Montessori Kindergarten: Empowering & Essential

The kindergarten year of the Montessori program is essential for unlocking a child’s full potential.

Colleagues from AMS-accredited schools explain why retaining students through the Montessori kindergarten year is essential.

The Montessori Group is an association of Montessori schools, dedicated to providing quality Montessori education for students’ ages 1-12. We emphasize loving, prepared Montessori environments, quality Montessori learning materials, multi-age groupings of children, and student participation is his or her educational choices. We have Montessori schools in Brevard and Leon Counties Florida.

The Montessori Group – a philosophy of child development

This article first appeared in a 2004 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Cynthia Thomas always wanted to teach in a preschool.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics and child development she, her two children and her husband, who was enlisted in the United States Air Force at the time, were transferred to Hawaii.

Shortly after their arrival she said she began researching preschools in which to enroll her children, then 6 1/2 and 4 1/2.

“At the time, preschools were thought of as a place for children to socialize,” Ms.Thomas said.

But in Hawaii, she stumbled upon something different – a Montessori school.

The Montessori educational philosophy was named for the woman who created it, the first female Italian physician, Dr. Maria Montessori.

Dr. Montessori concentrated her studies into fields: anthropology and children.

“She wanted children to be self sufficient,” Ms. Thomas said.

Dr. Montessori taught children skills that would enable them to be successful in real life.

In a time of great thinkers like Alexander Graham Bell and Gandhi, Dr. Montessori contemporaries, she emphasized good nutrition, cleanliness, washing and grooming in her teachings.

“Skills of daily life,” Ms. Thomas said.

She also scaled the tools for learning about daily life down to the children’s size. Everything was made smaller and more easily accessible to young children: desks, chairs, eating and drinking utensils.

Cynthia Thomas, The Montessori Group

Ms. Thomas was intrigued by the Montessori philosophy. She enrolled her children in the Montessori school in Hawaii, and then began searching for a way to educate herself in the art of Montessori teaching.

She enrolled in Chaminade University in Hawaii, a school specializing in training Montessori teachers. She graduated from the school with a master’s degree in education with a Montessori specialization.

Her husband still in the military, was transferred again, this time to Patrick Air Force Base.

She searched the Space Coast area for another Montessori school in which to enroll her children. There was only one in the area, she said, and it didn’t live up to her vision of what a Montessori school should be.

So in 1983, she founded her own Montessori school for children ages 3 through 6 in Indian Harbour Beach.

At the commencement of the school year, she had 16 enrolled students. By Christmas vacation of that year, the number had grown to 40, with a growing waiting list of students wishing to enroll.

She taught pre-school through Kindergarten that first year.

In the second year of operation, she began the school year with 72 students on a rotating schedule – 50 in the morning, 22 in the afternoon – in order to accommodate the growing number.

By the third year, Ms. Thomas’ classes had outgrown her school.

She got a loan and built a facility that housed eight classrooms, and also launched her elementary Program.

Brevard FL Montessori Schools

Today, she owns and/or operates 10 Montessori schools and two charter schools. Most of the school locations are throughout Brevard, although she does operate a school in Tallahassee and a school in Waycross, GA.

She said she was asked to take over the operations of the schools in Tallahassee and Waycross because they were plagued with financial and management problems.

Obstacles have been a few and far between, she said. But she’s a doer. When she was having difficulty finding Montessori-certified teachers, she decided to found her own training facility – the Florida Institute of Montessori Studies.

She’s says there’s great satisfaction in her line of work when parents come up to her to tell of their child’s accomplishments.

Ms. Thomas is also thrilled that some of her former students are returning to the school as Montessori teachers.

After 22 years of teaching in the Montessori method, she’s still excited about being an educator.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in education,” she said. “There are a lot of things happening in public and private education.”

To enroll a child in one of the many schools in The Montessori Group, call (321) 779-0031 for further information and requirements.

By Jennifer Stahl, staff writer

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children & the Search for Identity

Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 29, 2014.

Andrew Solomon drew on 40,000 pages of interview transcripts with more than 300 families to write his book Far From the Tree, which tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. The ordinary parents Solomon interviewed faced extreme challenges: deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, or who are transgender. What he found is that it’s diversity that unites us all. The experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love. As he listened to his subjects’ courageous and affirming stories, Solomon began a journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

In this keynote, Solomon will share the fruits of his research into Far From the Tree, which was named one of the 10 best books of 2012 by The New York Times and also won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award, among others. He will explain how he learned from parents of exceptional children that generosity, acceptance, and tolerance can prevail, that love can transcend every prejudice, and that by embracing the differences between us, we expand our definition of what it is to be human.

Montessori Language, Speaking, Writing, and Reading, Ages 0-3

Language for 0-3

Originally published by The Michael Olaf Montessori Company with excerpts from the book The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three.

The First Year: the Senses

We can feed the child’s intense interest in language and prepare for later spoken language, by speaking clearly, by not raising our voice to the unnatural pitch often reserved for speaking to pets, and not oversimplifying language in the presence of the child. We can tell funny and interesting stories of our lives, recite favorite poems, talk about what we are doing, “Now I am washing your feet, rubbing each toe to get it really clean” and enjoy ourselves in this important communication. And we can listen: to music, to silence, and to each other. (Page 9)

An adult can engage in a conversation with even the youngest child in the following way: when the child makes a sound, imitate it—the pitch and the length of the sound: baby “maaaa ga” adult “maaaa ga,” etc. One often gets an amazing response from the child the first time this happens, as if he is saying, “At last, someone understands and speaks my language!” After several of these exchanges many children will purposefully begin to make sounds for you to imitate, and eventually will try to imitate the adult’s sound. This is a very exciting first communication for both parties. It is not baby talk; it is real communication. (Page 10)


Age One to Three: Language

Language needs to be natural, exciting yet controlled, playful, real and in tune with each child. We need to examine our own language usage and become a better role model from which to absorb language. We must remember we are the most important language material in the environment. —Judi Orion, AMI Montessori 0-3, Assistant to Infancy, Teacher Trainer

Long before the child expresses himself clearly in language he has been listening and absorbing everything he hears. Often we are not even aware that the child is doing this, but once he begins to speak it becomes very clear. Three times in my life, with each of my three children, I have purposefully polished my language as they repeated everything I said! In a rich language environment adults talk to the child from birth on, not in baby talk, but with respect and with a precise vocabulary. If we want to help our children be well spoken we must model this long before we might have previously thought necessary. (Page 115)

A Second Language

The child absorbs all the languages of family and community, starting in the womb. This continues to be an important part of the child’s experience in the first months and years. At this age children show an uncanny ability to absorb language in all its complexities, and not just one language! Here is some advice that supports the learning of more than one language at a time.

The language must be used in the child’s environment in the first years of her life, in the sense that one or more persons should speak the ‘extra’ language to the child and in her presence. If we could have two, three, four, or five different persons speaking different languages around the child, she could easily absorb all of them without any particular effort, provided that each person speaks to her ALWAYS AND ONLY in their language. But this is possible only in the first years of life. —Silvana Montanaro, MD, AMI Montessori 0-3 Assistant to Infancy, Teacher Trainer (Page 116)

Listening and Including the Child in Conversation

The attention we give to a child when he first begins to talk to us is significant. Often a child is so excited about talking and being able to express himself that he stutters. This is a very natural stage in the development of verbal language and a sign for the adult to stop, look, and listen, NOT to supply the missing word, or to comment on the stutter. When the child is sure that he will be listened to, he will usually calm down and learn to speak more clearly.

Language development begins before birth and continues to be a major part of the child’s development for the first three years of life. We can best help a child develop good language by including the child in our conversation from the very beginning.

Formal Language

Along with the words from the child’s own home and community, this is the time to introduce words, phrases, subjects that are not part of the everyday life. This includes poetry, nursery rhymes, and songs. Acting out some of them teaches what the words mean, but just poetry that the child does not understand is valuable, and he will understand the meaning later.

One of the favorite poems I have always done with children is “Jack be nimble, jack be quick, jack jump over the candlestick.” I place an unlit candle in an old-fashioned candleholder on the floor. I say the nursery rhyme, and as I say the word “jump” I jump over the candlestick. Children love to do this and will repeat if over and over, first you saying the words and then he jumping. And we all know the fun of “falling down” at the end of the song “Ring Around the Rosie.”

But beautiful adult poetry is enjoyed just as much as rhymes for children. They can provide images, an introduction to metaphor, and they do not have to rhyme! A good example is Carl Sandburg’s poem Fog:

The fog comes
On little cat feet.
It sits looking
Over harbor and city
On silent haunches
And then moves on.
(Page 124)

Storytelling, Reading and Writing

Of course spoken language comes first, and the adult is the most important piece of language material in the environment. Children love for us to talk to them, and simple stories, (“What I had for breakfast” or “Once upon a time a little boy sat on his father’s lap while his father read to him. He was wearing red pajamas . . . ”) are more pleasing than something long and fantastic.

Most children will also sit enthralled for hours if we read to them, so this is our chance to pass on the love of literature and of reading, to teach facts, values, and the pronunciation of words, even those not often used in everyday speech.

The foundation for a child’s love of reading begins with seeing others around him reading, and enjoying reading, even when they are not reading aloud to him. And even though many of us do our writing on the computer these days, it is important for the child to see us writing on paper with a pencil or pen, thank you notes, birthday cards, grocery lists, and so on. It is no accident that some children are good at reading and writing and others are not, that some find joy in this work and for others it is tedious. The joy of exploring language begins early, and is the most intense, throughout the first three years of life. (Page 125)


Supporting Language Development

For success in language a child needs confidence that what he has to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing.

As I have said, the adult, the human environment, is the most important consideration in the support of language development for a young child. The adult and older children will be the main models for listening, speaking, writing, reading, loving language.

We can help the child’s language development with listening, eye contact, speaking well in his presence, and by providing a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language, providing a wealth of experience, because language is meaningless if it is not based on experience.

First this is inside the home, but soon it can be out in nature to experience, and talk about, the flowers, trees, animals, and then to the grocery store to experience foods, and so on. We can provide materials such as nursery rhyme blocks and books, vocabulary cards, books of subjects that are real and are related to the life of the child. We can share good literature in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories, which will greatly increase the child’s love of language.

All of this will set the stage for sharing our favorite poetry and great literature with the child as he grows. This is the time, rather than in school, or university time, when humans really learn language. (Pages 132)

LANGUAGE MATERIALS: first year Language


The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three is available from Michael Olaf, in many countries, and from Montessori book and material suppliers. It is available wholesale to Montessori schools, parent groups, and schools, and is being translated into other languages.