The montessori method
The concepts of the Montessori approach to education are elegant in their simplicity, yet based on sophisticated understandings of the relationship between human development, learning, and environment. Dr. Montessori used her keen scientific eye to closely study children in a variety of countries and from a number of different cultures and backgrounds. She came to the conclusion that the human mind is constructed to organize and learn from the environment.
Based on this recognition, Dr. Montessori developed a prepared environment carefully designed to support the young child’s “absorbent mind” and to assist their complete development. This guiding idea is not meant to be a method passed on from one teacher to the next through a written curriculum, study-guide, or syllabus. It is a fundamental way of experiencing children.
Although she recognized that children develop in a similar way: ”Every child has certain characteristics that are the same as every other child…” Montessori was also sensitive to children's’ unique individuality: ”Every child is a unique individual that needs to be understood, respected, admired and unconditionally accepted as a precious gift of life.”
What is Montessori?
Montessori education is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. The inherent flexibility allows the method to adapt to the needs of the individual regardless of the level of ability, learning style, or social maturity.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The children’s inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration, motivation, persistence, and discipline. Within this framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities, during the crucial years of their development.
The more experienced children share what they have learned with those new to the group. Each child’s unique personality is encouraged; each child is respected as an important member of a community.
Discovering the joy of learning and developing social and intellectual discipline lay the foundation for a happy, productive life. The children develop an appreciation for the world while becoming responsible human beings and active member of harmonious society.
The role of a Montessori teacher is one of guide and observer, whose ultimate goal is to intervene less as the child develops. The teacher builds an atmosphere of clam, order, and joy in the classroom and encourages the children in all their efforts, thus promoting self-confidence and discipline. With the younger students at each level, the teacher is more active, demonstrating the use of materials and presenting activities based on an assessment of the child’s needs. Knowing when to observe and intervene is a skill the Montessori teacher develops during a rigorous, specialized course of training.
School standards help to maintain the level of excellence that Maria Montessori envisioned. Below, Dr. Montessori’s own words explain the rationale for these standards.
On uninterrupted work time:
“Left to themselves, the children work ceaselessly; they do not worry about the clock … after long and continuous activity the children’s capacity for work does not appear to diminish, but to improve.”
On having one set of materials in each classroom:
“The fundamental fact in the preparation of the environment is to have only one set of each type of material. When there is only one specimen of each object and if a piece is in use when another child wants it, the latter will wait for it to be released. Since this happens every hour of the day for years, the idea of respecting others, and of waiting one’s turn, becomes a habitual part of life which always grows more mature.”