Apple Montessori Blog

Benefits of the three-year cycle in the Apple Montessori classroom

The Three-year Cycle of Learning at Apple Montessori

An essential feature of Apple Montessori Schools’ modern Montessori philosophy and approach is the “three-year cycle”. Based on the research and practical application with children over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori found that children’s development occurs in successive stages for physical, cognitive, social, and emotional maturity. In each “phase of development,” a child builds the foundation to move on to the next stage of growth.

That’s why Apple Montessori classrooms are sub-divided into three-year cycles, which align with children’s growth periods—0-3 years (Infants & Toddlers), 3-6 years (Preschool & Kindergarten), 6-9 (Lower Elementary), and 9-12 (Upper Elementary) years. Each classroom is adapted to the developmental needs of the child, providing a variety of practical life, sensorial, cognitive, motor, language, social and educational activities. The daily curriculum is engaging and challenging designed to appeal to a child’s natural curiosity and intellect at each stage of development within three-year cycles.

The Montessori “three-year house”

At Apple Montessori, we often compare the three-year cycle to building a house. In the first year, we help students lay the foundation by introducing them to the hands-on, multi-sensory Montessori activities and learning materials. In the second year, we build and reinforce the walls of the house by encouraging students to further explore Montessori educational materials, practice skills, and pursue more advanced activities involving problem-solving and critical thinking. In the third year of the first three-year cycle, the “Kindergarten year” secures the roof by uniting the learnings from years one and two to complete the home and prepare for the next stage of learning at the elementary school level.

For example, in math, students start with counting single digits, then progress to larger numbers and tallying items before embracing more abstract concepts such as solving written addition and subtraction exercises. It’s a systematic approach that continually builds on itself as the child advances.

There are numerous benefits to the three-year cycle in multi-age classrooms—educationally, socially, and emotionally, including:

  1. Building community. Students stay in the same classroom with generally the same classmates and teachers for three years, providing greater continuity and consistency, while building a productive, supportive community. When school starts in the fall, children are welcomed back to their familiar teachers, classmates and friends, creating a profoundly secure, nurturing learning environment and experience. For those that attend summer camp, this continues right through the summer with our year-round team of teachers.
  2. Exploring interests, advancing skills. Montessori teachers guide and encourage children to explore and exercise their interests and abilities at their own pace through each three-year cycle, creating the foundation for advancing knowledge and developing social skills in a dynamic, stimulating environment. The curriculum and materials for each age group are designed to empower children to learn and master new and challenging activities before moving on to the next stage.
  3. Encouraging role models and mentoring. As in a family, the children become like siblings growing up together in a family. Younger children observe and learn from the older children, while the older children develop confidence and leadership skills, acting as role models and mentors to help support the younger children. This social, educational, and interactive environment helps build self-esteem and instills a progressive sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and independence within students.
A Well-Loved and Proven Program!

“We could not believe how much our son changed after being at Apple Montessori School. He started as a shy child, not wanting to participate, afraid to raise his hand. He graduated Kindergarten as a confident assertive student with a great love of learning. We will be eternally grateful to the school, for the great experiences offered to our child; truly a once and a lifetime opportunity.” – An Apple Parent

For nearly 50 years, Apple Montessori’s approach to early education has utilized three-year cycles of learning to help students develop their physical, academic, social, and emotional skills during their critical formative years. By nurturing the whole child, we help develop well-rounded, respectful individuals that enjoy a life-long passion for learning and participation within their communities.