My child is five and has been in a Montessori Children’s House since she was just over two. I have seen her blossom into a little girl with purpose and I am amazed on a daily basis by the way she thinks. I would really like this experience to continue for her and I am considering Montessori Primary for her but I have one concern: with so much choice what will happen if she simply decides that she doesn’t want to do some core subject like maths for example - could she reach eleven without gaining the essentials skills that she requires?
You are right choice is still an essential element of the Montessori primary environment because we all learn more when we can choose what we want to know about. However, the primary aged child is not the same as the child under six. The young child has the kind of mind that simply soaks up information and his main task is to develop the parts of his personality, that is to acquire facility in his mother tongue, to gain control over his body and to learn about the world in which he lives so that he can learn how to live in his community, he does not decide what he wants to learn he learns it by simply living.
The older child, on the other hand, has a mind that can reason about what he learns - he can choose to study dinosaurs or amphibians because he finds them interesting. So for this child we can set objectives and he can understand that it is important that he tries to achieve these things. In Montessori Primary he will be given some things that he has to do every week - and these will mainly be maths and language activities. The difference between this and the traditional system is that the objectives are set according to his individual needs and also he can decide when he does them. The only thing he cannot do is decide not to do them, he is expected to take responsibility for his learning.
For the rest of the time he can follow whatever interests him and his projects and research will be based on this. Stimulus for his imagination is given through the ‘great stories’ and his exploration is always inter-disciplinary because the stories help to weave together subjects such as history, geography and science - so that a child who is interested in animals might find himself embroiled in an investigation of habitat which inevitably takes him into physical geography and an investigation of size which takes him into maths - and of course all of this is written so he is also doing language work without even knowing it.
If you would like to know more about the Montessori Primary programme you can purchase the NAMTA publication ‘What is Montessori Elementary?’ from the Montessori Society bookshop.