Montessori is a method of education developed by Dr Maria Montessori more than 100 years ago.
An Italian physician and educator, Dr Montessori was a pioneer – driving education reform that had the interest of the child at its core. The child-centred approach goes far beyond educating children in all of the usual subjects you would expect, it is about the development of the whole child.
Dr Montessori’s approach is based on her deep understanding of the developing brain, and her scientific observations of children, and is backed by modern neuropsychological research.
Some of the core principles of Montessori are:
1. Children are eager to learn. The understanding that children are naturally eager for knowledge and are capable of initiating their own learning in the right environment. Montessori nurtures that positive attitude toward learning.
2. Children need independence. As parents, and educators, our role is to control the environment – not control the child. We provide a thoughtfully prepared learning environment (including thoughtful and prepared adults!) and our children will thrive. They have freedom within limits to choose the learning path that is right for them at any given moment.
3. Children can lead their own learning. Montessori is flexible enough to cater for any and every child. Children grow and learn at different rates and have different interests – it is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The interests and development stages of our children are catered for – which is why children are so engaged. They are provided the exact right tool at the exact right time for them.
4. Children learn life skills. Montessori helps children develop life skills far beyond what is taught in a traditional classroom. Creativity, problem solving, social skills, time management skills, life skills such as empathy and respect for themselves and others, mindfulness and self-awareness are all explicitly taught in a Montessori classroom.
5. Children learn respect. Montessori guides respect children and talk to them with the respect of the adult they will one day become. Grace and courtesies are modelled by the guides, and explicitly taught, which, in turn, is reflected in the interactions between guides and children.
It’s far more than the materials on the shelf…
Montessori is far more than the materials you see on the shelves in a Montessori classroom. It is a mindful way of life that requires a shift in thinking for Montessori parents and a set of ‘tools’ to help us parents to understand Montessori and ensure we are providing our children with consistency between home and school. We need to step back a little and let our children do for themselves what they can. We need to step away from the idea that we need to watch them constantly, entertain them, or to teach them at every opportunity. We need to understand the philosophy and we need to adopt it ourselves in our home and family life.
What Montessori is not
There are a lot of myths about Montessori. Some people believe it is only for gifted children, or only for children with a learning disability or that Montessori children can run around and do whatever they want. None of that is true!
It is just as easy to describe what Montessori is not. It is not rote learning, teaching to tests, conformity, hours of homework every night, competition, sitting still at stationary desks and chairs, grades, ‘averages’, gold stars, student of the week certificates, or the transmitting of information from one teacher to many students at the same time. It is often very different to our own experiences at school, but with an open mind we can discover that our children have an opportunity for personal growth at a time in their lives where they can most benefit from it. You will be amazed at the difference when your child has a Montessori lifestyle at home as well as at school.
If you’re considering Montessori for your children, or your children already attend a Montessori school, the better you understand it yourself, the better off you will be. You can enjoy a happy and calm family life and your children will be supported in their learning. I believe everyone can benefit from adopting the Montessori philosophy into their lives. I am deeply grateful that I have had the opportunity to do so, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with other Montessori parents around the world.
I welcome you, wherever you may be on your Montessori journey. It is a fascinating and enlightening ride.
Montessori Advocate and Montessori Parent
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