What is Montessori?

The Montessori Method is a child-directed form of learning where a child learns at their own pace through specially designed learning tools and self-correcting “games” in multi-age classrooms.  These games are called “materials” or “works” in Montesssori.  Each child is given his/her lessons individually (or in small groups) according to the child’s personal skills and interests.

Often children absorb information quickly since the materials are specifically designed to be engaging, fun and effective for their development level, and each childs learns at their own pace. This gives Montessori its reputation for excellence in academics.

Academics are just the tip of the iceberg. Montessori is “holistic education” and is said to “nurture the whole child”.  It empowers the child with a life-long love of learning, cultural awareness,  the habit of focus, self respect, honoring others, academic excellence, grace and courtesy, practical life skills, freedom to move around the classroom, decision-making skills,  fatigue-free learning, self confidence, the love of nature, problem-solving and  leadership skills.

“I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method.”

–Dr. Maria Montessori

The Montessori Method is a way to think about who children are. It is a philosophy that respects the unique individuality of each child. Dr. Montessori believed in the worthiness, value and importance of children. Her method does not compare a child  to norms or standards that are measured by traditional educational systems. It is founded on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.

It is also an approach to education that takes to heart the needs, talents, gifts, and special individuality of each child. It is a process that helps children learn in their own way at their own pace. The main concept of Montessori is to promote the joy of learning. This joy of learning develops a well adjusted person who has a purpose and direction in his or her life. Children, who experience the joy of learning, are happy, confident, fulfilled children. In essence, Montessori helps bring forth the gift of each child.

Other important skills it teaches are self-reliance and independence. It helps a child to become independent by teaching him or her life skills, which is called practical life. Montessori children learn to dress themselves, help cook, put their toys and clothes away and take an active part of their household, neighborhood and school.

Montessori works in a methodical way. Each step in the process leads to the next level of learning. When a child plays, he or she is  learning concepts for abstract learning. Repetition of activities is an integral part of this learning process.

For young children Montessori is a hands on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and large motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later abstraction.

For a grade school child, Montessori encourages a child to proceed at his or her own pace onto abstract thinking, writing, reading, science, mathematics and most importantly, to absorb his or her culture and environment. Culture includes interaction with nature, art, music, religion, societal organizations and customs.

A Montessori teacher or instructor observes each child like a scientist, providing every child with an individual program for learning. Phoebe Child (Head of the Montessori trust in London) said “we must be prepared to wait patiently like a servant, to watch carefully like a scientist, and to understand through love and wonder like a saint.”

Most of all, Montessori wanted to help free a child’s mind to be unfettered to learn without any negative input. It is success oriented in that almost everything is self-teaching and self-correcting. The children learn by doing and by experimentation. The environment is specifically prepared for the children to allow them to interact with it freely and unfettered, everything is child sized, and safe for children to touch and use. In fact, Dr. Montessori called her center “The Children’s House”.

The main goal of Montessori is to provide a stimulating, child oriented environment that children can explore, touch, and learn without fear. An understanding parent or teacher is a large part of this child’s world. The end result is to encourage life long learning, the joy of learning, and happiness about one’s path and purpose in life.

(Excerpt from MontessoriMom Blog found here: MontessoriMom)