For those who have not heard about Montessori before, it is important to understand exactly what Montessori is. Montessori is an integrated curriculum. It is based on the research, observations and scientific conclusions drawn up by the Italian Doctor Maria Montessori.
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Starting out to work in education at an asylum for retarded children in 1899, Maria Montessori based her methods of teaching on the works of two French Doctors, Jean Itard and Edouard Séguin.
Through her research and success using integrated learning to teach these children, Maria Montessori came to the conclusion that her new approach to education could be used on mentally fit children as well.
The Principles of Montessori Education
The Montessori philosophy is based around a free-thinking form of learning. It is a philosophy which places the child as the source of education. It is from this understanding that the adult or teacher follows the child in order to assess them developmentally. This creates a free form of proactive learning and exploration on the child’s behalf.
Principles in Montessori education also include respect, independence, hands-on learning, order and discipline, consequences, respect, movement, independence, the prepared environment and interest-based learning
Independence is a fundamental principle of Montessori that children earn through the attainment of discipline. This also allows the child a greater sense of freedom.
Respect in the Montessori curriculum is based mainly around how the child manages himself in relation to the way he treats his peers and teachers.
Discipline is the refinement of internal order in the child which helps them to become more capable to perform such actions as respectful movement and behavior in the outside world.
Movement is a basic necessity for children because they need it in order to internalize what they are learning cognitively, through putting it into action.
5. Prepared Environment
The prepared environment is a basic principle as it forms the basis of a child’s development towards a child’s internalized knowledge that they require in order to build their personalities.
6. Hands-on Learning
Hands-on learning is how children are able to learn information through the independent manipulation of concrete objects. In the Montessori environment, children learn through their senses and movement, which is why hands-on learning is necessary for their learning and development.
7. Interest-based Learning
Interest based learning is a Montessori principle which allows the child to work with the materials in the prepared environment that they are the most naturally drawn to interact with. It puts the child into a place of decision-making as well.
8. Learning Through Consequences
The consequences are when dismissive behavior is managed through a set of outcomes to make up for the child’s behavior rather than punishing them for doing something wrong.
Benefits of the Montessori Method
Children advance quickly
Children placed in a well prepared Montessori environment succeed better than most because the environment and the adults within it cater to their intrinsic developmental needs. This gives the Montessori child an advantage to develop themselves in such a way that learning is natural and can be more easily absorbed in a well prepared environment.
Education is exposed to the child as a means of exploration instead of a hindrance to other parts of their development that are generally being experienced as well. This is why Montessori encourages an environment where the child is able to move about freely and to choose their own work from exploring the shelves wherever possible.
Children develop and learn at their own pace
Children in a Montessori environment are encouraged to learn naturally and according to their developmental needs.
The developmental needs of a child in a Montessori environment take priority. This is the reason that a child is not pushed to learn in any way that will cause him or her to become developmentally deviated. Instead Montessori schools follow a combination of Montessori principles for development and their own understandings through following the child.
Guides respect children and encourage independence
The human being needs to be developed and educated consciously in order to become the kind of fully developed, contributing member of society that is needed in our world today. This will happen best through the adult’s guidance to only be in the regard of attending to the basic needs of the child according to his stage development, without over-assisting, in order to avoid hindering the child.
In this way, education will come as naturally and independently as possible to the child. This is necessary for their self-esteem and sense of independence so that they will become well-rounded and contributing members of their families and societies, as part of their own free will.
“The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens”-Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, p. 28
Independence is encouraged in the Montessori environment by allowing the child the freedom to choose their own work and to perform tasks that they have proved themselves able to complete, without the aid of a guide or a teacher.
What age is best to start with Montessori?
A child can start with Montessori as early as from birth, where the child can spend their infant years absorbing knowledge unconsciously through observing how Montessori toddler tasks are performed.
Their home environments can also be prepared with furniture and materials that best suit the child in order for them to develop progressively into the toddler stage where they will be ready to personally explore their environments.
While most Montessori schools begin at around 3 years of age, some schools will also take on toddlers and infants in their facilities as well.
The stage where the child enters the school is entirely up to the parent. It is suggestible, however, that the child not enter the school any later than three years old, to provide a chance for the child to begin developing themselves independently.
This development occurs through a period of absorption which will only be present in them during one set period of time.
What are Montessori learning materials?
Montessori materials are all based on Maria Montessori’s study on the French doctors, Jean Itard and Edouard Séguin. They are created to capture the child’s interests in a number of different ways.
In young children between the ages of three and six years old, learning materials include the use of practical life activities to directly and indirectly train the child for daily tasks as well as for other tasks such as fine motor control. It also prepares them for sensory learning, providing materials that call the child to focus their attention on one-or more of their senses in order to complete an activity.
During early development, children also learn about language. They often learn their alphabet sounds through the use of sensorial sandpaper letters. Language materials also include indirect activities such as matching and sequencing.
Older children during the primary stage of education may also eventually begin working on the large moveable alphabet as well.
Montessori materials are limited in the Montessori environment, to also help children to learn values such as taking turns and appreciation. The materials generally serve more than one developmental purpose, thereby adding to the idea of Montessori learning being based on an integrated curriculum.
Does freedom mean letting children do whatever they want?
At the heart of Maria Montessori’s educational curriculum, she supported that freedom and independence should be at the very heart of a child’s education.
At the same time, however, Maria Montessori also denoted that the notion of freedom in an educational manner cannot go without discipline in the prepared Montessori environment as well. This, she termed to be as “two sides of one coin.” Her meaning here, to put it simply, is that a developing child cannot experience freedom without discipline and vice-versa.
“The children in our schools are free, but that does not mean there is no organization. Organization, in fact, is necessary . . . if the children are to be free to work.”— Maria Montessori (1967a, p. 244)
Independence, on the other hand, is something which Montessori explains to be an achievement which the child can create through the accomplishment of skill or understanding. This, she believed, was what created a sense of independence in her learners.
For this reason, it is important to understand that although Montessori promotes freedom and independence in children, it is by no means that children are not given set boundaries for their behavior and consequences to their actions if they are unorthodox or unruly.
What is the difference between Montessori schools and traditional schools?
Educational reform, in the light of problems to do with a lack of educational stimulation in students, is generally found in the traditional system of education.
Here these problems are found to be caused primarily by the student’s family situation and on the role of the students’ teachers. Due to this traditional mindset of understanding to do with educational reform, traditional schools have often adopted teacher programs and family counseling as the solution to their problems.
Looking deeper into the traditional education system’s educational problems, however, one can see that the problem lies deeper than the teacher and family. Instead, the problems lie in the cultural mindset of a school and education, which becomes linked to a factory form of traditional education.
This factory-style form of education promotes passive learning, which, according to educationalist Dewy and many others, is not appropriate for the constructive powers of education, during a child’s development.
Instead, what needs to be taken into consideration for the formation of a school, which is primarily how children develop. Secondly, what needs to also be taken into consideration is how this causes children to construct the information they are learning in their minds and in their personalities.