What is Montessori Education?

This system of education is both a philosophy of child growth and rationale for guiding such growth. It is based on the child’s developmental needs for freedom within limits, and a carefully prepared environment, which guarantees exposure to materials and experiences through which to develop intelligence as well as physical abilities.

How did it begin?

Dr. Maria Montessori, (1870-1953), the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School, became interested in education as a doctor treating children with special needs. After returning to the University for further study, she began her work with children without disabilities in 1907 when she was invited to organize schools in a reconstructed slum area in San Lorenzo, Italy. Later, she traveled all over the world lecturing about her discoveries and founding schools. She wrote approximately fifteen volumes and numerous articles about education.

Her medical background led Montessori to approach education not a s philosopher or educator in the usual sense, but as a scientist. She considered the classroom a laboratory for observing children, and testing and retesting for the validity of ideas and practices for aiding them in their growth.

Is it expensive?

The cost of establishing a Montessori classroom is higher than a traditional classroom because of the precession and quality demanded in the manufacture of Montessori materials. Specialized training on both undergraduate and graduate levels is required to teach in Montessori schools.

Is it for all children?

The Montessori systems has been used successfully with children between the ages of two and eighteen, from all socioeconomic levels the world over.

Is the child free to do what he chooses in the classroom?

The child is free to move about the classroom at will, to talk to the other children, to work with any equipment he or she understands, or to ask the teacher to introduce new material to him or her. The child is not free to disturb other children at work or abuse the equipment that is so important in the child’s development.

What does this form of education do for your child compared to traditional pre-schools?

Observers of the Montessori children have described them as having developed self-discipline, self-knowledge and independence, as well as enthusiasm for learning, an organized approach to problem-solving and academic skills.

What happens when children go from a Montessori class to a traditional one?

Most children appear to adjust readily to new classroom situations. In all likelihood, this is because they have developed a high degree of self-discipline and independence in the Montessori environment.

Special Elements of Montessori Philosophy

The Periods of Development

Children are grouped in three-year spans in Montessori schools because of the physical, emotional and mental differences which are marked between one period and another. The methods of teaching and the curriculum are different, and the teacher training is only applicable for the age span the adult is trained to teach.

The Human Tendencies

The practical application of the Montessori method is based on human tendencies, which are operative for everyone at every age. These include tendencies to explore, move, share with a group, to be independent and make decisions, create order, develop self control, to abstract ideas from experience, to use creative imagination, to work hard, repeat, concentrate, and to perfect one’s efforts and creations.

The Process of Learning

Montessori education is sometimes thought of as rigid, but this is because the steps of learning and concept are so well analyzed by the adult and are systematically presented to the child. A child is always learning something that is indirectly preparing him to learn something else, making education a joyful discovery instead of drudgery.

The Prepared Environment or Montessori Classroom

True education does not occur when information passes from the teacher (or video, book, etc.) directly to the student. In Montessori, a triangle of the student, teacher and environment is kept in mind. It is the role of the teacher to prepare, and continue to prepare, the environment, to link the child to it through well-thought-out lessons, and to facilitate the child’s exploration and creativity. This is the reason a Montessori teacher needs the child in the classroom environment on a regular basis. Materials need to be systematically presented to the child. It is necessary to observe the child working with the materials in the prepared environment or Montessori classroom. To complete the learning process, a child needs time to not only be introduced to the material, but to work with it independently then possibly review the concept with another child in the classroom. A good Montessori teacher needs time to observe the students also. Observations are made on the level of concentration of each child, the introduction to the mastery of each piece of material, the social development etc.

Details of Montessori Education

  1. Multi-age grouping: Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, and 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored.
  2. Work centers: The environment (classrooms) is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects – math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc. – will be studied on all levels.
  3. Teaching method: Rather than lecturing to large or small group of children, the teacher is trained to teach one child at a time and to over see the whole classroom working. She is facile in the basics of math, language, the arts, and sciences, and guiding a child’s interest in and excitement about a subject.
  4. Basic lessons: The Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during teacher training practicing the many lessons with materials in all areas. She must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to be certified. She is trained to recognize a child’s readiness – according to age, ability and interest – for a specific lesson, and is prepared to guide individual progress.
  5. Areas of study: All subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation, the teacher modeling a “Renaissance” person of broad interests for the children. A child can work on any material he understands at any time.
  6. Learning styles: All kinds of intelligence and styles of learning – musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intra personal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical – mathematical (reading, writing and math) – are nurtured.
  7. Assessments: Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping.
  8. Requirements for the age 3-6: There are no academic requirements for this age, but children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn to read, write and calculate beyond what is usually thought interesting to a child of this age.