The first six years are the most important in a child’s life. The brain absorbs information as if it were a sponge, and then tries to process the information. Much of this information can sit in the back of the brain until needed at a much later time. The way the brain solidifies information is through repetition. Montessori allows for as much, or as little, repetition needed for each child’s individual abilities.
The primary age classroom is set up with many lessons, each building upon the one before. This way each new lesson is supported by the work that came before it and is within the optimal learning zone for a child who has mastered the previous lesson.
Concepts are also learned differently by different aged children. For example, in the lesson Living v. Non-living
a three-year-old child will use a T-chart and make many mistakes while classifying; (left picture)
a four-year-old will get most things correct and may be able to name some attributes of living things “Living things need food and water”;(middle picture)
a kindergarten student has moved beyond these simplicities and is looking deeper. They may begin to question the classification of a skeleton or an apple (they used to be living but aren’t anymore) and so, need to be moved to a Venn diagram. (right picture)
They are also expected to document their work while applying these concepts to the real world “Name three things that are living and three that are nonliving which are not represented here in this work.”
The Three Year Cycle is a very important part of the Montessori program. Not only do kindergarten students think differently and apply learned concepts to the real world, but they begin to make new connections on things they have learned in the past. Kindergarten students naturally rise into leadership roles in the classroom. They know the rules, routines and much of the work on the shelves and so become mentors to younger students. If students leave the environment before kindergarten they are thrust into a classroom where everyone is within a year of them in age and usually the loudest and most willful become the leaders.
For more information on Montessori Kindergarten please see the American Montessori Society video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8euBZVO0p_E