What is Montessori Education?

THE MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY

Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori based on her extensive research with children and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.

Dr.  Maria Montessori began to develop her philosophy and methods in 1897, attending courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and reading the educational theory of the previous two hundred years.  In 1907, she opened her first classroom, the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a tenement building in Rome.  From the beginning, Montessori based her work on her observations of children and experimentation with the environment, materials, and lessons available to them. She frequently referred to her work as “scientific pedagogy”

The key features of a Montessori Education are:

  • Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common.
  • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options.
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours.
  • A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction.
  • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators.
  • Freedom of movement within the classroom.
  • A trained Montessori teacher.

 

Montessori education is fundamentally a model of human development, and an educational approach based on that model. The model has two basic principles. First, children and developing adults engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environments. Second, children, especially under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development. Based on her observations, Montessori believed that children who are at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development.

Montessori classrooms are beautifully crafted environments designed to meet the needs of children in a specific age range. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that experiential learning in this type of classroom led to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions and much more. Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development, creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities. Children can learn through their own experience and at their own pace. They can respond at any moment to the natural curiosities that exist in all humans and build a solid foundation for life-long learning.

School should offer children more than just academic skills. It should help them grow into confident, compassionate, independent, and self-motivated people. The goal of Montessori education is holistic development; to develop someone who is more than the sum of their test scores. In Montessori classrooms, academic skills are integrated into the natural life of the classroom. Through hands-on play, the most basic foundations of mathematics and literacy are introduced through games, activities, and with special simple materials that appeal to children. Contrary to many adults’ schooling experiences, children in Montessori schools enjoy math, reading and writing, and enthusiastically look forward to their next lesson. This sets up a love of learning that the child will carry with her throughout life.

In a Montessori school, children have fun while they learn, respect and care for the people and things around them, and take responsibility for their actions. This is true preparation for real life.