All parents hope to find the best educational program for their children. And they recognize the lasting impact that early learning experiences have on a child’s development and future learning. What is it about the Montessori philosophy and practice that is so appealing to parents?
For more than a century, Montessori has been thriving around the globe, and contemporary research validates the effectiveness of the Montessori Method. Several key elements of the approach meet the educational goals today’s parents have for their children, including growing into capable people who will be have a strong sense of self, the ability to connect with others, and the potential to be productive throughout their lives. With Montessori, that growth starts early. The early years (birth through age 6) are a critical time to set a strong foundation for who a child will become and the role she or he will play in the future. A Montessori education develops students who are capable, accountable, knowledgeable people who have the strong sense of self they will need to thrive in the real world.
“Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world.”
DR. MARIA MONTESSORI
A Montessori classroom is thoughtfully designed to offer children opportunities to develop their own capabilities, whether it is learning how to dress themselves independently, multiply a multi-digit equation, communicate their needs effectively, or problem solve with others. Each classroom is filled with developmentally appropriate activities that encourage children to interact with specific learning materials, as well as to work cooperatively with others. The classroom is intentionally prepared with only one of each activity. Students are free to choose the activity they wish to work with, so they learn to make choices based on what they are interested in and what is available. While some children will naturally choose to work with others, often the youngest students focus on solo activities. As children mature, the curriculum intentionally provides small group instruction and collaborative activities. The combination of independent, partner, small-group, and whole-group lessons and activities introduces children to different learning relationships and interpersonal dynamics—valuable skills for their interactions outside the classroom! Allowing children to make their own choices based on internal motivation rather than adult direction sets a strong foundation for developing capable children.
“Montessori helped me become the person I am today.”
STEPHEN CURRY, NBA MVP AND A MONTESSORI ALUM (PRESCHOOL – GRADE 6)
In a child-centered classroom where learning activities are presented individually to children, students progress at their own pace. They are given opportunities to practice, review, or move forward based on their own interests and capabilities. They take charge of their own learning and become accountable for their own knowledge. In a Montessori classroom, teachers assess students on a daily basis, using their observations of each child’s interactions in the environment and with peers. They use their knowledge of child development and academic outcomes to prepare an environment that is simultaneously stimulating and academically, physically, socially, and emotionally accessible. They develop an individualized learning plan for each child, based on his or her unique interests and abilities. The teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions and learn how to seek out new knowledge themselves. Self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.
The Montessori Method nurtures order, coordination, concentration, and independence in children from the moment they enter the classroom. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the student’s emerging self-regulation—the ability to educate oneself, and to think about what one is learning—from toddlers through adolescents. The sequence of Montessori lessons aligns well, and in many cases exceeds, state learning standards, ensuring that children are introduced to complex learning concepts through hands-on experiences that leads to deep understanding. The Montessori curriculum is intentionally grouped into 3-year cycles, rather than broken out into year-by-year expectations for student learning. This respects the fact that children develop and master academic topics at different speeds, and that in reality, children often work in particular content areas in spurts. The teacher supports the child’s growth through all areas of the curriculum to ensure that he or she is exposed to the full sequence of lessons in each area and to provide support and new challenge as needed.
Sense of Self
A Montessori class is composed of students whose ages typically span 3 years. Ideally, students stay with the class, and teacher, for the entire cycle, forging a stable community and meaningful bonds. It is common to see students of different ages working together. Older students enjoy mentoring their younger classmates—sometimes the best teacher is someone who has recently mastered the task at hand. Younger students look up to their big “brothers” and “sisters,” and get a preview of the alluring work to come. As children mature in the Montessori classroom over the 3-year period, they understand that they are a part of a community where everyone has their own individual needs, but also contributes to the community. Children exercise independence, but are also given opportunities to work with their peers and to support others when they are in need. Developing independence and pursuing one’s own interests in the context of a caring community fosters a strong sense of self in each student, and encourages pride in one’s own a unique individuality. Dr. Maria Montessori, the Italian pediatrician and visionary educator who founded the Method, believed that when children are given the freedom to choose their own learning activities a self-confident, inquisitive, creative child emerges. As it turns out, this approach, which is over 100 years old, is exactly what parents are looking for today.