What is “Montessori Education?”
How did it begin?
Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of “The Montessori Method of Education,” based this new education on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior. As the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, Montessori became involved with education as a doctor treating children labeled as retarded. Then in 1906 she was invited to open a daycare center for the children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome.
She called it “A Children’s House,” and developed an environment geared to the size, pace and interests of boys and girls between the ages of three and six.
Montessori’s dynamic theories included such revolutionary premises as:
Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
What makes Montessori education unique?
The “whole child” approach. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning and to develop self-esteem and independence.
The “Prepared Environment”. In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment-room, materials and social climate-must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which enables them to try new things and build self-confidence.
The Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori’s observations of the kinds of “toys” which children enjoy and return to play with repeatedly led her to design a number of multi-sensory sequential and self-correcting materials which facilitate the learning of skills and concepts. Our teachers follow “Montessori principles” as they structure new activities for the classroom.
The teacher. Originally called a “Directress” the Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning. She is a role model, designer of the environment, resource person, demonstrator, record-keeper and observer of each child’s growth and development. She encourages, respects, and loves each child as a special, unique individual; she also provides support for parents and joins them in partnership to nurture the development of the child.
How does it work?
Each Montessori class, from toddlers through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules, which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs-respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials he may introduce to individual children or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The three-year-age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation-language experiences-in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.
Provided by the American Montessori Society
30 Hobart Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94402
T: (650) 571-0343
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