The Primary Program is for ages 3-6 years.
Children must be fully potty-trained to enter the Primary program.
Children ages 0-6 years old have what Maria Montessori called an “absorbent mind.” Like the sponge it evokes, children at this age soak in knowledge from their environment using their five senses, “without effort or fatigue.”
At ages 3-6, your child has become an intrepid explorer of their environment in their effort to learn everything they can about the world.
In the MIR Primary program, students engage in an enormous variety of activities designed to help them continue their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth. From cooking to cleaning to caring for self and others, your child’s capacity for independence will grow exponentially. There is a strong emphasis on grace and courtesy.
Students also do abundant academic work including reading, writing, and math, geography, science, art, singing, music, history, Spanish and more, driven by his or her interests. Students use beautifully crafted, hands-on materials to learn using their senses.
The Primary classroom gives students the freedom to work within clear limits while developing their capacities for focus, concentration, and self-regulation.
The North American Montessori Center's Teacher Training Blog gives a deeper description of the development of the child at this age and what Maria Montessori called the "sensitive periods" for this age. Sensitive periods are windows of opportunity for optimal learning of certain skills, and different sensitive periods reach their height at different ages.
What’s Different in a Primary Classroom
Parent observers often remark on how calm MIR’s Primary classes are, for an age group usually associated with noise and chaos. This is achieved by working with, rather than against, a child's natural developmental inclinations at this age. Features that support a peaceful class include:
- Working individually -- While students at this age may like to work next to their friends, they are developmentally driven to work independently, to allow them to develop concentration, focus, and a sense of order. Most conventional environments for this age emphasize group work, which detracts from the child's ability to focus and creates a chaotic response. Small group work takes place only when appropriate to the activity.
- A calming, uncluttered environment -- Classes use muted colors and limited decorations. Lots of bright decorations have been shown in studies to distract children.
- Freedom with clear limits -- students are allowed to move freely about the room with purpose and to engage in activities that support movement.
- An emphasis on self-discipline -- students are taught the rules, rituals, and conventions of the classroom and how to manage themselves within this environment. When given clear guidance, children at this age show remarkable self-control, and this is usually what parents react to when they visit MIR's classrooms.
The Importance of the Third Year
MIR strongly encourages planning on enrolling your student for the full Primary program.
A Montessori education is spiral in nature. Every lesson the student learns in their first year is built upon on the successive years, finishing out in the third year. The sequence followed in Montessori education is different than in conventional education. A student who leaves the program after two years leaves in the middle of their learning. As the learning capitalizes on the sensitive periods present only at this age, the child won’t regain that lost momentum. Some of what they are learning won’t be encountered again until much later grades, and they will have to start that learning over again.
Often, students who leave MIR in the third year find themselves academically advanced over their peers. Conventional schools try to address this gap by moving the student ahead a grade. While this might solve the academic problem, children at 5 are not socially ready for first grade, and this can create social and emotional difficulties for the child.
The Primary program is 5 days a week. Enrollment options include half-day (9 a.m.-12 p.m.), full-day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) and all-day (9 a.m.-5 p.m.). Extended care options may be available, subject to state guidelines and MIR's safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Families who enroll their 3, 4, or 5 year olds at MIR are automatically given an "Ages & Stages Questionnaire" to help them get a complete picture of their child's development. If any concerns are identified, parents may be referred to their child's pediatrician or to appropriate specialists. Read the MIR Parent Handbook & Survival Guide for a complete description of our assessment process.
About the Teachers
In addition to meeting the early childhood educational requirements of our license, lead teachers in our Primary program hold the AMI Diploma for Children’s House. In one of our team-led classes, a teacher holds the American Montessori Society credential for Early Childhood.
Collectively, our lead Primary teachers have decades of experience. All have been at MIR for 10 or more years, up to more than 30 years.