Montessori — it's marketed to parents at every turn in today's progressive world. But what is it? And how does it apply to learning? Let's explore the core of what makes Montessori unique; the person, the philosophy, and the method.
The Person of Montessori
After much opposition and perseverance, Maria Montessori was one of the first women in Italy to graduate from medical school and become a practicing physician in 1896. Her victory bolstered and birthed a movement for women to work and study in previously prohibited fields.
Within the early years of Miss Montessori's medical practice, she became interested in educational theory, particularly regarding blind, deaf, and non-verbal children. She believed that children held an immeasurable capacity for learning from the moment of birth - and it became a catalyst for Montessori education.
Soon, Maria opened a home-like school - the first Casa Dei Bambini - in the slums of Italy. As she observed children, she learned about their needs and afforded them the freedom to explore their interests; learning became spontaneous and natural. Maria believed that education went beyond a desk and provided children with a hands-on approach to learning.
A Philosophy in Education and Life
"Play is the work of the child."
Montessori is a philosophy of education and child life - ultimately, it seeks to foster a child's independence and love of learning. Miss Montessori believed education should be rooted in a richly prepared environment and provide children with the freedom to explore. This independence begins at an early age, even as early as infancy. The belief is that adults must never do for a child what they can do for themselves. The role of a Montessori teacher is to guide a child - and never anything more.
The Basics of The Method
Respect for the child
- Montessori teaches us to deeply respect children - this means not interrupting them when they're concentrating, allowing them to discover their own mistakes, and observing them without judgment.
Observation of the Child within the Environment/Freedom Within Limits
- The core belief of Montessori is that children are self-motivated to learn and will learn better when they have a personal interest.
The Montessori Guide
- In Montessori education, teachers observe children in their environment and then guide them through it based on their abilities and interests.
The Absorbent Mind / Sensitive Periods
- In Montessori, there is a belief that children have "sensitive periods" - a period of burning interest in something, during which a child acquires a new specific skill. Montessori believes children learn best during these periods.
- The Montessori environment is orderly, clean, pleasant, and beautiful. Children are encouraged to care for their own space.
The Prepared Environment
- Montessori classrooms are structured meaningfully- everything has a purpose and place. Learning materials and furniture are child-sized and designed for tiny hands. Everything is open and accessible to the child.
Movement and Cognition
- Equipment and activities, such as climbers, are placed and used in the classroom to encourage movement. Montessori believes these movements develop connections in the brain to foster gross and fine motor movement.
- Peace is the guide of Montessori education. Students practice simple lessons such as greeting others, using their manners, and living in harmony with themselves, others, and the natural environment.
Montessori Materials and Repetition
- Montessori supports learning through repetition and practice - the goal is for children to be able to differentiate between differences and variations in the world around them.
How does Montessori Overflow Into Early Childhood Education and Parenting Today?
Many preschools and private schools are incorporating the Montessori philosophy into their teachings even if they aren't a Montessori establishment - for example, allowing children freedom during play. Respect, freedom, and movement are the most important beliefs that emulate the Montessori method.
Has Montessori Changed the Way We Parent and Play Without us Knowing?
Montessori has changed how we view children's education and play - with play becoming a valuable asset in developing life skills. Parents are seeking high-quality, durable, and beautiful toys that align themselves with Montessori principles. Ideally, to provide unique opportunities for learning compared to the less consciously produced toys on the market.
You can consider a play essential based in Montessori if it:
-prepares the hand for writing
-provides mastery of skill through repetition
-encourages spontaneous direct and indirect learning
-encourages creativity and independent play
-is made from natural materials and
-encourages care and respect
As a Montessori teacher, I believe the most important aspects of Montessori rest not in the method but in the philosophy. The philosophy cultivates respect for children and seeks to nurture a lifelong love of learning. We can all do that by putting our children in the way of "real things"!
Valery Brown grew up climbing hay-bales in fields as far as the eye can see in the beautiful countryside of Haldimand County Ontario, Canada where she lives with her husband and their three children. She is a CMI accredited Montessori Teacher — turned Classical Education homeschool mom, and a licensed Parenting Class Facilitator for peaceful solutions for parents and kids. A wife, a mother, and a lover of Jesus - she knows the joys and the bustle of the too-busy-to-breathe lifestyle of moms everywhere, and the heartache of sick kids. Valery’s own experience parenting kids with trauma ignited a passion for helping families heal from and prevent ongoing childhood trauma in their kids through building strong parent-child connections. She also hopes to inspire parents of children with disabilities to find the grace they need for each day through stories, because she believes stories can change the world.