The 2-year old at HMS

Dr Montessori believed in a 3-year cycle beginning at age 3, in which two-thirds of the students remain unchanged in a given year as the oldest 1/3 is replaced by a new, younger group. In the modern American educational system this rarely occurs because 4-year olds, after two years in the Montessori pre-school program, more often than not move on to public Kindergarten. (In Texas, a child who is 5 on Sept 1 is eligible for Kindergarten.)

Our two year olds are NOT separated out into a separate “toddler” class. We have learned this from years of observation, both at our school and others. We believe that 2-year olds today can do much of what 3-year olds could do in Dr Montessori’s time, over 100 years ago. Why is this? We can guess (Improved nutrition? Better children’s health care? Human evolution?) but we’ll save the ‘why’ for others to research. We know this because we have seen it happen repeatedly.

A 2-year old is a very social person. They observe. They explore. They ask “Why?” They try out everything new that they can possibly get their hands on. This is why it is so important to expose them to a classroom full of academic riches, and older kids who serve as role models. To do otherwise is a missed opportunity.

Two 2-year olds intently observing two 4-year olds working with a map.

Two 2-year olds intently observing two 4-year olds working with a map.

Our youngest students integrate directly into our one, big classroom. Instantly, the 2-year old is exposed to 3-, 4-, and 5-year olds who are leaders and readers. They see the older children treating the classroom with respect—working calmly, cleaning up spills, returning works to their place, and moving about the classroom with purpose. This is a very different experience from the typical American “toddler” classroom.

The following year, as a 3-year old, this child can be a mentor to the new 2 year olds (8 to 10 students–about 1/3 of the class) and they still have the benefit of working with their peers (the middle third) and the 4-year old class leaders, both groups whom they already know and respect having been with them for a year already.

 

This two year old has a mentor! In this case, one of our 5-year olds is teaching him shapes and modeling the benefits of reading.

This two year old has a mentor! One of our 5-year olds is teaching him shapes and modeling the benefits of reading.

In the third year at HMS this child, now a 4-year old, has benefited from a consistent, stable group of friends and teachers for two full years. They have become a leader and a reader in their own right. They have a solid group of peers from two years together, and are self-assured role models for the younger students.

After three years in a stable Montessori classroom, the rising Kindergartner is very well-prepared to attend public Kindergarten. They are confident and well-prepared to face the challenges ahead of them. Research shows that a child’s reading level entering 1st grade is directly correlated to success all the way through high school.

HMS is still a young school, but anecdotal evidence, so far, is that our “graduates” excel both academically and socially in their elementary schools. Of course, our students are welcome to stay for a Kindergarten year of Montessori, which has it’s own benefits. But we’ll save that to discuss in a future post…

MM quote on enthusiasm of learning together

 

2 year old in Montessori classroom from Highland Montessori School on Vimeo.