"Respect for the child's nature, which God Himself demands of us, compels us to search most carefully for those conditions in which children can abandon themselves most easily to God." Maria Montessori, The Child in the Church.
The formation courses offered by MCCI are for those who wish to work in an existing Catholic Atrium or to open a new Atrium in their own parish. The MMCI approach is quite different from most CCD programs that use standard textbooks, teacher manuals, and classrooms. MCCI recognizes the importance of implementing as much Montessori understanding as possible in the formation of catechists, since Dr. Montessori's discoveries with respect to natural human development are the foundation of the entire Atrium program.
Dr. Montessori discovered that the human person goes through four phases of development in childhood. Recognizing these stages in an individual child - or "planes of development" - is critical to offering developmentally appropriate stimuli that foster optimal development.
The Four Planes of child development are infancy (0-6), childhood (6-12), adolescence (12-18) and maturity (18-24). Each of these planes has two sub-phases. In the first plane, the guide (or teacher) cannot exert any direct influence over the child. The child must move freely and interact with a well-prepared environment. During these period, the child is constructing himself. During the second plane, the child grows further and is assured a certain stability of mind and physical strength. During this period, the child experiences tremendous intellectual growth and acquires a reasoning mind. During the third phase, the child experiences a re-birth into adulthood and undergoes significant physical and psychological changes. In the fourth plane, humans experience only psychological and intellectual growth. Throughout these periods, the child experiences a transformation from recognizing what "will" is to "willing obedience" and mastering control of the will to deny oneself for the purpose of serving another.
As you consider which age group you are called to serve, keep in mind that the natural course of child development necessitates a different function for the guide in the Atrium. For first plane children, the work is primarily observation and preparing the environment. Lessons are offered in Level I (ages 3-6) catechesis, and repetition is necessary. For Level II (ages 6-9) and Level III (ages 9-12) catechesis, the child is able to construct his own learning opportunities if prepared with the right tools. The catechist aids in helping the child construct his own spiritual environment with tools offered by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Please keep in mind that because the curriculum builds on a foundation of knowledge, it is necessary to begin Atrium formation at Level I. More information is also available from the National Organization of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.