The Children's House - also known as the primary level --is a gathering of children from three to six years who live and learn together in a prepared environment that offers choices of individual activities that aid the child's work of "self construction." The Montessori guide cultivates in the children the ability to choose freely, to sustain focused and concentrated attention, to think clearly and constructively, and to express themselves through language and the arts. Through the active development of the will and the satisfaction of their authentic needs, the children become self-disciplined and socially cohesive.
Areas of activity of the primary level are practical life, sensorial exploration, language, mathematics, and cultural subjects. The extensive sets of Montessori materials in each of these areas are designed to appeal to the children's deep interest and to inspire repeated activity. The children's absorbent minds take in vast amounts of information and grasp sophisticated relationships and principles wholly and effortlessly.
Guided by their human tendencies, following their sensitive periods, the children experience great joy in educating themselves. They become normalized and reveal characteristics seldom recognized as typical of young children. Over the three-year cycle, children develop expertise, become leaders of their community, and manage the social and practical affairs of their classroom. To insure success after initial struggle new challenges are prepared for indirectly and presented only after indicated by careful observation.
The Children's House: The Areas of Activity
Through exercises of practical life that include care of the person, one another, and the environment, the children expand motor skills, refine coordination, extend concentration, and express their love and respect for their community and classroom. Arranging flowers, pouring juice, and tying shoes are the everyday activities that empower children and encourage them to take their new skills home. Through lessons in grace and courtesy, the guide invites the children to practice thoughtful behavior and good manners. These lively presentations focus the children's attention on their culture's conventions of graciousness and civility.
The sensorial materials allow the children to make conscious and distinguish among the sensorial properties of the environment. The Montessori guide presents activities with materials isolating a particular sensorial property. The children match, grade, order, or explore by tasting, smelling, touching, listening, or seeing. Through repeating these exercises at will, the children clarify their impressions and refine their senses. Individual parts of materials are related to the classroom at large and discreet sensorial elements are identified in the environment through games. The foundation for cultural subjects is laid with sensorial activities.
The fullest array of exercises, materials, and activities in language make it possible for the children to learn to write and then to read what they have written, so that often they cannot even remember when or how they learned these skills. Every aspect of the Montessori classroom draws forth language development, and specific materials and exercises refine and extend vocabulary, exhibit grammatical principles and properties, enrich vocabulary, and tune the ear to the beauty, rhythm, and song of the language.
The introduction to cultural subjects is made as extensions of the sensorial materials and language activities. Art, music, geography, history, botany, zoology, and science are integrated into a holistic approach to living and learning in our human family, on our planetary home across cultures and throughout history. Through nature, story, music, art, and food the guide fosters in the children a reverence and love for all of creation.
Extensive concrete mathematics materials allow the children to explore concepts and operations to uncover for themselves the underlying principles of traditional of basic mathematics. The children's repeated manipulation of these esthetically and carefully designed materials builds a firm foundation of concrete experience on which later abstractions can rest.