As a fresh batch of Primary students make their way up to Elementary, you may wonder if your four- or five- year old is also ready to transition. Some indicators of readiness are immediately apparent – the ability to read or write, for instance. However, from our perspective, the more important markers of readiness for Elementary are socio-emotional.

This is one of the hardest transitions in a Montessori child’s life, because of the differences between the Primary and Elementary environments. In Primary, adults observe and follow the child almost completely, believing they have an inner directive. In Elementary, the expectations change, as the child is now developmentally ready to be told what the adult (and the world in general) expect of them academically as well as behaviourally.
The child now has to take on more responsibility as they commit to a weekly lesson plan. They have to learn life skills such as keeping track of deadlines and working effectively in limited time periods. Since lessons are presented in groups, they begin to understand that their individual whimsies cannot be entertained. They understand that social etiqutte is no longer a choice.

As adults, we can all agree that learning these skills is vital to contributing productively in society. It is precisely because these skills form a foundation for life that the child needs to be introduced to them at the right time. It can be a difficult adjustment for primary children who are used to following their own schedule, and receing one-on-one attention. Being pressurized into learning Elementary skills before the child is ready can have a life-long impact on how they view responsibilities.

In the interest of setting children up for success, we make sure they are fully ready before we suggest that they transition to Elementary. Some things that we consider are:
  • Does the child gravitate towards learning in a group rather than working by themselves? Is he/she capable of working in that group?
  • Is the child physically independent and displaying signs of wanting to test their own strength?
  • Is the child capable of self-direction (eg: finding work to do when they are bored, working independently of adults)?
  • Is the child capable of taking feedback well and pushing themselves to improve?
  • Can the child complete a work cycle consistently (ie: take a mat, take material over to the mat, finish the work and wind up the material as well as the mat)?
  • Can the child put aside their own wishes temporarily to listen to instructions? Can they control their body when required?
  • Does the child still have strong emotional attachments to family/certain teachers and need their attention?
  • Does the child long to go out and explore the world beyond home and school?

When physical changes such as teeth falling occur in a 5-6 year old child, you can begin watching out for these psychological changes which will soon follow. Until then, we welcome you to make the most of the child’s time in Primary: they are gradually building  the confidence, autonomy and focus which will serve them well throughout their life.

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