The Montessori Method
The Montessori approach to education is founded on scientific observations made over 100 years ago, in 1907, by Dr. Maria Montessori. An educational pioneer, Dr. Montessori proved that children ages 3 to 6 years learn best directly from their environment.
During early childhood, a love of beauty, order, and repetition is evident, as is an innate desire to learn; it is during these years that the process of learning comes into consciousness. The Montessori materials, the prepared environment, and the Montessori teachers all work in concert to allow your child to learn from and get the most out of his or her surroundings, now and in the future. While the first 2 years of the program are essential, the third year—the kindergarten year—is invaluable. It culminates the Montessori early childhood experience by bringing together and building upon concepts isolated during the previous two years, and it allows for children’s continued social and intellectual growth.
THE PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
The prepared environment of a Montessori classroom is child-centered and is comprised of 5 distinct areas--practical life, sensorial, math, language, and culture/geography. The environment includes the Montessori materials and child-sized furniture and also extends to the ground-rules, class schedule, and the number of adults and children in the classroom at any one time. Prepared appropriately, the simple yet enriched environment facilitates coordinated movement, independence, a sense of community, cooperation, communication, respect for self, others, and the environment, patience, and concentration. It also invites exploration of the Montessori learning materials, either in small groups or side by side as individuals, and reinforces order, beauty, and social responsibility.
THE MONTESSORI TEACHER
The role of the Montessori teacher is to prepare the environment so children feel comfortable and safe, to guide children within the well-defined limits of the Montessori classroom, and to allow them to explore their surroundings—to see, touch, taste, hear, and smell everything around them. She is aware of each child’s progress and development, and she skillfully challenges each one according to his or her changing needs, interests, and abilities. The Montessori teacher encourages, but does not pressure. She knows that children must first and foremost feel secure in order to develop a positive attitude toward learning.
THE MONTESSORI MATERIALS
Inseparable from the Montessori curriculum, the Montessori materials are didactic and self-correcting. They progress from concrete to abstract, simple to complex, and are the kinds of things children enjoy and come back to repeatedly. Children constantly exposed to the Montessori learning materials have ample time discover on their own the concepts the materials are intended to isolate with little need for outside correction. Satisfaction comes with the completion of a work and the knowledge that they were able to do it on their own.
"Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon. Her main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:
preparing the most natural and life-supporting environments for the child; observing the child living freely in this environment; continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his or her greatest potential, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually."