Here is a short introduction to Montessori education, principles and ethos.
Who is Dr. Maria Montessori?
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) was a medical doctor, a teacher, a philosopher, an innovator and an anthropologist. She was one of the first women doctors in Italy to graduate from the University of Rome medical school. She set up a classroom for young children in a slum in Rome where she had a chance to observe and experiment with different teaching methods to see which one worked the best. She developed a method of education based on respecting the child’s natural desires for learning and taking into consideration their developmental capabilities. Many of the children she worked with made significant improvements in their development and Dr. Montessori’s program was proclaimed a success. Her progressive view of children was beyond her time and the educational approach is still very relevant today.
Predisposition or sensitivity to learning a specific skills
Maria Montessori believed that children pass through phases in which at certain stags throughout their development they have a predisposition or sensitivity to learning a specific skill. These stages are called ‘sensitive periods’. For example, the best age for children to start learning a second language is when they turn three as this is when learning a language is effortless. The environment in a Montessori setting is adapted to meet the needs of a child going through different stages of sensitive periods.
Following the child
We observe our children. The child has so much to teach us about learning. By watching closely, we can modify our lessons and materials to best suit the child’s interests and growth. We anticipate what the child will need next and make sure this experience is available for when the child is ready. We call this ‘following the child’.
Lets start with good manners
We model grace and courtesy, treating our children as we wish ourselves to be treated. We use calm voices when teaching and speak with respect in regard to the children’s feelings. We carry ourselves with poise and handle objects with care. We know that the children are acutely observing us even when we aren’t aware of it, and they will mimic our behaviour and attitude.
Fostering unique interests
We recognise that children are unique individuals who are not likely to master the exact same concepts or have the same interests at the same time. One of the Montessori principles is to allow each child to develop at his or her pace. We believe that learning is a natural process that develops spontaneously. In our classroom, we do one to one teaching or in a very small group. You will notice in Montessori classroom each child will be engaged in an activity that peaked their interest at a particular moment. This is when the child’s concentration is at its highest level and he or she can fully satisfy their innate curiosity without interruption from anyone.
Boundaries and discipline
We do not use rewards and punishments to force children to comply with rules or combat ill behaviour. We believe that each child is capable to develop self-discipline and that the rewards should be intrinsic rather that externally imposed. We model the behaviour ourselves and adapt the environment so a child can develop a skill of self-regulation.
Freedom of movement
We believe that children learn best when they are free to move their bodies throughout the day. Children should not be constrained to desks and cramped spaces filled with shelves and boxes of toys. They should be allowed to move around in their environment, visit the toilets as often as they like and work in a variety of sitting or standing positions. This is why we go easy on furniture and other obstacles in our rooms that may otherwise restrict their movement. By creating this freedom of movement, we help the growing brain to absorb more effectively.
Montessori educational toys and activities
We believe that the toys a child plays with should be carefully chosen to support his or her current developmental stage. We know that at home the children will have a wide variety of toys and equipment to occupy and entertain themselves. At our nursery, we have a slightly different agenda in mind. Too many colourful and bright toys may overwhelm the child and make him or her lose concentration. Our toys needn’t be plentiful. Our toys are open ended and purposeful. Montessori materials have in-built control of error that allows a child to self-correct without having to rely on the step by step instructions from an adult. We create activities using objects from everyday life that provides a child with confidence and independence when using them at home.