One of the most amazing aspects of the Montessori curriculum, and what many public school strive to achieve, is the interwoven, or integrated approach. We weave music, science, art appreciation, physical activity and cultural studies into the daily activities in the classroom. Montessori teachers do this in an effort to support the three hour work cycle (more about that topic here). In a nutshell, educators have found that children can work through a three hour cycle with high and low levels of focus, but the deepest levels of concentration are found in that last hour of work. Montessori teachers notice an uncomfortable, almost hyperactive feeling in the classroom after about an hour and a half of work time, sometimes referred to as "false fatigue". Inexperienced teachers ring the bell at this time and move the children outside or onto a group activity. Unfortunately, cutting the children off at that pivotal moment robs them of that extra hour of intense, focused work. Experienced teachers know that they need to ride the wave of false fatigue until the children settle back down and get to work. I like to get out an activity that I haven't presented in a while and use it alone on a mat. The children gradually walk over to me and observe my work, then eventually find an activity that interests them again.
Many parents look for preschools that advertise "specialty" classes like music, gym or art. However, many Montessori schools embrace those arts and integrate them beautifully into the classroom, teaching on an individual or small group basis. I've decided it's time to integrate Spanish into my curriculum this year. I've started teaching myself Spanish (Spain) using the Rosetta Stone teaching tool. By teaching myself Spanish, I can save the school the cost of hiring a specialist and also preserve that precious three hour work cycle. The software is amazing and I highly recommend it as an effective language program. Try it yourself on their website.
A few months back, I deliberated about including computers in the classroom. I've decided to integrate computer lessons into the classroom for the 2010-2011 academic year. However, the computer(s) will be located in a separate room and will be available at all times for kindergarten research purposes. Children who stay a full day will be given the opportunity to use the computer for a short time in the afternoon. Computer technology is a skill that must be taught at this age in order to prepare children for later schooling. It is also a tremendous resource for these inquisitive children. However, we need to be sure that children are not exposed to more screen time than is absolutely necessary. Instead, Dr. Montessori stated that it is essential for children be exposed to the natural world as much as possible.