From Lilydale to Ringwood East
Maroondah Montessori Preschool has existed, under various guises, and in a number of locations, since May 1989. It commenced as the Lilydale Child’s Centre in Anderson Street,Lilydale, with a generous parent lending $8,500 to acquire basic equipment to help it get started. In 1993 it moved to Kilsyth, where it was known as Montessori Early Learning Centre (Kilsyth) Inc. until the final move to its current location in Everard Rd, Ringwood East in October 1996.
Since its very inception, Maroondah Montessori Preschool has totally relied on the great generosity of time, initiative, hard work and determination of many volunteer parent Committees of Management. Due to a commitment to adhere as strictly as possible to the educational principles espoused by Dr. Montessori, and to deliver a truly authentic Montessori program without compromise, Maroondah Montessori receives no government funding whatsoever.
Children commence the program at the age of 2 ½ years, and attend until the end of the year in which they turn six (ie. for up to 4 years). They attend 5 mornings per week for 3 hours, and eventually also participate in an extended day program for up to 4 afternoons per week as they progress through the program.Maroondah Montessori Preschool employs a very experienced, fully qualified, AMI trained Montessori Directress, Aileen Allen and our experienced Assistant Eunice. The Centre income is derived solely from fees and fundraising activities. With an enrolment of 30 children each year, including siblings, an average of 25 to 28 families successfully fundraise between$10,000 to $12,000 per annum, to keep Centre fees low and to keep such a wonderful program accessible to as many families as possible.
Maroondah Montessori Preschool runs as in incorporated not-profit association and is managed by a voluntary Committee of Management, made up of parents of children who attend.
Dr, Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), the first ever woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School in 1896, was a medical doctor who became internationally renowned for her work in the education of young children.
From her early experiences working with children in asylums, she came to develop specific theories about the developmental needs of children, and applied them in educational settings. Dr. Montessori’s focus on the “whole child” led her to develop a very different sort of school from the traditional adult-centred classroom. To emphasise this difference, she named her first school, which opened in 1907, the “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House”.
This name emphasised that the classroom was not the domain of the adults in charge, but rather it was a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the children’s independence and sense of personal empowerment. This was the children’s community. They moved freely within it, selecting work that captured their interest, rather than participating in all-day lessons and projects selected by the teachers.
Montessori taught her teachers how to “follow the child” through careful observation, allowing each child to reveal their strengths and weaknesses, interests and anxieties, and strategies that worked best to facilitate the development of the child’s human potential.
Within a few years, the Montessori method had become very well established in Italy and Dr. Montessori had become a public figure, spending her time researching, lecturing, writing,travelling and setting up schools and training centres. In 1934, after Mussolini forced herschools to close, she moved her headquarters to Barcelona in Spain. After this, she supervised training courses in Spain, England, the Netherlands and India where she became interned during the Second World War. She became a permanent resident of Amsterdam after the Spanish Civil War began in 1936. It was in the Netherlands that she established the Association Montessori Internationale, the objects of which were to propagate, maintain and further the rights of the child in society. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 and 1950. She died in Noerdwijk, the Netherlands, in 1952.
Dr Montessori believed that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a preselected course of studies, but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. She believed that real education comes from within oneself, and is not taught by any other person, and that a truly educated person continues learning long after the hours and years they spend in the classroom, because they are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge.
Therefore, the Montessori method of education is designed to accommodate a child’s natural desire to think and discover for him/herself (hence our motto “Help me to do it myself”). It is based on the principles of respect and independence where young children are respectfully regarded as full and complete individuals in their own right, capable of developing a meaningful degree of independence and self-discipline, in following their natural urge to learn and explore their environment.
Montessori is designed to help children discover and develop their own unique talents and possibilities. Each child is treated as a unique individual learner. Children learn at their own pace, and learn in the ways that work best for them as individuals. This method teaches the child to think, not simply to memorise, feedback and forget. Learning becomes its own reward, and each success fuels a desire to discover even more.
The objective is less to teach the child facts and concepts, but rather to help them fall in love with the process of focusing their complete attention on something and solving its riddle with enthusiasm and even joy. The prepared environment of the Montessori class is a learning laboratory in which the child is allowed to explore, discover, and select their own work. The independence that the child gains is not only empowering on a social and emotional basis, but it is also intrinsically involved with helping the child become comfortable and confident in their ability to master the environment, ask questions, puzzle out the answer, and learn without needing to be spoon-fed by an adult.
The Montessori method of education believes that a child between the ages of 2.6 and 6 years is perceived to be in a particular phase of development characterised by increasing abilities to explore their environment. Dr. Montessori described the young child’s aptitude for learning as the “absorbent mind”, where the young child literally “absorbs” information from the environment. Young children touch and manipulate everything in their environment. In asense, the mind is hand made, because through movement and touch, the child explores,manipulates, and builds up a storehouse of impressions about the physical world around her.
Children learn by doing, and this requires movement and spontaneous investigation. Many exercises are designed to draw the child’s attention to the sensory properties of objects within their environment: size, shape, colour, texture, weight, smell, sound etc. Gradually the child learns to pay attention, seeing more clearly small details in the things around them. They have begun to observe and appreciate their environment. This is a key in helping the child discover how to learn.
Dr Montessori also identified times where she believed that children has special “periods of sensitivity” – a time space when the child’s attention is drawn to a certain element in the environment with an irresistible impulse and which passes when the need for it no longer exists. Hence, the Montessori classroom provides many specially designed materials to help the child benefit more fully from these “sensitive periods” by making available a great many things, which will attract the child at this particular time.
Montessori Education emphasises ‘active learning’ and the process undertaken rather than the end product. The learning environment reinforces the child’s independence and urge towards self-development. This is achieved in three ways – beauty, order and accessibility. The Montessori materials are beautifully handcrafted and are displayed on low, open shelves. Each piece of material has a specific place and they are arranged in sequence from the simple to the more complex. It presents one concept at a time to the child and has a built-in ‘control of error’. The multi-age group fosters a sense of community. Peer teaching and modelling occurs and children have opportunities to be both the leader as well as the follower. Responsibility, care and consideration for others, as well as for the environment,are all encouraged and fostered. As they move through the program, the older child has the opportunity to develop leadership qualities, self-confidence and a sense of responsibility as he interacts with the younger children.