During this time each year, parents ask me when they can expect their child to start in their Montessori school’s elementary program.
When a child is around six, meaning between years six and seven, they enter into a new stage of development that Dr. Montessori referred to as the “second plane of development”.
At age six we see physical changes in the child:
- Baby teeth begin to fall out and adult teeth begin to form.
- The child loses that “baby” look and becomes taller.
- The hair becomes coarser and thicker.
We also begin to see some psychological changes:
- Children who have been compliant become a little rebellious, as evidenced in the fact that they will not wear the clothes they have previously loved.
- They may change their name and not answer to their “given” name.
- They make demands for you to leave them alone.
- They desire to go out and see things. They are not content anymore with the community of just home, school and church. They want to go out and see the world.
- They want to work in a small group versus working alone to master a skill.
When we see the physical changes we know the psychological changes are on the way.
The psychological changes are what make the child ready for elementary. They have a need to be in a different environment.
Academics are not an issue in whether they are ready to enter the elementary class. The Montessori primary class for three to six-year-olds (meaning to the end of their sixth year) contains enough work and the teachers are trained to be able to present up through third grade work. It is not unusual to have seven-year-olds in the primary classroom. Children who lose their teeth later will probably be interested in elementary later.
Usually the primary children enter the elementary on their own accord. They become very curious about what the older children are doing and they ask to visit. Many of these first visits help the child realize that they are not ready to enter a different environment. They go back to their primary classroom somehow realizing that there is still work for them to do. In most cases it takes around six to eight weeks after the child makes the first visit (and is interested!) to transition into the elementary classroom.
We should not hurry our children into the elementary class. The final year in a primary classroom is a year of mastery and establishes a wonderful self-confidence in the child. These final year students get to use their budding leadership skills. At last, they are top dog!
Remember, these six-year-olds are still in a sensitive period for social relations. This period of leadership development will not happen again as strongly until the third plane of development when the child is 12 to 15.
As I told children in my class, “Yes, I was six-years-old once, but only for a year”. We are all only six for a year.
Please give your child enough time to use this year in a way that is developmentally perfect for being a six-year-old, so they can become that wonderful unique person they are meant to be.
P.S. You may also want to read my series of articles about the elementary years.