Montessori Education is a method of education founded on knowledge of the development of the body and mind of the child as discovered by Dr Maria Montessori.
Maria Montessori 1870-1952
Dr Montessori was a person of great depth and insight. She was Italy’s first female doctor before stepping into the field for which she is so well known: early childhood education. She was an ambassador for world peace with the UNICEF Charter of Human Rights, and Rights of the CHILD were adopted directly from her.
The Montessori Method
There is no mystery to the Montessori Philosophy. Its approach is scientific and an education for parent and child alike. Children have a natural love of learning. The Montessori Philosophy is simply that education begins at birth, and that during the first six years of life the child’s power of absorption is learning at its highest. From six to twelve years of age the foundations of learning are expanded to embrace and direct the child’s questioning mind, imagination and unlimited energy into exploration and research.
Essentially, education should be an ‘aid to life’- a means of fulfilling our human potential.
Montessori Education is centred on the child, with the Montessori ‘Director’ (Teacher) guiding rather than teaching. They are facilitators in the child’s learning process. The Montessori Director presents the information to the child in a climate of mutual respect. By following and observing the child, the Montessori Director can recognise and respond to each child’s individual needs.
Development of self esteem, tolerance, mutual respect and concern for others are traits that are nurtured in a Montessori environment.
When you enter the Montessori school, the first thing that strikes you as a parent is the secure and harmonious environment. It is this environment that is the key to developing the child’s sense of wellbeing. Montessori Schools have no ethnic or religious boundaries. They are multi-denominational, recognising that the education of our children is fundamental and should be accessible to all.
The Montessori ‘Director’
Dr Montessori chose the name ‘Director’ to differentiate traditional teachers from Montessori teachers. The former predominantly engage in ‘instructional teaching’ whereas the latter ‘facilitate and guide.’
The basic principle of Montessori Education is respect for the child in the learning process.
It is as much an acute understanding of how children acquire knowledge, as it is helping them to discover knowledge that directly sets the Montessori teacher apart.
Montessori teachers regard themselves as facilitators who present knowledge, concepts and understandings at the right stage in the child’s development. They are patient and encouraging people who place great importance in preserving the child’s self esteem in a non-competitive classroom environment that does not compare one student with another. They work with the children individually (or in small groups), are empathetic and pro active to their learning needs, and each child and parent can see his or her demonstrative progress and intellectual development.
To become a Montessori teacher requires extensive specialised Montessori studies.
How does this compare with contemporary research in Education?
Current research into the brain, its development, and how people learn, has highlighted the following issues, which are critical to maximise individual potential.
- The brain is very much hard wired in terms of ‘habits of mind’ during 0-6years.
- Therefore, the period 3-6 years in a Margaret River Montessori classroom is an extremely ‘sensitive’ period where the brain absorbs critical foundation skills- in particular language, work ethic, attention, independence, sense of order and creativity, problem solving and self-reflective management skills.
Montessori classrooms are ‘prepared environments’, structured to meet the developing needs of children. They contain specially designed materials so that all theoretical learning can be backed up with practical experience.
Several age groups work together and children are encouraged to assist and teach each other so that team skills are developed. Competition is discouraged in order for children to become actively involved in collaborative work.
Dr Maria Montessori’s observations that in learning situations children prefer to work rather than play; that they prefer order to disorder; silence to noise; self-mastery to dependence; and cooperation to competition; are reflected in all our classrooms.
The emphasis is on children achieving self-discipline. This discipline, however, does not
develop by itself, but is taught and nurtured. Boundaries are therefore recognised and
Montessori classrooms differ from traditional ones in that:
- There are few /blackboards;
- A Montessori teacher does not instruct the whole class from the front of the room;
- Children’s work is not displayed in a manner to ‘compare’ them. This teaches them to appreciate their own endeavours, and not to be reliant on the judgement of others in order to value their work or themselves.
- There are no external rewards, award certificates or stars. It is important that a child’s work should not be subject to externally imposed rewards. However, this is not to say that student achievements are not celebrated.