What makes Montessori education unique?
The “whole child” approach. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach his or her 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 allows the child to experience the joy of learning and to develop self-esteem and independence.
The “prepared environment.” In order for self-directed learning to take place, the learning environment, including the classroom, materials, and social climate must be supportive of the learner. The teacher structures a classroom environment with necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive atmosphere, for children's physical, social, emotional, and academic growth.
The Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori’s observations of the kinds of “toys” which children enjoy and with which they return to play repeatedly led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials which facilitate learning skills and concepts. Our classrooms are equipped with a full compliment of Montesori materials and teachers follow Montessori principles as they structure new activities for the classroom.
The teacher. Originally called a “Directress”, the Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning. The teacher is a role model, environmental designer, resource person, demonstrator, record-keeper, and observer of each child’s growth and development who encourages, respects, and loves each child as a special, unique individual. The teacher also provides support for parents and joins them in a partnership to nurture the development of the child.
How Does It Work?
Each Montessori class, from pre-primary through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs of 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 observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials to introduce to individual children 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 three-year-age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can evolve naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own knowledge. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there are often more conversation-language experiences in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.