The Three-Year Cycle

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The Three-Year Cycle is an integral part of a Montessori program. Maria Montessori and other educational psychologists believe that the children pass through phases of development throughout their lives.


e.g. Birth to 3 years of age.

3 to 6

6 to 9

9 to 12

12 to 15

15 to 18 etc.


When a child enters a Montessori classroom at age three, he/she has just moved into a new phase of development. At 3, he/she is ready to explore and absorb new experiences outside the home. Just as in the 3 period, this 1stperiod (age 3) is a time to be introduced to new concepts and especially the names of these concepts.


At 4, the child is in the 2ndperiod of the 3-year cycle and just as in the 2ndperiod of a lesson, it is a time for repetition and practice. This is a very, very busy year. This 2ndyear is a very critical and important time as we now get a glimpse of the process occurring in the child. The teacher spends a lot of time observing the four year olds and sees what connections have been made and goes back to reinforce them so nothing slips through the cracks. We move onto the next year (3rdperiod) only when we are sure that the child will succeed. This can occur any time during the last year.


At age 5, the third year of the cycle, work of the first two years comes to fruition. The child is now mastering concepts and saying “Aha, so this is how it works”.

This is the period most adults want to get to. We can see very tangibly what the child knows. We want to test the child and move on to something else.


If you move too quickly, i.e. Skip the 3rdyear, you will be in correction mode.


Every time your child masters a skill or assimilates an idea, she is stronger and more competent and becomes an independent person open to learning. The knowledge the child acquires during the third year in a Montessori school is just the starting point for the child’s next learning adventure.


We want the child to say “I can do it”.



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