Who is Maria Montessori?

Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was Italy’s first woman doctor. She held a doctorate in psychiatry, philosophy, and was a professor of anthropology. In 1898, Dr. Montessori began teaching children with learning materials developed by observing the needs of the children in her care. The materials developed by Dr. Montessori were based upon life skills, senses, reading, writing, math, and world awareness. She believed education to be a preparation for life not merely a search for intellectual skills. 

What is the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method is a philosophy of teaching that was developed around the way children naturally learn. It is based upon the child’s developmental need for freedom within structure and for a carefully prepared environment.

According to Dr. Montessori, the most absorbent years are the first six years of life when unconscious learning is gradually brought to a conscious level.

Montessori environments are characterized by multi-aged classrooms, specially designed materials, student-chosen work, 90 minute work periods, and student mentors, where independence and the love of learning is encouraged. The environment is beautiful and inviting. The materials on the shelves have an intriguing appearance and texture, just begging to be touched. Some aspects of the Montessori philosophy may not be immediately obvious. There is an emphasis on cooperation and respectful behavior.  The adults in the classroom speak to the children at their own level in a calm voice. If a child wants to use a material that another child is working with, they learn to wait patiently for their turn. The materials are carefully designed so that the children can identify when they have made an error and correct the mistake on their own. The basic materials that you will find in a Montessori classroom are the same regardless of the country you might find them in. 

All of the Montessori materials are organized into one of five curriculum areas:

  • Practical Life

  • Sensorial

  • Language

  • Cultural

  • Math

Montessori materials are sequenced so that each activity has a logical process to follow. The materials increase in complexity as the child progresses through the years. 

The Montessori teacher observes each child on a daily basis and determines when each is ready to progress to the next level. She is not teaching the child, but assisting the child in teaching him/herself by introducing new concepts when he/she is ready, and providing the tools to discover and explore on his/her own.

 

The Montessori program is sequential and meant to be experienced over a three-year time span and not in individual, successive, one-year sessions. While a child may gain much from attending a Montessori program for any length of time, full benefits are likely to require extended exposure. The 3-year cycle relates to Dr. Montessori’s idea of multi-aged classrooms. The younger children will learn from the older ones, who in turn, are well on their way to becoming self-directed.

 

In a six-year study at DePaul University in Chicago, it was found that children experiencing Montessori education from 3-9 were superior to peers in learning ability, interest in learning, and in the development of these specific traits: initiative, persistence, independence, self-confidence, self-control, sensory perception, concentration, and purposeful activity. 

 

Montessori Principals:

  • The Montessori environment nurtures a feeling of genuine caring for each other, for oneself, for the environment, and for the materials.

  • The aim of a Montessori education is to foster competent, responsible, adaptive, citizens who are lifelong learners and problem solvers.

  • The individual is considered as a whole. The physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive needs and interests are inseparable and equally important.

  • Respect and caring attitudes for oneself, others, the environment, and all life are necessary.

  • Develop and maintain a partnership with the family. The family is considered an integral part of the individual’s total development. 

 

Montessori Prepared Environment:

The Montessori Classroom is designed to facilitate maximum interdependent learning and exploration by the child. Students experience a blend of freedom and responsibility, coupled with grace and courtesy, in a place specially designed to meet their developmental needs. 

 

  • Calm, orderly space with an abundance of natural light

  • Organized by Areas of Study

  • Allows children to work on activities of their own choice at their own pace after given lessons

  • Allows for movement throughout the classroom where children can work at a table or on a rug

  • Meets a child’s need for love, order, and as much independence as he/she can handle at any given time

 

Materials:

  • Each material isolates one quality or concept

  • All materials have a control of error, allowing the child to self-correct

  • All materials are aesthetically pleasing

  • All materials are complete at all times

  • One of each type of material in the environment allows for the development of patience

  • Abstract concepts are made from concrete materials

 

Did you know the following people were Montessori educated?

  • Larry Page/ Sergey Brin – Co-founders of Google

  • Jeffrey Bezos – Founder of Amazon.com

  • Jimmy Wales – Founder of Wikipedia

  • Anne Frank – Author of Diary of Anne Frank

  • Prince William and Prince Harry –English Royalty

  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – Editor, Former First Lady

  • Julia Child - Chef

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