What is Montessori education?
Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy, founded Montessori education in 1907. She developed her educational method after many years of scientific observations of how children learn. She observed that, given the right environment, children are very good in teaching themselves. So she designed a “prepared environment” where children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Her education methods have flourished over the century and are now recognized literally all over the world. Her educational methods span ages from birth to adolescence.
How does Montessori education differ from traditional education?
In most traditional preschools a teacher teaches the children educational concepts in a group. The Montessori education philosophy emphasizes the development of a child at the cognitive, social, and emotional level. Children learn on their own, at a pace they are comfortable with, and work with a large number of educational materials according to their own choice. Because of this, learning becomes an exciting process for them, which lead to concentration, motivation, and self-discipline. The love for learning comes naturally to them.
Montessori classes are multi-aged where children of different ages work in the same classroom. The older children in the classrooms share their knowledge with the younger ones, reinforcing their knowledge and teaching them leadership. The younger children are inspired by the things the older children can do and strive to grow to that level themselves.
A Montessori teacher is simply a guide stepping in when they see a child is “stuck” or ready to learn a new skill. In a Montessori environment the focus is on the student not the teacher. This allows children to learn independently, with the guidance and support of a teacher whose primary focus is observing how a child learns, and tapping into those styles and approaches that work best for each child.
The Montessori materials used to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, science, music, and social studies are unique. These materials, designed by Maria Montessori are designed specifically with the understanding of how physiological and neurological developments impact a child’s learning. The classroom materials take abstract ideas and put them in a concrete form that makes sense to these developing minds. This can be seen clearly in the materials available for teaching arithmetic.
If my child is left to choose his/her own activities, will he/she tend to do the same thing every day or simply do nothing?
No. The teachers are trained to observe children’s activities. When a child has mastered a skill, the teacher will give the child a lesson that is more challenging, considering the age and interest of each child. Because the environment is so stimulating and exciting, children seldom “do nothing.” There are hundreds of prepared lessons for the child to choose from every day.
How do children transition from Montessori to traditional schools?
It has been our experience, and the experience of virtually all Montessori schools, that the transition is very smooth. The brief adjustment period is no more than the adjustment that occurs when transferring from one traditional to another traditional school. Montessori alumni typically score well on the standardized tests and consistently show enhanced ability for following directions, independent thinking, and adapting to new situations. Teachers often comment on the leadership abilities of the child that comes to them via a Montessori program, as well as their overall depth of knowledge.
How well does the Montessori education prepare the children for success in later life?
Research has shown that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially and emotionally. In a Montessori class, children are engaged in activities which interest them and that they learn from. This engagement, or desire and love of learning is fostered and internalized by the children, leading them to be lifelong learners and be engaged in life after school. In today’s world, being able to “think outside the box” is a big component to success and a Montessori education encourages the creative and critical thinking that creates this trait. For scientific research on the outcomes of Montessori education, see this article.