What is Montessori?
Born in 1870, Maria Montessori was ahead of her time. The first woman in Italy to become a doctor, Maria Montessori studied first the body and then the mind. Through her medical observations she began to analyze how children learn. She observed that there is a natural drive within a child to make his or her own place in the world. Out of her desire to help and understand children, she created the first “Children’s House.” Today, the Children’s House refers to the Montessori 3 to 6 year old classroom. The Montessori classroom is prepared with love and an attention to detail that nourishes the physical and spiritual needs of the young child.
“It is almost possible to say that there is a mathematical relationship between the beauty of his surroundings and the activity of the child; he will make discoveries rather more voluntarily in a gracious setting than in an ugly one.” ~ Maria Montessori
The surroundings in a Montessori classroom are called the Prepared Environment and they say to a child, “This place is special. This place is for children. Children are valued here.” The Prepared Environment is clean, inviting, and beautiful; all of the furnishings are child sized; it is full of meticulously maintained materials in impeccable order; and the environment speaks to a child’s spirit with live animals and plants, art carefully displayed at the child’s level, and objects from nature.
“Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.”~ Maria Montessori
Another component of the Montessori Method is the Aware Adult. Children learn by interacting with their environment. The Aware Adult defines the limits within that prepared environment. Using grace in movement and precise language, the adult attracts a child to the materials via a lesson or presentation. The Aware Adult creates the connection between the child and the materials. After the presentation is made, the child is then free to explore the materials and work with them independently.
“To give a child liberty is not to abandon him to himself.”~ Maria Montessori
With this freedom to explore comes responsibility. Children are free to choose their own work and move freely around the classroom as long as they are exercising self- control and respect for others. This self-discipline is developed by concentrating on their work with guidance from the adult.
“Following his own direction he becomes quiet and contented, becoming an active worker, a being calm and full of joy.”~ Maria Montessori
Children are at the heart of the Montessori Method. In fact, Maria Montessori encourages us to always follow the child. The Aware Adult in the classroom does not teach the children, but rather creates a nurturing climate in which children can teach themselves through creative activity, exploration and discovery. We trust children, and we follow them, helping them on their journey of self-construction.
“Education demands, then, only this: the utilization of the inner powers of the child for his own instruction.”~ Maria Montessori
Each child’s journey is filled with a series of Sensitive Periods. These creative moments are when children show a spontaneous interest in learning. A Sensitive Period is a limited time span in which a child demonstrates a strong attraction and ability to acquire a specific skill or to learn a particular aspect of his or her environment. The stage of attraction is short and the skill cannot be learned later with the same ease and depth that is provided by these periods of sensitivity.
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”~ Maria Montessori
It’s easiest to recognize a child’s sensitive periods by considering the Sensitive Period of Walking. Children are driven by an irresistible impulse as they attempt to walk. Young children walk to perfect their own ability. The work of walking is its own reward to the child. As parents, we would never tell a child that it’s time to be taught to walk or that the child must wait to learn to walk. We recognize when this Sensitive Period begins, and we begin to guide the child within the environment as the child discovers and masters this new ability. Each area of the Montessori classroom is designed, ordered, and structured to appeal to each sensitive period. As a window of interest opens, the child moves to a certain area or material in the classroom and, through the assistance of the aware adult, the child connects with the material in spontaneous understanding. As a child moves through each sensitive period, the whole child begins to emerge.
“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.”~ Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori’s discovery of the Sensitive Periods was foundational in the future research and study of child development. Piaget used her ideas to develop the developmental milestones.
“Maria Montessori believed that education, rather than being a rote transfer of information, must seek to serve the “whole child” and to nurture the human potential of each individual. A child naturally learns to walk and talk, and Montessori found that within the child is the same type of ability to naturally acquire skills for reading, writing and mathematics. In the Montessori environment the material are designed to beself-correcting, which allows the child to learn in an atmosphere of success and positive reinforcement. The child corrects his own errors as he works towards mastery of concepts, through repetition of manipulations with the material. His motivation is not for external reward but for internal fulfillment. The educational philosophy and methodology of Montessori is not just another educational theory. It is the“scientific method” of education. Montessori employed the scientific method in her observations of the child and applied her knowledge of medicine to create a new model of the human stages of development.”~ S.V. Wilhelmi
TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM VS MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
|Traditional Classroom||Montessori Classroom|
|Textbooks, pencil and paper, worksheets||Prepared kinesthetic materials with incorporated control of error, specially developed reference materials|
|Working and learning without emphasis on social development||Working and learning matched to the social development of the child|
|Narrow, unit-driven curriculum||Unified, internationally developed curriculum|
|Individual subjects||Integrated subjects and learning based on developmental psychology|
|Block time, period lessons||Uninterrupted work cycles|
|Single-graded classrooms||Multi-age classrooms|
|Students passive, quiet, in desks||Students active, talking, with periods of spontaneous quiet, freedom to move|
|Students fit mold of school||School meets needs of students|
|Students leave for special help||Special help comes to students|
|Product-focused report cards||Process-focused assessment, skills checklists, mastery benchmarks|
Monarch Montessori School embodies all that is beautiful and nurturing about Montessori education. In turn the children experience the utmost in early childhood education. The Montessori classroom is profoundly different from the familiar, traditional classroom. The prepared space is organized with great care and the educational materials are presented specifically to enhance each developmental and emotional phase of the child. The use of space, art, light, and physical materials creates a world specifically geared for the 3 to 6 year old child. We follow the Montessori Method fully while carefully employing the results of current research in the field of child-development to meet the needs of the 21st century child.
“Our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to ‘make them learn things’, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence.”~ Maria Montessori