The Montessori Philosophy
The Montessori philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently than adults.
The Montessori method discourages traditional measurements of achievement (grades and tests) and sees them as negative competition that is damaging to the inner growth of children. Feedback of a child’s performance does exist but is provided in the form of a list of skills, activities and critical points.
The Montessori method has two primary development levels: the first is, birth through 6, the second is ages 6-12. A Montessori classroom for the first level is called the casa dei bambini, or “children’s house,” with focus on individually paced learning and development. In the second level, collaboration with others is encouraged, and “cosmic education” is introduced.
The focus is on the individuality of each in respect of their needs or talents, instead of the needs of the class as a whole. The goal is to help the child maintain their natural joy of learning.
The Montessori method encourages independence and freedom with limits and responsibility. The youngest children are guided in “practical life” skills: domestic skills and manners. These skills are emphasized with the goal of increasing attention spans, hand eye coordination, and tenacity.
The goal of Montessori is to provide a stimulating, child-centered environment in which children can explore, touch, and learn without fear, thus engendering a lifelong love of learning as well as providing the child the self-control necessary to fulfill that love.
Montessori is a highly hands-on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include us of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and large motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that lead to later abstraction.
Montessori classrooms are designed to be aesthetically pleasing to children. Furniture is child-sized, and there is no teacher’s desk. The typical classroom consists of four areas: Practical life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics. Practical life includes activities such as buttoning, sweeping, pouring, slicing, tying, etc. Sensorial includes activities to stimulate and train hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
Most Montessori classrooms try to include ways for the children to interact with the natural world, perhaps through a classroom pet (rabbits, gerbils, mice etc.), or a small garden where the children can plant vegetables or flowers.
In schools that extend to the upper grades, each Montessori classroom still includes an approximately three-year range. This system allows flexibility in learning pace and is to establish a non-competitive atmosphere in the classroom. The belief is that class work, which is different for each child results in students who are less likely to try to keep track of where other children are academically.
The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:
- A view of children as competent beings capable of self directed learning.
- Children learn in a distinctly different way from adults.
- The ultimate importance of observation of the child interacting with his/her environment as the basis for ongoing curriculum development. Presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information accumulation is based on the teacher’s observation that the child has mastered the current exercise(s).
- Delineation of sensitive periods of development, during which a child’s mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge, including language development, sensorial experimentation and refinement, and various levels of social interaction.
- A belief in the “absorbent mind”, that children from birth to around age 6 possess limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understanding. This phenomenon is characterized by the young child’s capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence.
- Children are masters of their environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic, comfortable, and allow a maximum amount of independence.
- Children learn through discovery, so didactic materials that are self-correcting are used as much as possible.
- Independent problem solving is encouraged.
A child may not work with an activity until the teacher has demonstrated its proper use to him/her, and then he/she may use it as he/she wishes (limited only by his/her imagination or a danger to the material, him/herself or others). Each activity leads directly to a new level of learning or concept. When a child “works,” he/she is acquiring the basis for later concepts. Repetition of activities is considered an integral part of this learning process and children are allowed to repeat activities as often as they wish. A child becoming tired of the repetition is thought to be a sign they are ready for the next level of learning.
The child proceeds at his/her own pace from concrete objects and tactile experiences to abstract thinking, writing, reading, science, and mathematics. One child may move through all three levels of lessons in a few weeks while another might take several months; although there is a prescribed sequence of activities there is no prescribed timetable. A Montessori teacher observes each child, providing him/her with appropriate lessons, as he/she is ready for them.
For more information regarding the Montessori Philosophy and Curriculum, please visit:
American Montessori Society
Associate Montessori International | USA