A New Primary (Preschool) Class
The new primary (3-6) class accepts two-and-one-half- to three-and-one-half-year-olds, with a suggested starting peer group of about 8 to 15 children, reaching 25 to 35 children per classroom in the third year.
Admission of four-year-olds is discretionary and may be necessary, but should be carefully considered as the older children constitute the leaders of the class.
Shorter periods of orientation (less than three hours) should be established for the first two weeks for groups of four or five children each. The full operating class comes into formation with full morning sessions once the children feel safe and confident enough to function independently. A parent orientation provides the essential communication for this period. Home visits by the teacher after the orientation make this period more personal.
Dividing the Day
A school day is usually three hours per morning five days a week, with an additional one and a half to two and a half hours in the afternoon for third-year children who are five and over (the "extended day"). It is not advisable to have two groups of children use the same classroom morning and afternoon respectively. Besides making the "extended day" impossible, this use of space gives a feeling of crowding. Limiting classroom use to one group of children allows for more creative use of the environment, more personal bonding with the class, and better-quality Montessori.
A New Elementary Class
Generally it takes three preschool classes to feed one starting elementary class, assuming a retention rate of about one-third of those graduating from the preschool. After some years, the retention rate may increase to as high as eighty percent, and this growth will need to be accommodated. Children without Montessori background can be admitted but should have good skills and good behavior. It can also be effective, if necessary, to bring back older graduates who have been out of Montessori for a year and want to return. Minimum skills to look for are phonetic reading, numeral recognition to 1000, and letter formation in process. Good independent choice-making and work habits are some desirable non-academic qualities. Although somewhat subjective, a minimum group of children the same age should be about six with optimal results occurring with eight or more.
"Feeder schools" for an elementary program are nearby Montessori preschools that do not have elementary programs of their own. Elementary enrollment of children from feeder schools can be encouraged through visiting lectures and promotional flyers. Reassure feeder schools with a promise to recruit their families only for your elementary program, not for your preschool program.
A school year is approximately 180 days with six to six and one half hours of school per day.