What is Montessori Preschool #12

by Eleanor Zucker.

What is Montessori Preschool? The twelfth installment in a multi-part series about the history, philosophy and teaching of Montessori education.

Adults in the World of Children— Parents & Teachers

Maria Montessori was well ahead of her time in her view of the role that parents play in their children’s education. Similar to current thinking, Maria Montessori fervently believed that parents play a very important role in their children’s education. She believed that education begins with parents at home from the time of a child’s birth and that parents are a child’s first teachers, who have the greatest influence on their child.

The word educate comes from the Latin root meaning “to direct.” Parents have the unique opportunity, should they seize it, to direct their child toward activities and areas of interest that are meaningful and mutually fulfilling. This includes a wide range of things, such as hobbies, spiritual beliefs, values, intellectual pursuits, appreciation of different aspects of their culture and the environment they live in. As a child’s first teacher, parents are the most significant influence on the absorbent mind of their child.

The absorbent mind. The field of early education has now accepted what Maria Montessori discovered many years ago: Children under the age of 6 have extraordinary mental powers. They have a universal ability, at only one point in their life, to absorb the knowledge of their surroundings simply by living in it. They can extract everything from their environment-- the physical space, the language, the movement of adults and other children-- using what Maria Montessori called “the child’s absorbent mind.” The absorbent mind is in its greatest development during the preschool years, but its development begins before the age that most children start school, hence the importance of parents’ input in their child’s development.

Montessori education is an extension of what children learn at home. This is why Montessori schools encourage parents to become involved in a variety school activities. These include not just attending parent meetings and conferences, but also reading to their child’s class, participating in events such as “Light a Candle for Peace” (see Sac Be article from October 09) and other special events or holidays.

Otoch Paal Community Center involves parents in the most immediate and intimate aspects of keeping the school running. Over 75% of the parents trade their labor in lieu of paying tuition for their child’s education, depending on their income. This makes the school accessible to all families, not just those who can afford it. Both parents contribute up to three hours per week of their time, helping to maintain the school grounds, clean the classrooms, and prepare learning materials for the children. In this way, the parents, the school, and the children, all benefit from the parents’ involvement in their child’s education.

Stay tuned for the next installment about Montessori Preschool—“The Montessori Guide” Including Bios of the Otoch Paal Montessori Teachers!

To see a Montessori preschool in operation, come visit Otoch Paal Community Center in Akumal Pueblo
. Otoch Paal welcomes visitors who are interested in seeing how a Montessori center operates. Classes are in session from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visitors are asked to come between 9 and 10:30 a.m.

How you can help. As a non-profit community-based learning center, Otoch Paal does not generate sufficient funds to pay for all necessary school improvements. Monetary donations and donations in kind are always welcome. Donations can be made directly at the school. Or more information can be found at: http://montessoriaroundtheworld.org/otoch.html/

Are you associated with a Montessori school that could donate used learning materials for the preschool/kindergarten classroom or support the school in some other way? Contact Graciela Avila, school principal, at: perikavilarivas@hotmail.com

Directions to Otoch Paal
: The school is located near the back of Akumal Pueblo, on the Northern edge of the town. It can be reached by following the Pueblo’s main street (avenida) to the fourth block on the right hand side of the street. After passing the secondary and kindergarten schools (which are on the main street), turn right at the corner where the kindergarten is located and continue to the next corner. Otoch Paal is next to the kindergarten and the entrance is at the far corner, near the town’s edge.

An Otoch Paal mother and 2 grandmothers help prepare a special dish for the Day of the Dead celebration


Parents enjoying the Light A Candle for Peace special event at Otoch Paal


Annual breakfast the school puts on for Mother's Day




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