THE MONTESSORI METHOD

What does “Montessori” mean?

At the beginning of the 20th century, Italian physician Maria Montessori revolutionized our understanding of the way children learn. In her work with children, she observed that they naturally absorb knowledge and information from the world around them, and are anxious to practice their growing skills. Montessori created a rich curriculum based on her findings. She introduced what are now universally accepted teaching and materials.

The essence of Montessori education is that every child is treated with respect, given freedom within the limits of a carefully structured environment, and allowed to develop naturally at his or her own pace.

In the Montessori classroom the children choose from a wide range of self-educating and self-correcting activities, working with each for as long as he or she needs to. Montessori is about the development of the human being to its fullest potential.

“Learning the correct answers will get a child through school, but learning how to learn is a preparation for life.” – Maria Montessori

What skills will a Montessori child learn?

In many schools, direction in everyday skills, social graces and discipline are sometimes lacking.

In Montessori Schools, the children learn these skills as well as covering a whole range of academic subjects. At Rising Star Montessori, our certified teachers work closely with the learning materials developed by Maria Montessori which help children learn in a more creative and positive way. We set expectations of appropriate behavior based on respect for people and property.

Dr. Montessori also knew the value of the multi-aged classroom where children who may be at different stages of development can excel or find a comfortable place to learn without frustration and/or failure. As such, the Montessori curriculum works to fit the child rather than the child working to fit the curriculum.

Maria Montessori made a profound discovery about the child. She realized that this freedom to choose moral actions must be present in the child’s life at all times, in the home and in the classroom. She directed that the classroom to offer and protect these opportunities for choice and development. The Montessori classrooms serve in the development of a moral child. It is preparation for life rather than a method of education.

What is the role of the Montessori teacher?

The goal of the Montessori teacher is to “set free the individual’s own potential for constructive self-development.” (Lillard, 1973) The first role of the teacher is to prepare the environment. The teacher “is responsible for the atmosphere and order of the classroom, the display of materials, and the programming of activities, challenges, and changes of pace” to meet each child’s needs. (Lillard, 1973) The teacher is also the link that connects the child to the environment, and must function as a skilled observer to do this effectively. The Montessori teacher is also a partner to parents, seeking with them to determine how best to serve the whole child.

The concept of freedom in the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely so long as he or she is respectful of the other children and the materials.

Where can I find a good, brief, introduction to Montessori from birth through the school years?

At the Michael Olaf Montessori “text” site, which is actually an E-book of Montessori philosophy and practice: www.michaelolaf.net.

What does “follow the child” mean?

One of the most fundamental, and misunderstood, tenet of the Montessori approach is encapsulated in the phrase “Follow the child”.

“Follow the child” does not mean let the child do what he wants. It is simply an acknowledgment that the child has his or her own pattern – that we need to take into account where the child is at, rather than impose our idea of what the child should learn now. Dr. Montessori saw the child’s development as passing through four developmental phases, with a pattern of intense growth reaching a peak and then declining, within each phase.

Each of these developmental phases is marked by:

•a specific developmental goal
•a readily identifiable direction to reach that goal
•specific sensitivities that facilitate reaching that goal

This scenario is the basis for the Montessori structure of 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 classes. The age-bands reflect the developmental phases, and the program and environment provided for that phase reflects the sensitivities characteristic of that phase.

Maria Montessori was ahead of her time in recognizing that babies were active learners, and it is also instructive to note that she saw development continuing to age 24. However, for the most part, Montessori education has concentrated on the periods 3-6 (preschool) and 6-12, with particular emphasis on the preschool years. This emphasis no doubt reflects the much greater void that existed in preschool education.