Children normally enter a Montessori class for their first year at the age of three. The youngest tend to favor working alone, preferring the practical life exercises of cleaning and food preparation because they find personal power in the role of caretaker.
The second year children are discovering effective social interaction and gravitate toward materials that allow them to work with others, often the mathematics exercises or the moveable alphabet letters. Due to the gangly social growth in second year children, they develop best amongst friends.
The oldest children spend much of their time perfecting their language skills as well as their social skills, which are often much more sophisticated than those of the four-year-old children. The third-year children are socially focused as a group on higher academic achievement. This is the time for them to break through into reading and writing. These are children who are academically busy trying their wings and preparing to fly away.
Not withstanding there are a myriad of activities and interactions that take place on any given day. The older ones often help the younger children. But they know enough to wait until they are asked. Here I have merely set the scene. This Montessori class is like a large extended family, but one where the personal constellations change annually. These children know each other well.
If you are thinking about entering your child in a Montessori school, first check to see if the school is accredited. Here in Illinois it should be accredited by AMI or AMS. You should keep in mind that the standard entry age is three for Montessori's primary level. Sometimes there are openings for a four or five-year old; but there are not many. And often these will be given first to a Montessori transfer student. At age three your child will be entering a mixed-age class of approximately thirty students: about ten three-year olds, ten four-year olds and ten five-year olds. There may be even be some competition at the three-year old level. Many schools have a small number of students in entry level programs for two-year olds. These children too likely will be given priority in primary level admissions.
And then there is the Infant Community program. This is an amazing program serving the youngest children, from infants to three-year olds. It is available now in just a few Montessori schools. If you must work, this is the answer. It is unfortunate that Infant Communities are so rare.
Both AMS and AMI have lists of member schools. For a more local list of accredited Montessori schools, call the Illinois Montessori Society. This telephone number is usually served by one of the member schools. If encountering difficulty, call during school hours: 708-498-1105.
Illinois Montessori Society (IMS)
1985 Pfingster Rd.
Northbrook, IL 60062