There are many things which no teacher can convey to a child of three, but a child of five can do it with ease.
— Dr. Maria Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori’s Method and Philosophy
Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori’s first Casa dei Bambini (“Children’s House”) in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world. Beginning her work over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this educational approach based on her understanding of children’s natural learning tendencies as they unfold in “prepared environments” for multi-age groups.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a special way for children and adults to be together. Every aspect of the experience is planned to help children become confident, capable, creative, caring and happy people who are a delight to be with.
The Montessori philosophy of education influences all aspects the child’s experience. All activities are carefully planned to make it easy for children to become that special person each child can be.
Teachers are called directress to remind them to gently direct and guide the children in their activities rather than dictate the child’s every move. This leads to mutual respect and affection helping the children develops confidence in their own ability.
The variety of materials to explore, the teacher’s quiet demonstration of their possibilities, and the time available for the child to watch older children, all work together to help the child develop the courage to try new things. Children are encouraged to thoroughly explore an activity. They quickly learn to examine a problem carefully, seeking the possibilities….discovering the solution. We see the maturing child’s confidence in their own ability grow. At an early age the child discovers the scientist’s delight in solving problems, the mathematician’s delight in playing with patterns, the artist’s delight in creation, the sociologist’s and psychologist’s delight in understanding people and the leaders delight in getting things done with people.
Montessori sets the stage to allow groups of children to have these experiences without infringing on each other’s rights or needs.
The effects of this program, when reinforced in the home, can be seen in high school students who organize their own work schedule or produce quality work on time without prodding. It is also seen in older children who intuitively understand the science, math, language and history they played with in long forgotten Montessori classes. We see it in grown up young men and women who are amazed to find that others didn’t start making little decisions at age two or three, and now haven’t had enough experience to make wise adult decisions.
What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in multi-age groups, forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education. Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to their peers.
The First Six Years
Today the importance of the formative first six years of life is common knowledge. During this time a child becomes fully a member of their particular culture and family group, absorbing language, attitudes, manners, values, of those in which he or she comes in daily contact. A child, who spends the first six years in a loving and supportive environment, learns to love herself and feels safe in the world. A child who has experienced the joy of making a contribution to her family or group, learns to love making an effort, and feels needed.
Every child, by instinct, wants to learn and grow to the limit of his abilities. In the first six years of life he does this by imitating those around him. To support this need we must carefully prepare the physical and social environment, provide tools that enable the child to work to create himself, watch for those first tentative moments of concentration, and get out of the way, following the child as his path unfolds.
What is the Montessori Philosophy
According to Dr. Maria Montessori, “A child’s work is to create the person she/he will become.” Children are born with special mental powers which aid in the work of their own construction. But they cannot accomplish the task of self-construction without purposeful movement, exploration, and discovery of their environment—both the things and people within it. They must be given the freedom to use their inborn powers to develop physically, intellectually, and spiritually. A Montessori classroom provides this freedom within the limits of an environment which develops a sense of order and self-discipline.
Also basic to Montessori’s philosophy is her discovery of Sensitive Periods in children’s development. During these periods children seek certain stimuli with immense intensity, to the exclusion of all others. So it is during this time that a child can most easily master a particular learning skill. Dr. Montessori devised special materials to aid children in each Sensitive Period. It is the responsibility of the teacher to recognize these periods in individual children and put them in touch with the appropriate materials in the classroom environment.
The focus of Montessori education continually changes to adapt to the child’s natural stages of development. Montessori described these stages as Planes of Development, which occur in approximately six year intervals, each of which is further subdivided into three year segments. These Planes of Development are the basis for the three year age groupings found in Montessori school classes: ages three to six; six to nine; nine to twelve; and twelve to fifteen.
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