Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, innovator, and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children learn naturally.
She opened the first Montessori school in Rome in 1907. Using scientific observation and experience gained from her work with children, Montessori designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered children’s natural desire to learn and provided them freedom to choose individually appropriate materials to which they had been previously oriented.
Fast-forward several decades, there are now thousands of Montessori schools all around the world. Today, Montessori classrooms and the Montessori method itself are largely unchanged from a century ago, yet the learning outcomes they support are more relevant in the 21st century than ever before.
“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
Most preschools follow tight, adult-led schedules with a new group activity every 30 – 45 minutes. In contrast, authentic Montessori schools offer long, uninterrupted work periods that allow children to fully engage in tasks that they have chosen for themselves under the careful, individual guidance of their teacher.
As children arrive, they begin their day in the classroom or on the playground with self-initiated exploration and free play.
One of the hallmarks of authentic Montessori is the uninterrupted morning work period which extends from 8:00am until 10:00am. It affords children the opportunity to choose from appropriate activities that interest them and helps develop concentration, order, cooperation, and independence while satisfying their natural curiosity and affinity for exploration.
Children sit down for a morning snack that they themselves help prepare and serve. This is followed by group circle time where children sing songs or read stories. From about 11:00am until 11:30am, children play outside to develop gross motor skills and expend some of their boundless energy.
Children eat lunch brought from home as a group, encouraging both independence and social skills. After helping to clean up and getting themselves ready to rest, the children nap to regain energy for the rest of the day.
Children take part in another group circle activity and then a snack. They spend the afternoon working on interesting crafts, participating in thematic activities, and/or additional time playing outside. Children may be picked up anytime between 3:00pm and 4:30pm.
‘Akulikuli is a community where children joyously explore the world together. Under the expert guidance of a highly trained and experienced guide, the children’s environment is carefully prepared according to the child’s interests and developmental needs. Together, they learn much more than any one of them can learn alone.
Young children’s drive for independence is innate. They gravitate toward activities that develop motor skills such as running, climbing, grasping for objects, and carrying things. Developing control of their own bodies leads to control of self and the ability to dress, eat, and use the toilet independently.
Children in ‘Akulikuli are at an age where they learn to do more and more for themselves. We support their quest for independence by allowing children to do all they are capable of. The environments are designed to support children’s desire for autonomy with appropriately sized furnishings and activities specifically designed for independent practice.
Developing Gross Motor Skills
Children between the ages of 0 and 3 work on the refinement of movement. In ‘Akulikuli, movement is encouraged and constant because so much learning takes place through movement in the development of muscle memory. Many activities are designed to promote movement in the set-up and performance of the work.
The activities of practical life are those that are common in daily activities that all human beings do for their own personal care and for the care of their environment. Just as children absorb language, they also absorb the surrounding activities and, at a certain point, decide to imitate adults and reproduce the activities.
Equally important to the physical environment is the psychological and social environment
provided for children. The adults in each community must be the very best models of language, movement, and social relationships.
The mixed-age nature of ‘Akulikuli allows children to learn a great deal from one another. Younger children who first enter the community benefit from having peer role models while the older children are afforded opportunities to be leaders and helpers.
The ‘Akulikuli classroom is a place of respect. Everything is sized just right, from the custom-made tables and chairs to the shelves, plates, utensils and even the toilets. In an environment that offers such appropriately sized challenges, children are naturally inspired to take on greater responsibilities for taking care of themselves and others.
Cultural Studies and Geography
Children are capable of doing much more than adults often believe. The young child’s brain grows at a tremendous pace and is a source of enormous potential and promise.
Modern science has proven Maria Montessori’s personal observations from a century ago that neuronal pathways in regular use are reinforced and those ignored or neglected are pruned away. Each of these brain connections is a platform for future learning which explains why providing children with a varied and stimulating environment is vitally important to allow children to develop to their full potential.
“…in every child is the seed that will mature into an adult.”
Montessori children acquire a level of physical and intellectual independence rarely seen in other preschool environments. From the first day, they learn to take care of their own needs (dressing themselves, preparing snacks) and their environment (cleaning up after lunch, taking care of classroom plants and animals). This daily experience of being trusted with real responsibility for meaningful tasks – and rising to the occasion by successfully accomplishing that responsibility – results in children who have earned the self-confidence that comes from mastery.
While many preschools pride themselves in their “pre-reading” or “pre-math” curriculum, Montessori children actually learn to write, read, and do arithmetic into the thousands while in preschool. They do so joyfully with activities they choose such as drawing pictures and writing stories about them, or participating in exercises with the Golden Bead materials. While we do not push children to learn what is beyond their capabilities, we know that children are capable of much more than many people realize.
Licensing & Accreditation
Hala Kahiki is licensed by the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services. The third year of its Primary program (kindergarten) is also licensed by the Hawaii Council of Private Schools (HCPS). Additionally, the school is approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health to provide limited food service.