There are two main principles governing the Montessori method. The first is that teachers (be they parents or Montessori directors) must respect children. The second is that children are born with an inherent, natural love of learning. With these two beliefs setting the tone, the Montessori method can be applied both in the homeschool and classroom environment. Over the past century, Montessori educators have developed an excellent set of tools and learning materials that enable children first to develop the basic skills they need to learn effectively, and then to use those skills to acquire knowledge in the areas of language, science, history, mathematics and all of the subjects considered essential to a modern education.
Youngest children develop focus, motor skills, methodical habits and a sense of achievement by mastering physical tasks such as sweeping, scrubbing, polishing, and scooping. Sequencing, sorting, and problem solving are made enjoyable with blocks, models and puzzles of all kinds. Math basics begin with beads and cards and counters, and language skills improve with movable alphabets and language cards. Music and art play an important role in daily activities, and children investigate the habits of plants and animals. Older children then progress to more complex math, history, science and language arts with age-appropriate tools and materials. Throughout all levels, the child is guided to be orderly and tidy, and to help keep the classroom a good place for all of his/her classmates to work.
Unlike a typical public school program:
* The child is the focus of the Montessori classroom, not the teacher.
* The child sets his/her own learning pace. Progress is not dictated by the average progress of the class or by school board timelines.
* Montessori learning materials are built around controls that signal to the child when he/she has mastered a subject or when more work is needed. This self-governing learning process removes any sense of failure or public shame a child might feel in a classroom where the teacher judges and ranks students against one another. There is no need to compete, only to achieve skills for one’s own sense of accomplishment.
* Direction from the teacher is only provided as needed. Beyond this the child is guided to work independently, thus developing the ability to learn effectively on his/her own.
* Montessori classrooms are not laid out with desks for student and teacher. The learning environment is carefully constructed of shelves with beautiful materials that the children can choose from throughout the day.
* The end goal of a Montessori education is to develop a well-rounded, excellently socialized human being with a rational, inquisitive, well-organized mind.
It is this worthy end goal that truly sets the Montessori method apart. Unlike typical public education goals of having a child obtain proficiency in basic subjects considered to be essential by the public school system in order to receive a graduation certificate, the Montessori method focuses on the whole person and his or her need to develop habits and life skills that will serve them well as adults far beyond the classroom setting. If you attended a public school, chances are, you’ve forgotten the majority of the dates, facts and figures that you committed to memory in order to pass your finals. These particles of trivia are unlikely to be playing a major part in your present day life. But the attitudes you developed toward learning, the habits of organization you learned, the very way in which your mind was forming during your formative years is absolutely affecting the way you handle life’s challenges and opportunities today. The Montessori method strives to produce adults who adapt to new situations, learn new skills, and interact with others in a positive, productive way throughout life.