With most of a child’s mental development happening before age six, quality education during this period is critical.
For many children, the key to that development is an environment where they are free to make creative choices in their learning, with both teachers and classroom offering age-appropriate activities to guide the process.
At Oak Bay’s St. Christopher’s Montessori School each classroom is a prepared environment alive with a wealth of intriguing materials.
The Montessori method of education is based on hands-on learning, self-directed activity and collaborative play. Each child can move at his or her own pace through all parts of the classroom, including Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Cultural areas.
Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development, creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities. This type of education involves ‘indiscrete learning’, where all they ways the children can learn are blended together.
“It’s a very open self-directed environment,” says principal Lisa Grant. “The teachers are merely a guide, and the children gain much of their learning from self-correcting materials and observation.”
Classes have 25 children, with half-day preschool for ages 3 and 4, and full-day kindergarten for age 5.
“We have limited spaces available – normally we have full enrolment but this year is a bit of an anomaly,” Grant says. “I think COVID was part of the reason for that, but we want families to feel welcome in our COVID cautious environment.”
The program also offers weekly art, French and music classes
In art class, children explore using a wide variety of media, techniques and colour. French is taught with an emphasis on vocabulary-building using songs, books, puppets, themes, games and conversation. Music class is taught using a program developed by Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly, which uses simple music and folk songs to provide the children with the fundamentals of music.
The program begins teaching basic life skills at 3 years old, as well as how to explore their knowledge of the world and social interactions.
“It’s a very social time at the beginning of a child’s education, so we teach them basic social skills and care of self and their environment”