Who is Maria Montessori?
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician, educator, philosopher and humanitarian. She is best known for her philosophy and method of education from birth to adolescence. She was the first female doctor of medicine in Italy, and through her interest in pediatrics, psychiatry, and educational theory, she proposed her own philosophy of child development. This forms the basis for the successful and enduring teaching method known as the “Montessori Method”.
What is the “Montessori Method”?
All Children have Absorbent Minds
They have a phenomenal inborn ability to learn with ease, especially from birth to the age of 6 years, but to reach their full potential their environment must be rich in learning opportunities. On entering the Montessori classroom, your child will instantly be able to choose from a great range of activities appropriate to his stage of development.
- Children have an Inborn Drive to Learn
In the Montessori classroom, the teacher does not impose learning on your child but harnesses this desire to learn, guiding your child within a carefully structured environment designed to help him reach his full potential.
- Children Learn Through Being Active
Few young children are good at sitting and listening. They learn in an active, concrete way. Most activities are self-correcting, so after being shown once, your child learns by exploring and experimenting with this unique material. From their earliest days in school, children are introduced in a fun and practical way to a far-reaching curriculum including numeracy, literacy, science, history, geography, music, art, games and dance, languages and social skills.
- Children Pass Through ‘Sensitive Periods.’
These are phases in a child’s life when he becomes particularly interested in certain skills, and learning is therefore especially fast and acute. An obvious example is the sensitive period for language development from birth to 4 years. In the classroom, your child is given the freedom to choose his activities and, therefore, can focus on his particular interests until he moves on to his next sensitive period.
- The Three-Year Cycle
A fundamental feature of Montessori education is the “Three Year Cycle”. It is typical to see 3 to 6-year old children in the same classroom. This provides the child with the consistency of the same classroom and community setting and often the same teacher for three consecutive years. During these years, each child will have the opportunity to develop and learn at his/her own pace. Younger children will have the benefit of observing the older children, and the eldest children serve as great role models for their younger peers. This solidifies their knowledge and positive sense of self by helping their younger classmates. The Montessori “family” is essential to its success!
- What should I expect when I observe a Montessori Environment?
There should be a lovely buzz of activity. Children are free to move in their “Casa” or “house”.
The class should be attractive, organized, esthetically pleasing. You will see lovely child-sized furniture and shelving housing the beautiful Montessori materials. Often you will see pretty little vases of flowers on the tables and pleasing artwork on the walls.
You might see the children unrolling mats on the floor. The mat areas provide a place where the child can set up his individual work. Other children will be careful to go to those mats so that they do not disturb their peer or his/her work.
Children competently carry trays and materials and are helpful in the class. The children take pride in a class that functions effectively.