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So what are we doing here at Hapa Lab? 
Here it is, a simple breakdown on the Montessori Approach!
*Courtesy of the Global Montessori International School Website (Berkeley, CA).

What is a Montessori School?
A Montessori school is a special place for the child to cultivate his/her own natural desire to learn. The Montessori philosophy for child development was first formulated by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, during the early 1900's. Dr. Montessori's program for education focuses on the natural development of the whole child from birth through maturity. Children 2 to 6 years of age are the focus of most Montessori educational programs. The concept allows children to experience the joy of learning at an early age and provides an environment in which intellectual, moral, creative, physical, and social growth flourish.

What is the child's work?
Children have a sense of the worth and value of what they desire. They choose all activities eagerly and spontaneously, and become totally involved. The work process involves attaining skills, refining tastes, developing sensitivities, strengthening concentration, solving problems, building self-esteem, and achieving new insights.

What are "sensitive periods?"
Sensitive age periods are described as periods when the child shows unusual capabilities in acquiring specific skills. Another name for this phenomenon might be "formative periods" in which a child is psychologically attuned to acquire given ideas or skills more readily than at any other period. Examples of the "sensitive periods" are for acquiring a sense of order, between 2½ to 3½ years of age for the average child; for precise movement and coordination, 2½ to 4 years; for writing, 3½ to 4½ years; and for reading and numbers, 4 to 5 years of age. Recent studies show that 80% of a child's mental development is complete by the age of seven.

What are the advantages of upgraded, mixed-age classes?
A child can work with older children in one subject, younger children in another, and still have social interaction with children of his or her own age. Mixed age groups permit younger children a graded series of models for imitation, and older children have the opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by helping the younger ones.  

Why are Montessori children generally more self-confident, outgoing and self-reliant?
Montessori is based on a profound respect for the child's personality. The child works from his or her own free choice and is allowed a large measure of independence. This forms the basis of self-discipline. As each child progresses at his own pace and successfully completes the self-correcting exercises, he develops confidence in his ability to understand his accomplishments.  

What is the Montessori concept of Discipline?
Discipline is a prerequisite condition for learning. Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline" and inner control which the child develops from his/her own behavior and in conjunction with his or her home environment. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated by the lack of proper stimulation and an inadequate opportunity to achieve. She noted that young people became happier and more self-controlled after a period of time in a Montessori class. They experienced challenging tasks which not only absorbed their energies, but resulted in a sense of achievement.

The Montessori approach is designed to assist the child in acquiring the social skills and self-confidence that are needed to fulfill his own potential. This is accomplished by building on interests, nurturing enthusiasm, and making activities available to fit individual needs.  
What makes Montessori unique and relevant in today’s world?  We believe the answers lay in the following:

"Whole Child" Approach
 How do we help each child reach his/her full potential in all areas of life, not just pure academics through rote memorization?  How do we build self confidence and motivation to explore and learn?  These are the primary goal of a Montessori program.  The activities promote the development of social skills, creative, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation.  The holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning and to develop self-esteem and independence.

Prepared Environment
In order for self-directed learning to take place, the learning environment room, materials and social climate must be supportive of the learner.  The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate.  Each child learns exactly where each subject matter is, how to share the resources with others and how to complete a task.  The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which gives them confidence to try new things at the child’s own pace.  Success with his or her exploration builds further self-confidence and greater exploration.

Montessori Materials
Montessori materials are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials that facilitate learning of skills and concepts.  For example, the pincer tool in the practical life section is fun for a young 3-year-old actually serves to develop the child’s dexterity for writing in the future.  Understanding through visualization is a significant part of the Montessori learning process.  A child learns counting with actual objects and beads.  They can see and feel how the beads lengthen as the number gets larger.  They can see multiplication and subtraction taking place.  From this foundation, they can easily transition into abstract reasoning.

The Teachers
A Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning.  She is a role model, designer of the learning environment, provider of resources , demonstrator, record-keeper, and observer of each child’s growth and development.  She encourages, respects, and loves each child as a special, unique individual. She also provides support and education for parents and joins them in partnership to nurture the development of the child.

How It Works
Each Montessori classroom operates on the principle of freedom within limits.  Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age and is always based on core Montessori beliefs of respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they chose, either alone or in cooperation with others.  Through observation of the children in the class, a teacher can determine which new activities and materials should be introduced to an individual child or to a group of children.  The goal is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery and group collaboration within the whole community.