Montessori education offers our children opportunities to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens with an understanding and appreciation that learning is for life. Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly.
What Makes a Montessori Education Unique?
Each child is valued and respected as a unique individual. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace, each advancing through the curriculum as s/he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
Beginning at an early age, Montessori students learn order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines in a Montessori environment support the individual’s emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning). The child in a Montessori classroom, through individual choice, makes use of what the learning environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.
Students are part of a close, caring community. The multi-age Montessori classroom - typically spanning three years - recreates a family structure. It allows teachers to develop close, long-term relationships with their students while modeling respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful conflict resolution. And much like a sibling relationship, older students act as mentors, role models, and leaders, while younger children feel supported and gain confidence in their surroundings. It is common to see children of different ages working together on learning materials. Students also work together to take care of their learning environment, by caring for classroom plants and/or animals, and by helping to maintain classroom materials (putting things back in their place, cleaning up after snack time, etc.).
Montessori students enjoy freedom within limits. Working within parameters set by their teachers, Montessori students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. There is an understanding that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest, and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime.
Students are supported in becoming active seekers of knowledge. Montessori teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions. Further, self-expression is nurtured in all children. Children in a Montessori environment experience art, music, poetry, theater, writing, and other forms of creative arts with confidence and passion. In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.
Classroom design and learning materials are thoughtfully and deliberately chosen. Hands-on learning is central to the Montessori curriculum and leads to children being engaged in their work, instead of being passive learners. The Montessori learning environment is responsibly and carefully prepared with multi-sensory, sequential, and self-correcting materials to support self-directed learning. You will not find rows of desks in a Montessori classroom; rather, students work at tables or on the floor, rolling out mats on which to work and that define their work space. Learning materials are displayed on open, easily accessible shelves and are arranged in order of their sequence in the curriculum, from the simplest to the most complex. Classrooms are designed for ease of use - for example, Toddler or Early Education classrooms feature low sinks, chairs, and tables; reachable shelves; cozy reading areas; and child-sized flatware, plates, and cups. All Montessori classrooms are warm, well-organized, and inviting, to help children feel comfortable and at home.
Self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, Montessori students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.
Sources: The American Montessori Society - https://amshq.org/; Montessori Learning in the 21st Century - Shannon Helfrich.