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What is Montessori?



Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to eighteen years old.

Dr. Montessori lived from 1870 to 1952. She was the first female Doctor of Medicine in Italy. Through her initial work with handicapped and socially deprived children, she began to develop her unique educational philosophy. As a result of her further study, observation, and experimentation, she found the principles of her method to be applicable to all children. She has had an impact on the field of education in general and the way we understand and teach children today.

Montessori materials incorporate the child's senses in the learning process. Materials in the classroom are for manipulating as we believe a child learns by doing. There is a direct hand to brain connection in the young child that is nurtured in a Montessori environment. Children in a Montessori classroom gain independence and develop responsibility toward themselves and their environment. A Montessori child is a well-rounded individual whose social skills are nurtured as much as his/her academic skills. Children in a Montessori school enjoy the freedom to learn in a friendly, peaceful environment in which no child gets lost in the crowd.

The Montessori Method is a child-directed form of learning where a child learns at their own pace through specially designed learning tools and self-correcting "games" in multi-age classrooms. These games are called "materials" or "works" in Montessori. Each child is given his/her lessons individually (or in small groups) according to the child's personal skills and interests. Often children absorb information quickly since the materials are specifically designed to be engaging, fun and effective for their development level, and each child learns at their own pace. This gives Montessori its reputation for excellence in academics.

What is the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method has three main parts:

  • The Child
  • The Environment
  • The Directress

The Montessori Method can help children to grow in many ways. It allows them to learn the way they learn best and easiest by doing things themselves.

Each Montessori class, from toddlers through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs-respect for each other and for the environment.

The Montessori Method is built on children's natural life-long motivation for continuous learning. It helps children remain in touch with their natural growth and development and avoids forcing them to do anything they are not truly ready for.

What is the Montessori classroom environment?

The Montessori environment is your child's "teacher". In a Montessori school, children teach themselves through the use of the specially designed Montessori materials. These are attractive, generally simple, child-sized materials that are self-correcting, that is, if a child makes an error, they can see it by looking at the material itself. Because they can choose their own work and do it at their own pace, the child had many opportunities for success.

What is the Montessori classroom?

The Montessori classroom includes children of different ages. By placing children in a classroom with children of varying ages (usually between 2½ and 6 years), you are exposing them to a wide range of learning possibilities. The Montessori classroom covers a number of different areas. The "Practical Life" area is especially for the very young child (2½ - 3½ years) and teaches them how to care for themselves and environment. Here, children will learn to dress themselves by using the dressing frames (buttons, snaps, zipper, buckles, pins, laces, bows, and hocks and eyes), to pour (rice and water), to clean a table, to polish silver and to properly wash their hands, among other things. The "Sensorial" area allows them to use their sense to learn about the world. Here, children will learn to judge different heights, lengths, weights, color, sounds, smells, shapes, and textures. The language, math, geography, and science areas provide children with aids for their intellectual development. Exercises in body movement assists them in physical development and awareness of their body and what it can do.

What is the Montessori concept of freedom?

Freedom is a prerequisite condition for learning. Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems for himself, but is capable of asking for and receiving direction when necessary. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, but is a slave to his immediate desires and is excessively dependent on others. The free child, of course, grows into a free adult.

What is the Montessori concept of discipline?

Discipline is the second prerequisite condition for learning. Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline"; an inner control which the child develops over his own behavior through working with Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated because of the lack of proper stimulation and inadequate opportunity to achieve. In our Montessori environments children become happy and self-controlled after working with materials that they are truly interested in. After a period of time in a Montessori class children experience challenging tasks absorbing their energies and resulting in a sense of achievement.

What is the role of the Montessori teacher (directress)?

The Montessori Directress has many jobs to do. Unlike the teacher in a traditional school, the Montessori directress is not the center of the classroom. Instead, she is very often hardly noticeable in the room as the children are working. She has no desk and spends her time working with children at child-sized tables or on the child's individual rugs. The directress must be a keen observer of children and needs to have a clear idea of each child's individual level of development. She then determines what materials are best for each child to work with. She guides each individual child in this way and helps them learn the proper use of each material. She must be flexible and willing to try new ideas to help each child. Children come to see the directress as a friendly helper and guide, someone who is there when needed, but thinks for themselves.


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