 programme is based on a 3-year cycle.
The Montessori 3-6 programme is based on a 3-year cycle. Your child joins the class as a 2.5 - 3 year old and enjoys the guidance and mentorship of his or her older peers - usually the 5 year olds, who know the curriculum, know the class, do all the exciting work with reading slips and bead materials, and show the younger ones just how much there is to look forward to in this environment.
As your child grows, they progress through the Montessori curriculum. They learn to concentrate and make informed choices, and with time, they become that 5-year old leader who can reap the benefits of ‘knowing’ and ‘being there’. From 5-6 they not only develop their academic skills, but they also build and consolidate their sense of self, their self-esteem and resilience, to become self-assured young children ready to enter the second plane of development with confidence - whichever environment you choose for them next!
They will have learnt how to learn and how to find information. Their work with concrete materials to visualise such concepts as ‘thousand’, how many hundreds make a thousand, how to ‘put together’ to do addition, and ‘share equally’ to divide, will gradually allow them to form a mental picture that guides them towards abstract work. By helping the younger children with these kinds of concrete concepts, they consolidate their knowledge and then build on this foundation with our designated five-plus classroom materials such as grammar, the function of the words, analysing sentences in language and all operations in maths.
However, academic progress is not our only or ultimate goal. Our hope is that, by the end of this first cycle, your 6 year old will have an innate enthusiasm for learning and the curiosity to pursue it, and an enormous sense of self-confidence - to feel good about themselves and enjoy their learning journey at whichever school they join.
Montessori children, with all those amazing social benefits, normally easily adapt to all sorts of new situations. At 6, they will be excited and ready to join a new school environment and their mind will be at the stage where imagination, aided by their well-developed confidence and independence, will make them a delight for any future school to have.
Montessori children are always highly regarded by their schools - our local schools are no different.
To make the decision to keep your children with us until 6 a little easier, I’ve made it my goal to work with our local primary schools to help them better understand the benefits of our children joining their classes at 6. They are all very happy to learn more about Montessori and work with us to be well prepared to receive our children into their Year 1/2 classes. They are also keen to come and observe them and the work they are doing in our classrooms.
One of our local Assistant Principals said she always admired what Montessori could offer a child and has been eagerly looking into our classrooms to learn from us, and welcome us into their classrooms too. In our local community, Montessori is appreciated and respected. We are very lucky in New Zealand to have the liberty for our children to enjoy the whole 3-year Montessori cycle and start primary school after 5.
As a mum of two primary children, I also understand that often, convenience plays an important role in the hectic daily life of a family. I fully understand how stressful pick-ups from two schools can be and we are happy to wait for you to come pick your child up a little later if that makes things easier. The time will come when your children will be in the same place and this won’t be such a problem.
In our recent film ‘MONTESSORI THE MOVIE’, it was very special and moving to see the important role our older children have in the classroom environment and how much they enjoy that final year in the Casa dei Bambini class. We hope you have seen it! If not, we hope to make it available to all families again soon.
I hope you can see that there is enormous value for your child in staying at Capital beyond five. Not only for themselves, but also for the critical and important role they play as leaders and peer mentors for the younger children. Remember, there’s no need to rush, with many wonderful things to be gained from letting them complete and get all the benefits from the programme we chose for them at 3.