Montessori is a world renowned philosophy of education. It is an educational approach that encourages and guides the unfolding of a child’s maximum potential. This meaning to allow for the fullest physical, spiritual, and intellectual development by assisting the child to educate themselves at their own pace. A specially prepared environment is created with an ordered array of sequential learning materials to guide the child in self directed hands-on sensorial activities. The concrete materials require manipulation with the use of the hands to develop the mind. Montessori is designed to take full advantage of the innate desire to explore and discover, which each and every child carries within them.
Montessori education differs from traditional education in many ways. Below is a list adapted by the American Montessori Society outlining the many differences between the two. Look over carefully and compare you will soon see that Montessori education is totally child-centered whereas traditional education is very much teacher centered. Fundamental to the Montessori method is the use of all five senses to learn, not just through listening, watching, memorizing or reading. Children learn at their own, pace according to what interests them the most at that particular time in their development. They move and choose work freely a choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is a process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
The ``whole child`` approach. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specially prepared teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, time to enjoy the process and insure the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge. • The ``Prepared Environment.`` In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment - room, materials, and social climate - must be supportive of the learner. • The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children's trust, which enables them to try new things and build self-confidence. • The Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori's observations of the kinds of things which children enjoy and go back to repeatedly led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials which facilitates the learning of skills and lead to learning of abstract ideas. • The teacher. Originally called a ``Directress,`` the Montessori teacher functions as designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child's behavior and growth. The teacher acts as a facilitator of learning. Extensive training - a minimum of a full year following the baccalaureate degree is required for a full AMS credential, including a year's student teaching under supervision - is specialized for the age group with which a teacher will work, i.e., infant and toddler, three to six year olds, elementary or secondary level.
In this different approach lies the 3 year age span of a multi-aged classroom. Montessori discovered that children developed qualities crucial to their social and mental development when working together at different levels of ability. The classroom offers much diversity and stimulation due to these different levels of progress. Because of the age span and the consistency of the three year cycle children foster true friendships with peers, the result of being together longer over a period of time. The older children gain a sense of maturity and confidence as the younger children look up to them as role models and leaders. The younger children imitate or may just observe their older peers, and the older ones an opportunity to reinforce their knowledge by teaching the younger ones a particular skill. They form a give and take relationship of mutual help. They learn to respect one anothers feelings, cooperating in social interaction amongst children and adults of different ages. Keeping this in mind, Montessori wanted the children to know that their school is like a second family. Another strong advantage is that it enables the teachers to work with the child for two or three years, getting to know their learning styles and temperaments extremely well. This in turn gives the teacher the time and knowledge needed to facilitate early learning in each and every child.
Each child in a Montessori classroom is allowed to develop and advance in their own time at their own individual pace. This is one of the principles embedded deep within the Montessori method central to the philosophy. If Montessori children seem to be more advanced compared to traditional expectations for their age level it is not because of pressured teaching or competition. Rather, it is a reflection of the vast possibilities and potential that children carry within them when allowed to learn at their own pace and pursue what is interesting to them during their sensitive periods of learning in a specially prepared environment. The goal is to initiate the processes of logical thought and discovery internally. Once this is done their accomplishments become endless. Dr. Montessori scientifically designed the materials to draw the child's cognizance to the sensory properties of the objects within the physical world around them. Hence, they begin to heed size, shape, color, texture, weight, smell, sound, taste, dimension, all through sensory integration. Naturally and effortlessly in what seems to be an accelerated level compared to the same age level in a traditional setting.
Montessori is a philosophy of education that encompasses the child as a whole during every successive phase of development. Beginning from birth and continuing on throughout adolescence and puberty. In addition to the customary preschool programs ages 3-6, you may find elementary , junior high and high school programs offered. There are also a number of growing infant and toddler programs gaining much recognition. The age groups in the multiage classrooms starting with preschool are as follows: preschool ages 3-6, elementary ages 6-9, & 9-12, and middle or junior high school ages 12-15.