Introduction to the Montessori
Academic Curriculum


Are you familiar with the Montessori curriculum? Dr Maria Montessori was able to identify “sensitive periods” during a child’s life during which time a child is sensitive to the development of certain skills. She observed that a child learns each skill best in isolation of other skills with real-life applications and with increasing difficulty and repetition. She also advocated “following the child”; that is, giving the right lesson at the right time and allowing the child to participate in his/her own progress. Maria Montessori developed a continuum of lessons (organized in a spiral fashion from level to level) and specific learning materials tailored to the basic philosophy and instruction that she advocated.

The Montessori curriculum is an integrated approach where diverse concepts are presented across the curriculum and in different ways as the children progress through the grades. One outcome of this approach is that children have repeated opportunities within different contexts to practice skills being learned; another is that this approach emphasizes the interconnectedness of disciplines.


Planes of Development

Dr. Montessori defined four stages of development and labeled them as the Four Planes of Development, noting that within these stages, the development is intense at the beginning, consolidates and then tapers to the next.  At the Montessori School of Dayton we offer instruction into the 3rd Plane of Development.  The 1st and 3rd planes are periods of intense creation, while the 2nd and 4th planes are the calm periods of consolidation.  Key to all the planes of development is the individual’s need for independence.  This is expressed differently throughout the planes. Each plane is approximately 6 years in length and has its own special characteristics as noted below:


First Plane

Age 0 - 6 – Early Childhood
(Individual Creation Of The Person)


Characterized by the “Absorbent Mind” in which the child’s mind is like a sponge, absorbing all that is in the environment.

  • At age 0-3 this is unconscious
  • At age 3-6 this is conscious
  • Characterized by “Sensitive Periods” which include the intense need for:
    • Order
    • Language
    • Refinement of the senses
    • Movement
  • Characterized by concrete thinking
  • Construction of the physical person
  • Fundamental formation of the character
  • Physical independence – “I can do it myself!”

The child wants to be free to work independently within a structured environment doing real activities with an intelligent purpose.


Second Plane

 Age 6 – 12 – Childhood
(Construction Of The Intelligence)

Characterized by reasoning with imagination and logic.

  • Intense thirst for knowledge which is so great that if allowed, the child will seek exposure to many things that have been left to high school and college in the past.
  • “Cosmic Education” – the child wants to know about the whole and his/her place within it and can appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and people.
  • The “bridge” to abstraction – or the transition from concrete to abstract thinking.
  • Interested in learning about the universe – what is outside of the prepared environment.
  • Intellectual independence – “I can “think it” myself”.

Third Plane

Ages 12 – 18 Adolescence
(Construction Of Social Self)

Characterized by self concern and self assessment.

  • Critical thinking and re-evaluation.
  • Transition period both physically and mentally.
  • Beginning to try to find place in this world.
  • Characterized by construction of social and moral values.
  • “Erd Kinder” or “Children of the Land” – Dr. Montessori envisioned the child practicing for life in society by working together in a sort of hostel. Our version is the children owning and operating the Bison Cafe and the support to the farm at Possum Creek Metro Park
  • Cultural development which has been ongoing is solidified in this plane.
  • Emotional Independence – “I can stand on my own”. 

Fourth Plane

Ages 18 – 24+ – Adulthood
(Construction Of Self Understanding)


Characterized by construction of the spiritual.

  • Conscious discernment of right and wrong.
  • Seeking to know one’s own place within the world.
  • Financial Independence – “I can get it myself”.