Dr. Maria Montessori characterized the child in this phase as possessing an extraordinary capacity to absorb information from his or her environment - an ability she termed "the absorbent mind." A young child can learn his or her native language without the formal instruction and conscious effort an adult must make to learn a foreign language. They are like sponges, using all their senses to soak up information from their environment. The Montessori method of education allows children in this sensitive period to learn to read, write and calculate in the same natural way they learn to walk and talk.
A typical three-year primary program begins when a child is about 3 years old and is toileting independently. The mixed-age classroom provides an opportunity for younger children to learn from older peers, while older children learn patience and nurturing as well as gain great satisfaction in teaching a younger child how to complete a "work." Ideally, the child will then remain with the same teacher in the same classroom for the three-year program, which includes completion of the traditional "kindergarten" year. This allows the child to work at his or her own pace, learning from others along the way and to finally become the older child who passes on knowledge to the younger children, thereby reinforcing his or her own knowledge and boosting confidence.