Developmental Cycles

The Three-Year Developmental Cycle

Key to Our Children’s Education

Dr. Maria Montessori saw the growth of an individual from birth to age 24 in four “planes of development”: birth to 6, 6 to 12, 12 to 18, and 18 to 24 years of age. She developed a methodology and materials at each plane to respond to evolving individuals, with their unique needs and characteristics. These Developmental Planes are at the very heart of the Montessori educational experience for our children at MSR.

Each Plane is divided into three-year cycles, making conventional “kindergarten”, Third Grade, Sixth Grade, and Ninth Grade transitional years. The third year in each sequence, a capstone year, is a culminating experience academically, emotionally, socially, and developmentally. This runs directly counter to other schools across the country where Kindergarten is the start of the elementary sequence, Sixth Grade is the start of Middle School, and Ninth Grade is the start of High School.

Dr. Montessori observed that most of work done by 6 year olds, 9 year olds (Third Graders), 12 year olds (Sixth Graders) and 15 year olds (Ninth Graders) was social and emotional. She believed that unless the social and emotional growth was addressed directly and effectively, academic growth could suffer.

At MSR, we encourage social and emotional growth. Instead of making students in their transitional years the youngest of the children in a sequence, we make them the oldest and most mature in their group. We give them age-appropriate responsibility and make them educational and civic leaders in our community.

This level of leadership allows the oldest children in each cycle to stand tall with confidence by sharing their knowledge and expertise with the younger students in the group. Giving lessons to the younger students requires the oldest children to reduce complex concepts to their simplest elements and then convey them with clarity and understanding. If they cannot, it is clear that they need a lesson themselves before moving on!

At the Montessori School of Raleigh, we believe that the full benefit of the educational program accrues to our children in the third and capstone year of each cycle. A student’s educational experience is significantly impacted by the gift of the leadership, mentoring, and instruction from the older children they have come to admire.