Thursday, October 24, 2013

Small atrium or large atrium?

Legoboy, age 9, assisting the work of the level 1 children
youngest child wondering which pieces he is allowed to handle
he's getting it ;) 
A Montessori classroom has the greatest experience at 30-35 children for the primary level (ages 3-6) and 35-40 for the elementary level (ages 6-12 - and yes, that is genuinely ages 6-12 in one group; if 6-9 and 9-12 are split out than 35 is ideal).

Really!? That many in one group with one trained teacher? Isn't that what we keep complaining about in the public schools? That one teacher has too many children when s/he has more than 25!?

Reality is, multi-age groupings, following the child, providing the keys, promoting a balance of freedom and responsibility, respecting all aspects of the child's development as well as all human needs and tendencies - all of these things lead to an environment in which the children function best with only one trained and perhaps one "non-teaching" adult.

Reviewing last year's presentations during their work time
What are the ideal numbers for an atrium that does not run on a 3-hour work cycle? I'm not sure. There are suggestions of around 15 and that seems about right most of the time. The children tend to hit their "breaking point" at 90 minutes in - reality is, the ideal that most atriums can achieve is 90 minutes, due to time constraints, parental concerns, lack of Montessori understanding and a slight limitation on the subject matter (it is one subject (Faith) in sub-categories with materials that simply do not add up to a full Montessori classroom - however we also only meet once a week).

Baptism pasting became an intense focus!
after an impromptu full Baptism presentation on
Light, White Garment, Water, Oils
We'll review the rest with the oldest children next week
But I wonder what would happen, even with 3-6 year olds, if we had a full 3-hour work cycle. In a Montessori environment, there is a false fatigue 60-90 minutes into the cycle, just before the children settle into their deepest work yet - as long as the adult knows how to let things be during this transition time.
He worked with the sheep for a few moments, then wanted to trace. 

Last week and today I caught myself thinking, "These children are done for today - good thing we only meet for 90 minutes." Then I realized what I was thinking! Oops! But 90 minutes is what I have with my level 1 children and that is all I am going to get (ok, so the parents tend to know now to pick up until 95 minutes have passed because I always run over ;) ). I would love the opportunity to experiment with a routine 180 minute atrium for the little ones. We would certainly bring in a snack option, additional practical life particularly in the art area, likely expand out the music... but these are conjectures. I simply wonder.
Waiting for the catechist

We have had a very small group both last week and this week. I would prefer to have more children.

Benefits to larger groups:

  • the adult is not able (therefore tempted) to jump in on every single situation - much more observation has to be made from a distance, allowing the child to work things out for himself
  • the adult *must* lay a strong foundation of respect and boundaries straight from the beginning; somehow having a smaller group allows the adult to be more lax in areas that need to be quite firm
  • with the multi-age setting, the older children are typically experienced, having been in the atrium for 2 years - they have that strong foundation that they can pass on to the younger/newer children - as well as they know they are being watched and copied, so they feel that sense of responsibility to "be" the "big kid". 
  • to reiterate and say another way in order to catch all the ramifications: the children model after each other - if the adult is prepared and the environment (physical and spiritual) is prepared, then the children will have fewer stumbling blocks and many more successes.
  • there is a wider variety of work going on, so the children gain different inspiration from one another; they also more readily choose for themselves if they will work alone, work with someone else or observe another child(ren). The children also review previous presentations simply by seeing the other children work with it. Such options are much more limited with smaller numbers. 

So joyful!
He then spent a good deal of time coloring in his tracing
adding a sun, sky, and grass
Hanging the chasubles
across the room from their usual location
LOTS of movement needed by these littlest ones!

helping with the hanger

Such concentration on making such beautiful music! 

Singing "Alleluia" -
apparently we have a goal to sing as many versions as possible ;)
not all children were at the prayer table,
but this was our smallest class yet this year.  

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