A Montessori education aims to develop the individual child’s potential in an environment specifically designed with hands-on materials that stimulate the child’s interest.
These are some of the main objectives of a Montessori education:
- Independence – Children, with guidance, choose their own project, work independently or in small groups, and return the materials when completed.
- Confidence and Competence – Successes are far more numerous than failures. Children learn to correct their own work.
- Intrinsic Motivation – Children learn to pursue learning for the pure pleasure of it, rather than for short-term, arbitrary goals.
- Respect – Children learn to embrace rules and regulations that reflect a sense of respect for others and authority.
- Academic Readiness – Children learn how to learn.
- Citizenship – Children acquire the qualities to become “citizens of the world” and through civic virtue come to understand and cherish the world they live in.
Child-Centered Learning Environment
The focus is on the child’s learning, not on the teacher’s teaching. The Montessori learning environment is designed to…
- Meet the needs of the children and appeal to their interests, correspond with their abilities and challenge their potential.
- Allow the child to develop at his or her own pace according to their own capabilities.
- Be “prepared” in advance of their children’s entry, and to be easily adaptable according to the changing needs of the children in the class.
- Include all levels of intelligence and styles of learning – visual, spatial, kinaesthetic, auditory, linguistic, intuitive, logical-mathematical and musical.
Concrete Learning Activities
Montessori education develops a child’s potential by giving them hands-on experience with materials specially designed to stimulate learning. In the Montessori classroom…
- Children learn first hand. They don’t just watch someone else demonstrate an activity or listen to a teacher explain a concept, they actually work the problem out with their own hands.
- Children are encouraged, by the hands-on environment, to pursue their own learning intentions.
- Children spontaneously seek growth and development. It is in their nature to do so, and the Montessori approach respects this and exploits it to the child’s benefit.
- Children initiate their own work and continue with it until the task has been completed.
- Motivation comes from within the individual child. The child’s own curiosity and interest drives them toward competence.
The Three Year Cycle
Montessori classes are grouped across a three-year age span: ages 3-6, ages 6-9, and ages 9-12. This accommodates each individual child’s educational needs at each unique stage of development. Within each classroom, the younger children start off in the role of apprentice, listening carefully and learning from their older peers. Then as they get older and develop more skills, they are encouraged to act as helpers, demonstrators and eventually mentors to the younger students. This mentoring approach not only develops leadership skills and confidence, it teaches children the importance of supporting and cooperating with others. This is in contrast to an attitude of competition where in order to be a winner others must be losers. The benefits of the three-year cycle are perhaps most obvious in the Montessori preschool, or Casa program. Starting a full year or more before traditional kindergarten, in Montessori a child is given the opportunity to move from the physical world – where she can develop his motor skills, and all his senses with self-teaching, self-correcting materials – into the abstract world of ideas and concepts, all at his own pace. She must have the proper concrete preparation before she is ready to develop academically. During that critical third year of the Casa program, this transition usually happens and the Montessori Directress is trained to help the child take great advantage of these rich educational opportunities. This is the period when all the learning absorbed by the child during the previous two years of Montessori training suddenly fits together and makes sense; the child begins reading, writing, doing math and showing other spouts of intellectual growth. Some may not start reading and writing during the third year, but usually do so the following year in their elementary class, seemingly without effort because they have gained the strong learning foundation they need. The Montessori classroom is a child-centred learning environment where children can learn from one another, in small groups, or one on one with their teacher.