In the early 1900's, Dr. Maria Montessori, a native of Italy, developed a system of education based on her observation of the natural development of children. The Montessori approach builds independent people who learn to take responsibility for themselves, their actions, and most importantly, their learning. Based on its understanding of children's development, the Montessori philosophy is able to present an individualized curriculum of self-directed work. The Montessori teacher ensures that each child pursues developmentally appropriate academic, practical life and social learning experiences.
"The first duty of an educator is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop."
- Maria Montessori
- Maria Montessori
How is a Montessori class structured?
A Montessori class is comprised of a group of children with an age span covering several years. There is a wide range of activities available to the children at all age and maturity levels, which reinforce and make possible the Montessori ideas of individualized work and progress as well as independence. The combination of different ages allows the children the opportunity to learn from each other and permits the older children to reinforce their knowledge by sharing their skills with the younger or less advanced children.
Since Montessori believes that children learn best through their own efforts, the role of the Montessori teacher is that of an "objective observer". The teacher does not serve as the single source of information in the classroom; she acts in a supportive position by preparing the classroom, evaluating the children, and providing them with new materials as they indicate their need and readiness. She gives lessons on how to use the materials, and then steps into the background, allowing the children to assume more and more responsibility.
Are there any group activities in a Montessori class?
Although the emphasis in a Montessori class is on a child's ability to grow and progress on a purely individual basis, there are ample opportunities for him to become aware of himself in relation to the other children in the class. Children frequently come together for small group activities, usually two or four at a time, as a natural part of the daily life of the class. There are also regular gatherings of the class as a whole for activities such as lunch, singing, planning for future events or activities, and discussion of matters relating to the group as a whole. We in many ways encourage a community spirit within each class and from each class to the entire school. The philosophy of the classroom in this regard is similar to the smooth functioning of a peaceful planet; a self-sufficient community where the individual's needs are being met, where through purposeful work, each child contributes to his own development as well as to the group as a whole.
What is the Montessori concept of discipline?
The Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline" - control which the child develops over his own behavior through his interest in the Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called "undisciplined" children were really frustrated by lack of proper stimulation, and would become happier and self-controlled after a period of time in a Montessori class. When a child's intellectual energies are utilized in a constructive manner, there is no energy left over for mischievousness, or deviation. This is true "inner discipline".
What are "sensitive periods"?
Sensitive periods are blocks of time in a child's life when she is absorbed in one characteristic of her development to the exclusion of all others. They appear in the individual as "an intense interest for repeating certain actions at length, for no obvious reason, until - through repetition - a fresh function suddenly appears with explosive force." Montessori observed sensitive periods in the child's life for the acquisition of language, movement, sensory impressions, order, and social relations. Montessori teachers are trained to recognize these special times in a child's development and to lead the child to the corresponding appropriate materials.
What reasons are there for the child to remain through the end of the Primary Program?
The beginning year is an introduction to learning of all kinds and social acclimation; the middle year is one of acquisition of knowledge and growth in self-assurance, with a continued dependence on the environment. The final year (called the kindergarten year in traditional schools) is a time of consolidation and mastery of knowledge, and of creative development. The growth that takes place in this last year is remarkable. These children are the leaders in the classroom. They enjoy giving lessons to the younger ones, thereby reinforcing their own knowledge. The opportunity to be a role model enhances their self-esteem and they take this responsibility very seriously. Academically, final year students blossom. It is only if they are able to complete the program that they will reap the full benefits of the primary Montessori materials.
What happens to children who transfer from Montessori to public school?
Due to increasing flexibility on the part of the public school, with such programmed reading and other efforts to individualize education, the transfer from Montessori is usually fairly smooth. There is, of course, an initial adjustment period, just as there is in any transfer between schools. The actual time this takes will depend greatly on your child's adaptability to new situations. A child coming from Montessori is usually characterized by a rather special attitude toward learning: it is a personal discovery with self-satisfaction its greatest reward. With this background a child is able to continue to develop this positive attitude toward learning. It is strongly recommended that children with Montessori experience transfer in accordance with the natural planes of development; that is, after they have completed the full primary and/or elementary sequence and have acquired the essence of the program.