MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY & PRACTICE
Specialists in caring for and educating your children
HISTORY & PHILOSOPHY
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) became the first woman doctor in her country’s history. Her early work was with children with special education needs and children from deprived backgrounds and through careful observation she devised a way of teaching that benefits children, especially in their early years, as their experiences in these years will affect their whole approach to learning. Montessori emphasizes a holistic approach to learning, highlighting the importance of respect and peace.
Montessori believed that children are innate knowledge seekers and that they teach themselves. As she expressed it, young learners are “self-creating”. Her basic principle was to “follow the child”. A Montessori classroom is carefully prepared to allow the child to work independently and allow for the joy of self-discovery. Teachers introduce materials and children are free to choose, again and again, working and discovering, and ultimately mastering ideas. Lessons are given, but the goal is for children to discover the answer by using the “auto-didactic” or “self-correcting” materials that are found only in Montessori classrooms.
The Montessori method is based on three concepts: the specialised training of the teacher, a specially prepared environment complete with Montessori apparatus and a multi age grouping of children (vertical grouping). When these elements are in place, young children are able to discover their own talents, gain self-confidence, make friendships, experience the joys of learning, and grow in a holistic manner.
MONTESSORI TEACHER & ENVIRONMENT
Working as a guide and a facilitator, the Montessori teacher creates a well-prepared environment and an atmosphere of learning and inquisitiveness designed to move students from one activity and level to the next. The teacher is not the centre of the classroom. Instead she/he is often almost unnoticed in the room as the children work. She has no desk and spends time working with children at their tables or on a mat on the floor. The teacher is a keen observer and aware of each child’s needs, interest, progress, mood and behaviour.
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say “The children are now working as if I did not exist” Maria Montessori
In vertical grouping peer cooperation and peer tutoring increases achievement and self-esteem in both the older and younger child. The multi-age classroom is a groundbreaking concept for developing community and supporting students of varying levels of academic and social development.
Montessori’s idea of the prepared environment was that everything the child came in contact with would facilitate and maximise independent learning and exploration. This calm, well-ordered environment has a lot of movement and activity. Children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace. Here, they experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline, as guided by the environment and the teacher.
THE SIX MONTESSORI AREAS
There are six broad areas of learning in the Montessori curriculum. With each area, children start with simple activities and tasks that lead to more advanced and complex skills and concepts.
ACTIVITES & EVERYDAY LIVING
The purpose and aim of the Activities of Everyday Living is to help the child to gain control in the coordination of his/her movement, and help the child to gain independence and adapt to his/her surroundings. It is therefore important to “Teach teaching, not correcting” (Montessori) in order to allow the child to be a fully functional member in their world. Activities of Everyday Living also foster the growth and the development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will help the child to develop an orderly way of thinking. These activities help the child to develop his/her fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination which will be precursors for the child’s future writing.
The purpose and aim of Sensorial work is for the child to acquire clear, conscious, information and to be able to then make classifications in his/her environment. Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through the child’s senses, they explore and investigate their environment. Through this exploration, the child then begins to understand the world. The child, to Montessori, is a “sensorial explorer”. Through the work with the sensorial materials, the child is given the key for classifying the things around them, which leads the child making their own experiences in the environment. Through the classification of these experiences, the child is also offered the first steps in organizing their intelligence to grow and develop essential skills.
“Knowledge can best be given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sewn. The child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into knowledge.” Maria Montessori
The Language area of the Montessori classroom encourages development of early-literacy skills through the use of phonetic sounds. In the Language area children are exposed to various types of phonetic awareness activities to build a strong literacy foundation. Montessori Language activities are designed to improve a child’s vocabulary, listening skills for common sounds, and differentiating between objects and pictures.
The use of the Montessori Maths Materials helps the child to learn mathematical concepts, from a concrete understanding of shapes and numbers to abstract mathematical concepts. Order, coordination, concentration, and independence are experienced by the child using these materials.
Math is logic, sequence and order. In the Montessori philosophy is stated that the child has a ‘mathematical mind’ and an internal drive to understand the environment around them. It can therefore be said that children have an inborn attraction for math. Their minds are full of energy that propels them to absorb, manipulate, classify, order, sequence, abstract, and repeat.
KNOWLEDGE & UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORLD
Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe. She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature. Knowledge and Understanding of the World encompasses subjects such as science, biology, geography, history and cultural. The Montessori classroom allows the children to observe and work with hands-on experiments that will cultivate a lifelong interest in nature and discovering more about our unique world.
Montessori saw the ability of the children to express themselves as something of paramount importance. Creativity is vital as it helps children to discover and create themselves (self-expression). As children grow up in the world, self-exploration and discovery is important in forming their personalities.
Montessori realised that children use their movements and, in particular, their hands to help them to express their thoughts. We therefore provide an environment where children can work in an indirect way, mastering those skills which would facilitate later drawing/writing. We encourage the creative process by allowing freedom for children to explore and have free access to a variety of art materials and media, providing opportunity for them to fully express themselves.