LEARNERS coming from “that little school in Kabah” are - after attending the Montessori centre for a period of 3 years - able to read, add and subtract to 9 999!“It is all about sensory learning and starting at an early age teaching children to do the proper thing,” said Dominic Swartz, centre manager at Ikhwezi Lomso Montessori Early Childhood Centre in Uitenhage.Ikhwezi during 2016 changed to a Montessori based early childhood development centre, taking in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years. It totally differs from main stream government managed schools.“It is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. The teaching methods create a match between the child’s natural interests and to learn through their own experiences at their own pace,” said Swartz. There are different learning areas which include practical life area, sensorial, culture, mathematics and language.Learners have a three year period in which they have to master all the activities in the different areas.For first timers at the centre, there is a period of three months where they are orientated as to how the system operates and how to fit in. In each learning area there are activities which start from the easy and basic and then progress to the more advanced.To be qualified as a Montessori teacher is a much sought after qualification, as you can teach at any Montessori centre across the globe. Ikhwezi is fortunate to have four Montessori qualified teachers, as well as two recently qualified part-time Montessori teachers who assist in the classrooms. Mathematics In teaching mathematics the Montessori way at Ikhwezi, it is all about knowing the value of numbers. For example to know how many tens there are in a hundred and how many hundreds there are in a thousand. In demonstrating the value of numbers, teachers make use of cards, beads and three dimensional blocks. Depending on the level of ability of the child, they would be able after the period of 3 years, to add and subtract up to 9 999.The teaching method implies the teacher identifying an activity, showing the learners how to do it and then inviting them to do it on their own. “If they do not want to do it, we do not stress about that, we observe the child. Children make creative choices in their learning and through clever educational guidance from the teacher, the child will eventually complete the task,” said Swartz. Reading & writing Another area in which Ikhwezi is unique, is the way they teach children the Montessori way to read and write. At the age of 3 phonics are used, which is a method of teaching children to read by correlating sounds with symbols in an alphabetic writing system.“A study at Rhodes University discovered that only 1 out of 10 children is functionally literate at Grade 3 level. It also found that about 90% of the children in Grade 3 might be able to put the words together, but they do not understand what they are reading,” said Swartz.Therefore VW Community Trust has started a literacy programme and have equipped literacy centres at local schools, of which Ikhwezi centre is one.“Children attending Ikhwezi for three years (third year is Grade R) will definitely be able to read when they leave our centre. Some children even start reading fluently after two years at the centre. At most government schools kids in Grade R don’t read,” said Swartz.With the phonics programme utilized at Ikhwezi, children are first shown and told the sound of a letter which is drawn on sandpaper. The child then has to trace the sandpaper letter with a finger and must identify what it sounds like. Then the child has to draw the letter in a sand tray and only if the child has mastered that, he/she will be given a piece of paper and pencil to actually write the letter. Admissions to new class Ikhwezi has two classes and a third class, taking in thirty 3-4 year olds, will be implemented at the centre at the beginning of 2019. Applications are now open and will close at the end of November 2018. The centre is trilingual, hosting children with home languages of English, Afrikaans or Xhosa. Enquiries: Ikhwezi Lomso Montessori Early Childhood Development Centre 041 922 4419 or 082 889 4233.