Montessori is a philosophy and method of teaching. Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the first women admitted to medical school in Italy. In the early 1900’s she became a world-renowned educator as well as a physician. Her deep belief in the potential of the young child led her to design materials and a method of teaching that has been used worldwide. Her philosophies and methods are incorporated into a prepared environment to guide the child’s intellectual, emotional and physical development.
Each child learns at their own pace without rigid expectations and without limits to their progress. The children in the classroom display respect, manners and social skills. There is an abundance of learning materials in the classroom that teach children concepts that are building blocks for what they will be learning in the future.
Montessori focuses on teaching for understanding. There are many instances were children are taught to memorize correct answers or methods of arriving at the correct answer but don’t truly understand the concept. Montessori creates a concrete sensorial experience that gradually allows the child to form a mental picture of concepts like: How big is a thousand? How many hundreds make a thousand? What is really going on when we borrow or carry numbers in a mathematical equation?
A Montessori classroom is a child-sized world. The outside world is incorporated meaningfully into the classroom. The teacher carefully selects material so that a child can explore life on a level he can understand. Materials and curriculum center around practical life, sensorial, language, math, geography, history, science, art, music, and drama. The teacher and other adults in a Montessori environment serve as role models. Their movements are slow and graceful. They speak with inside voices and act with dignity and courtesy. They follow all the ground rules that the children must follow. If they use something, they put it away in an orderly manner. They clean up after themselves. They communicate positively.
As the children develop their sense of pride in their “work” , a feeling of confidence, well being and joy begins to manifest itself. A classroom of Montessori children is a pleasure to watch. There seems to be a spirit of respect, love and cooperation among the children that is not found too often elsewhere.
The Montessori teacher carefully plans the environment in the interest of the children, facilitates the classroom activity and helps the children progress from one activity to the next. She is trained to work with each child individually, allowing him or her to choose from many activities within his/her range of ability. She stands back while a child is working and allows him to the satisfaction of his own discovery.
The concept of freedom within the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely as long as the ground rules are followed. Because children have the freedom to follow their own interests, they are generally happy and busily involved with their work.
Socialization is very much a part of the Montessori method. In the classroom you will notice children interacting continuously, choosing to work on projects together, and older children helping younger ones. Each day there is some group activity and play outside.
Montessori is not a closed door or static system of education. While there are certain materials and methods that have been proven effective through the years, Montessori is as much an attitude about education and the children as it is a specific method. We do incorporate new material all the time, if we see they can be used in a Montessori approach.
Montessori educated children are generally very flexible and adjust quite easily to public schools. They are often better students and spend their time in more productive ways because they are self-directed and have a positive attitude toward learning.