What is Montessori?
Montessori is a philosophy with the fundamental tenet that a child learns best within a social environment which supports each individual’s unique development.
How Does It Work?
Each Montessori class, from toddlers through elementary, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differ from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs - respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials may be introduced to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The multi-age grouping in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation - language experiences - in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.
What Makes It Unique?
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. Under the direction of a specially prepared teacher, the holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning, gives the child time to enjoy the process, ensures 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 and 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 multisensory, sequential, and self-correcting materials which facilitate the learning skills and lead to learning of abstract ideas by the construction of knowledge.
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 behaviour and growth.
The teacher acts as a facilitator of learning. A minimum of a full year's training is required for a CCMA recognized credential. This includes supervised classroom practice teaching. This extensive training is specialized for the age group with which a teacher will work, i.e., infant and toddler, 3 to 6 year olds, 6 to 9 year olds, and 9 to 12 year olds.
What Happens When a Child Leaves Montessori?
Montessori children are usually adaptive. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they've been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well.
They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others, and good communication skills ease the way in new settings.
Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.