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What are the Planes of Development?

Dr. Montessori observed that the transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental planes. These transformations related to the child’s physical, mental and social aspects of development. The implementation of the Montessori principles changes in scope and manner to embrace the child’s changing characteristics, needs and interests at each planes of development. The following paragraphs briefly summarize these planes.

In Dr. Montessori’s outline, the first plane of development occurs from birth to age six and is known as "infancy." At this stage children are sensorial explorers, building their intellects by absorbing every aspect of their environment, their language and their culture. This plane is divided into two subdivisions: 0-3 (the "unconscious Absorbent Mind") and 3-6 years (the "Conscious Absorbent Mind").

Between the ages of 0-3 years the child takes in the whole of his environment unconsciously. He is constantly absorbing impressions and yet does this without knowing that he is doing so and without willing it to happen.

The Conscious Absorbent Mind begins when the child starts to intentionally act on his own, selecting activities based on his earlier experiences. Conscious intelligence begins to develop when the hand becomes the instrument of the brain as the child manipulates the objects he discovers in his environment. In the first plane of development the child works at the construction of his own self, focusing all his energy on creating the individual in all areas of experience (physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual). During this time sensitive periods occur enabling the child to concentrate on developing a particular skill when the interest and need is strongly present.

The second plane of development occurs between six years and twelve years of age and is known as "childhood." This is a time of great physical and mental Strength. Children physically become thinner and taller. Their mild teeth fall out and they begin to grow a second set of teeth. Their character becomes stronger as well. They become aware of themselves in relationship to others. This period is characterized by the marked development of a "herd" instinct. The children are drawn to interact socially and to seek one another’s company. Additionally they are compelled to examine the rightness and wrongness of social interactions. Mentally the children become conceptual explorers. They develop their powers of reasoning, abstraction, and imagination. During these years children are capable of accomplishing great mental work and accumulating a tremendous store of cultural information.

The third plane of development occurs between 12 and 18 years of age and is known as "adolescence." This plane is divided into two subdivisions 12-15 years (Puberty) and 15-18 years (Adolescence). This overall plane is one of great physical mental and social transformation and it marks the end of childhood. This period of life, when physical maturity is reached, is a difficult time because of its rapid development and the changes that take place within the body. During this plane children become explorers seeking to understand their places as individuals in society and their opportunities to contribute to the society. It is a time of high ideals and wishing to help others. They are ready to experience economic independence and to explore ways in which they can be productive and remunerated for their services. Maturity The fourth plane of development occurs between 18 and 24 years of age and is known as "maturity." As young adults, individuals become specialized explorers, seeking a niche from which to contribute to the whole of humanity. In this stage they finalize who they are, how they experience the world, and how they contribute to society.

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Why should I commit to a Montessori program?

The Montessori program, whether at our school or any other true Montessori school, is most successful when there is a commitment to the notion and philosophy of planes of development. The program simply depends upon the three-year age span to achieve the optimum learning experience. While we do not require parents to sign a contract for three years, we do expect families to choose Noble World because they believe in the Montessori philosophy, understand the advantages of staying through the kindergarten year, and are willing to commit to a partnership with us to provide their child the best possible beginning to a successful school career.

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Why is there a three-year age range in each classroom?

Montessori explained that older children act as role models for the younger children: they instruct younger children, reviewing concepts themselves in the process. Patience and confidence are reinforced and practiced. The older children are able to work at their own level if lower than their peers, without this becoming obvious to their peers. Younger children can also work at a level above that of their peers without it becoming obvious. Younger children learn to seek the help and assistance of those more experienced than themselves. They begin to learn to seek the help themselves.

Many successful Montessori schools DO NOT accept siblings if the child does not complete the planes of development. We at Noble World are committed to this fundamental approach and restriction for admission.


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Why is completing the 3-year cycle in the
planes of development important?

Within each 3-year cycle, a body of information and skills are presented. Failure to complete the 3-year cycle results in the child not achieving the "total possibility" offered by the class. Many loose ends, partially developed skills and incoherent knowledge are obvious. Montessori recognized "sensitive periods" in the development of children’s lives when they show strong interest in certain aspects of their environment. She designed her method to introduce aspects of learning at a time when the children are most receptive. The third year is the culmination of this process.

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What is the importance of staying in Montessori
beyond the primary program?

Much learned in any one cycle is, as is always the case, a preparation for the future work. Each cycle takes the raw materials from the one preceding it and brings them to "maturity". For example geography, history and biology facts from a 3-6 primary lead to abstract, imaginative exploration and concept formation in a 6-11 elementary A six-year-old child has developed skills in reading, writing and mathematics. These find continual and smooth refinement and expansion in a 6-11 elementary.

A child remaining with the Montessori system after each subsequent level continues education within the same environment, in which a teacher with the same educational philosophy operates. The children can continue to use, without restriction, the skills and tools they learned in the previous cycle.

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What is the Montessori "New Environment"?

In the Montessori classroom at any level the child is confronted with an orderly environment containing a variety of concrete activities, which in many cases, are self-correcting. The activities progress steadily from simple to complex, from concrete to abstract.

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Why stay for Kindergarten?

Many parents do not realize the importance of committing to the three-year-cycle at a Montessori school. There are many advantages to your child spending his kindergarten year with us in primary level at Noble World. One reason was summed up by a parent who recently told me, “Your kindergarten program is second to none!” To explain that a bit further, let me describe our program in more detail.

An enormous amount of learning can take place in the kindergarten year in an environment as rich and varied as ours. Kindergarteners are sophisticated; they deserve a sophisticated learning environment where they can blossom and grow to their fullest potential. Moreover, Montessori kindergarteners are highly motivated as they learn to be organized, to focus, and to begin to develop a work ethic that will last their whole life. They are self-directed, independent learners, and discover how to learn while they develop a love of learning.

During the first two years at Noble World your child develops the beginnings of an understanding of mathematical and language concepts. He learns letter sounds and begins to read simple books. Golden beads introduce the concepts of the decimal system and place value. But it is usually in the kindergarten year that a real concrete and sound basis in math and language are formed. The children study phonics in more depth, with many opportunities for reading and writing for those who are ready. They practice mathematical operations with the golden beads and the stamp game, which gives the child a hands-on and concrete understanding of the decimal system and place value. The child forms mental pictures of how to exchange ten units for one ten, or how to take one number many time, thus accomplishing multiplication. Your child needs the kindergarten year to internalize these early concrete experiences.

Unlike traditional public or private kindergarten programs, our Montessori curriculum is always tailored to each child’s needs. No child is held back in a reading or math group that may not fit their specific needs. He learns at his own pace, and with careful guidance from the teacher, will achieve at a level consistent with his capabilities.

Our kindergarten curriculum includes many concepts not taught in other kindergarten classrooms. Art appreciation is one of the favorites. We explore periods of art history and specific artists throughout history through stories, games, and creative expression using a variety of media. For example, the children love painting and studying the work by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh or listening to classical music by Mozart and others. They develop a steady beat through activities that incorporate creative movement and improvisation with rhythm instruments and singing.

Because our classroom has the traditional 3-year grouping of a true Montessori school, the kindergarten children take on a leadership role in the classroom. They have spent two years observing, learning from, and looking forward to becoming the “big kids” in the classroom. Now it is their turn to shine and to take on the responsibilities of helping younger children, leading discussions, and in many ways running the classroom. Their self-esteem soars as their confidence in themselves increases. Everything they learned in their first two years with us falls into place.

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What are the advantages of keeping my 5-year old in Montessori?

Montessori is an approach to working with children that is carefully based on what we've learned about children's cognitive, neurological and emotional development from several decades of research. Although sometimes misunderstood, the Montessori approach has been acclaimed as the most developmentally appropriate model currently available by some of America's top experts on early childhood and elementary education.

One important difference between what Montessori offers the five-year-old and what is offered by many of today's kindergarten programs has to do with how it helps young child to learn how to learn.

Over recent years educational research has increasingly shown that students in many schools don't really understand most of what they are being taught. Howard Gardner, Harvard Psychologist and author of the best selling book The Unschooled Mind goes so far as to suggest that "Many schools have fallen into a pattern of giving kids exercises and drills that result in their getting answers on tests that look like understanding. Most students, from as young as those in kindergarten to students in some of the finest colleges in America do not understand what they've studied, in the most basic sense of the term. They lack the capacity to take knowledge learned in one setting and apply it appropriately in a different setting. Study after study has found that, by and large, even the best students in the best schools can't do that." (On Teaching For Understanding: A Conversation with Howard Gardner, by Ron Brandt, Educational Leadership Magazine, ASCD, 1994.)

Many families are aware that by the end of the kindergarten year, Montessori students will often have developed academic skills that may be beyond those of children enrolled in traditional kindergarten programs. However, parents should remember that academic progress is not our ultimate goal. Our real hope is that our children will have an incredible sense of self-confidence, enthusiasm for learning, and will feel closely bonded to their teachers and classmates. We want much more than competency in the basic skills; we want them to honestly enjoy school and feel good about themselves as students. Once children have developed a high degree of self-confidence, independence, and enthusiasm for the learning process, they normally can adapt to all sorts of new situations. While there are wonderful and exciting reasoning to carefully consider keeping a child in Montessori through elementary school and beyond, by the time they are first grade they will typically be able to go off to their new school with not only a vibrant curiosity and excitement about making new friends and learning new things.

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What makes Montessori teachers better at teaching?

In many, many American schools, children do exercises and fill in workbook pages with little understanding. There is a great deal of rote learning. Superficially, it may seem that these children are learning the material. However, all too often a few months down the road little of what they "learned" will be retained and it will be rare for the children to be able to use their knowledge and skills in new situations. Doing worksheets quickly can be impressive to parents, but there is rarely any deep learning going on. More and more educational researchers are beginning to focus on whether students, whether young or adult, really understand or have simply memorized correct answers.

From an academic viewpoint, Montessori children will generally be doing very well by the end of kindergarten year, although, once again, that is not our ultimate objective. The program offers them enriched lessons in grace and courtesy, math, reading, language, and a wide range of lessons in science, geography and other cultural areas. If they are ready, they will normally develop excellent skills and become quite "culturally literate."