The Montessori Method - A Brief Introduction
The Montessori Method: A Brief Introduction
With more schools and homes adopting Montessori philosophies, “Montessori” has become a word that is often thrown around in parenting and teaching circles. However, while it is widely known to be an alternative childhood educational model, there is still an air of mystery around it. With this comes a lot of misinformation that can make things rather confusing for newcomers.
Montessori can be hard to define even for those who have applied its principles at home or have kids that attend Montessori schools. Nevertheless, this article will attempt to demystify it by delving into the various aspects of the Montessori method.
What is the Montessori method?
The Montessori method of learning is a child-focused educational approach that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. It involves child-led activities, classrooms made up of kids of varying ages, and teachers who encourage independent thinking in their students. According to Dr. Montessori, children tend to learn better when they get to choose what they learn. Here are some of the main foundational principles of the Montessori method to give you a better idea of what it’s all about:
- Mixed-age classrooms
Montessori classrooms comprise of mixed ages as well as mixed skill levels, typically divided into year groups ( for example, 3-6-year-olds, 6-9-year-olds). This encourages peer learning as younger kids get to learn from observing older children, and older kids hone their knowledge and gain useful skills by guiding their younger counterparts.
- Experiential learning
Children in Montessori environments learn by working with materials that are specially designed for Montessori classrooms. Unlike in typical classrooms where children sit and listen to a teacher, students in Montessori schools learn to read, write, and solve math problems using concrete materials.
In addition to science, math, and language, Montessori classrooms also incorporate the following academic areas:
- Practical life: These are everyday life skills taught to children from a young age. The range from basic skills such as pouring water and gardening, to more complex skills such as budgeting.
- Sensorial: This area focuses on learning through senses, with the help of materials that are designed to help children refine their sense of hearing, smell, etc.
- Freedom within limits
Children in a Montessori environment get to choose what to work on and where to see, under the guidance and supervision of a teacher. This doesn’t mean a child gets to draw all day, but he/she can choose from given options for a determined amount of time.
A brief history of the Montessori method
In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian scientist, educator, and physician, opened the Casa dei Bambini (Children's House) to provide quality education to children from low-income homes in Rome. Instead of sticking to standard teaching methods, she decided to test her child-oriented educational theories.
Although the children were initially unruly, they soon exhibited great interest in taking part in hands-on learning experiences. Dr. Montessori observed that the children gradually started to exhibit calmness and a sense of caring for their surroundings. She also noticed that they gained knowledge from their environment and were independent thinkers.
Using these observations as well as her earlier experience working with children, Dr. Montessori designed special learning materials for the children, any of which are still being used in Montessori classrooms today.
What is a Montessori environment?
A Montessori environment is defined as an environment that is designed to ensure the highest level of independent learning and exploration by a child. This environment features a variety of activities as well as a lot of movement. A Montessori teacher is tasked with maintaining the ambiance and order of the environment.
The Montessori environment allows a child to explore their full potential with the help of uniquely designed materials that range from abstract to concrete and from simple to complex, suited for each child’s age and ability.
The pros and cons of a Montessori education
- It emphasizes hands-on learning
A Montessori education gives a child the freedom to explore and move around their environment. Students essentially take charge of their learning with the help of uniquely designed learning aids.
- It encourages independence in children
Since the majority of the learning in a Montessori setting is self-directed, children become independent and confident in their abilities a lot faster than in normal school environments.
- Social interaction is important
The Montessori classroom encourages freedom of interaction by grouping children of different ages in the same learning environment. This way, children naturally teach one another, learn from one another, and develop crucial life skills such as acceptance, compassion, empathy, and inclusion.
- It encourages a love for learning
This unique educational philosophy aims to cultivate a love of learning. Children who are brought up in a Montessori environment tend to view learning as a worthwhile life-long process rather than a burden that comes to an end with graduation.
- It can be expensive
As a result of the reliance on high-quality learning materials as well as in-depth training on the use of these items for children, Montessori programs are expensive. This discourages a lot of parents from enrolling their children in Montessori schools.
Some people consider Montessori schools to be limited to the white and privileged. This could be because most of them are most often private, and they also tend to charge tuition and regulate admissions. This makes them unfairly inaccessible to underprivileged students of color.
- Some consider the curriculum as lacking in structure
A Montessori education has a less- structured curriculum that may ideally work well, but it can also create a lot of room for some subjects to be overlooked.
Is Montessori right for you?
Whether or not Montessori is right for your little one will depend on the kind of educational approach you prefer. Montessori caters to all children, as it offers opportunities to learn verbally, visually, kinesthetically, and aurally. That said, it is important to consider your child's personality, as well as trust your instincts.
The Montessori method is an alternative form of education that has been consistently proven to be useful in developing a child’s independence and confidence.
That said, before you decide to introduce it at home, you need to make sure that it is something that your child needs. Every child is different, and different learning environments will suit them differently. If you intend to take your little one to a Montessori school, you will also want to do your research thoroughly beforehand, both online and in-person.