Montessori education is based on the pioneering work of Dr. Maria Montessori (http://www.montessori.edu/) whose lifelong study of the way children develop led her to create a method designed to take maximum advantage of children’s natural desire to learn.
The Montessori Method respects the uniqueness of each child and tailors the educational experience to the needs and progress of each child’s developmental level. For the younger child, (0–6 years), skill-building activities are presented individually, on the child’s own developmental schedule, when the Guide observes that the child is ready for that particular activity rather than because the activities appear in that day’s lesson plan. When presentations are given, they entice, rather than force, the child to learn.
In traditional schools, children of roughly the same age are put together in the same class. Montessori classrooms include an age range of approximately three years. These mixed-age environments are an important part of the Montessori experience. The combination of collaboration and caring between the children of different ages also helps form a community in which the children learn how to interact respectfully with one another. This is an extremely important life-long skill and one that is often overlooked in traditional classrooms.
Fostering self-motivation and using mixed-age classrooms allows Montessori classrooms to offer a greater amount of freedom than other classrooms. As the children are drawn to and engage in concentrated work, they begin to develop self-discipline. They learn to concentrate on their own work and to respect the work of others.
The Montessori method incorporates a profound respect for the child and a deep appreciation that childhood is a time of construction of an individual being. The Montessori child learns not what to think but how to think. The prepared environment and trained Montessori Guide offer the children materials and guidance that will help them discover the world in which they live, become engaged, self motivated students, and acquire the skills needed to become healthy, active citizens in their community.
Montessori children typically do not remember learning to read, as the environment is designed so that all activities feed naturally toward the development of skills required for reading. Thus, reading is experienced as part of the process of living. It was not only Maria Montessori's trust in the child's power that lead her to approach reading in this natural way, but also her concept of the child as an active, rather than receptive being. She considered it the job of education not to fill the child with the techniques for reading, but to free the child for self-expression and communication. Therefore, although reading, writing, spelling, and grammar are introduced to the child in an organized method, the presentation allows the child to acquire reading skills without realizing the effort.
Math is the study of numbers, quantities, shapes, and measurements and how they relate to one another. In Montessori math, the children are introduced to the sensorial impressions of numbers, the decimal system and its functions, addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Using manipulative materials, the child explores these concepts physically, creating a basis for more abstract operations.
Geography is the study of the earth including its people, resources, climate and physical features. Teaching Geography aids the child in developing a clear sense of spatial orientation. By giving sensorial impressions of the earth and showing children their relationship to it, Montessori lessons help develop a foundation of global awareness. In addition, Geography lessons explore different world cultures. Through exposure to cultural traditions and lifestyles, geography lessons allow the child to become aware of and develop a respect for all cultures, which is critical in today's global community.
The sensorial materials are designed to aid the child in training and refining his/her five senses. Children are exposed to concepts such as length, weight and color and challenged to make judgments about them. By using the sensorial materials, the child learns to recognize similarities and differences; to discriminate between size, shapes, colors, smells and textures. Each set of materials is used as carefully and precisely as possible. Precision at this stage prepares for later work in geometry.
The purpose of practical life exercises is to encourage conscious, orderly, controlled and functional knowledge out of the mass happenings in the real world. The practical life exercises help a child break down jobs at hand into easily manageable components. They all require real tools: silverware, wood, glass etc- all items that reflect and typify an actual home environment. In this way, they provide the child a chance to learn what practical living is, and how to manage it.
Because he/she is young, the child is willing to work and is receptive to direction. He/she works for the simple joy of doing the task at hand, so early childhood is the ideal opportunity to give him/her the tools of learning and give him/her the methods to use them. The teacher is an important catalyst, allowing the child to repeat the task for it's own sake. The teacher also helps him/her appreciate the value and dignity in the work itself. The main areas in the practical life exercises involve Grace and Courtesy, Care of Person, Care of the Indoor Environment, and Art.
As the child builds success upon success with small tasks, he/she is able to go on to greater ones, mastering his/her small environment.
Exploring the subject of Botany helps a child develop an appreciation for and an understanding of the life cycle. Through specific Botany works, the child develops a greater knowledge and understanding of the virtue of patience as the child is exposed to nature's seasonal changes and the growth cycle.