Something amazing happens in the Children’s House. Or maybe it makes more sense to say everything happening inside the Children’s House is amazing.
A place for children ages 2 1/2 through 6, the Children’s House, or primary classroom, is where it all begins. It is during this early stage of development, the primary years, that the child has the greatest potential for learning because she has the power of an absorbent mind. Unlike the analytical mind of an adult, the absorbent mind takes in everything from the child’s environment. While she is working, playing, and socializing within her community, her absorbent mind is unconsciously taking in all of the details in her environment; and she is absorbing these details all at once, instantaneously and effortlessly.
There are a couple of truly amazing consequences of the absorbent mind. The first is that the primary child can’t help but learn. He has no choice but to learn. The words he hears, the behaviors he witnesses, the colors on the walls, the stories he hears, the expressions on the faces around him—these are all put to work inside the absorbent mind, unconsciously pieced together as the child begins to construct himself. The second consequence is that the primary child has an almost limitless capacity to learn. The Montessori Children’s House is designed to nourish this insatiable absorbent mind. We prepare an environment that is accessible, beautiful, and rich with learning materials. We do not limit the young child with low expectations. Instead, we provide an environment that will engage each child’s absorbent mind and offer her increasingly complex lessons so that she may learn to her fullest potential.
The theme of the Children’s House can be summed up as “I can do it myself.” The classroom is furnished with child-sized tables, chairs, and shelves. The lesson materials are designed to be carried and handled independently by the child. The tools are child-sized, but work as well as their adult-sized counterparts. The role of the teacher, the directress, in the Children’s House is not to lead a child through the classroom and dictate her learning; instead, the directress is a link between the child and the classroom environment. She develops an individual relationship with each child, learning her interests, personality, and particular developmental needs. She presents new lessons to the child and then recedes to allow that child the freedom to explore and work with that lesson at her own pace. And when the directress observes that a child has mastered a concept or skill, she introduces the next lesson that builds on the last. The directress offers the child an ever-growing body of knowledge and facilitates the child’s desire to continue to learn independently and to develop a sense of competence, confidence, and responsibility.