What is Montessori?! > Why Montessori??!!

The Purpose of Montessori Education

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. She must do it herself or it will never be done. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years she spends in the classroom because she is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate her own natural desire to learn.

In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by her own choice rather than by being forced; and second, by helping her to perfect all her natural tools for learning, so that her ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.



The Importance of the Early Years

In The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori wrote, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement is being formed. But not only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic powers. At no other age has the child greater need of intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection.”

Modern psychological studies based on controlled research have confirmed these theories of Dr. Montessori. After analyzing thousands of such studies, Dr. Benjamin S. Bloom of University of Chicago, wrote in Stability and Change in Human Characteristics, “From conception to age 4, the individual develops 50% of his intelligence; from ages 4 to 8 he develops another 30%… This would suggest the very rapid growth of intelligence in the early years and the possible great influence of the early environment on this development.”

Like Dr. Montessori, Dr. Bloom believes “that the environment will have maximum impact on a specific trait during that trait’s period of most rapid growth.” As an extreme example, a starving diet would not affect the height of an eighteen year-old, but could severely retard the growth of a one year-old baby. Since eighty percent of the child’s mental development takes place before he is eight years old, the importance of favorable condition during these years can hardly be over emphasized.



The Role of the Teacher

In a Montessori classroom there is no front of the room, and no teacher’s desk as a focal point of attention because the stimulation for learning comes from the total environment. Dr. Montessori always referred to the teacher as a “directress” and her role differs considerably from that of a traditional teacher. She is, first of all, a very keen observer of individual interests and needs of each child, and her daily work proceeds from her observations rather than from a prepared curriculum. She demonstrates the correct use of materials as they are individually chosen by the children. She carefully watches the progress of each child and keeps a record of his work with the materials. She is trained to recognize periods of readiness. Sometimes she must divert a child who chooses material which is beyond his ability; at other times she must encourage a child who is hesitant. Whenever a child makes a mistake, she refrains, if possible, from intervening and allows him to discover his own error through further manipulation of the self-correcting material. This procedure follows Dr. Montessori’s principle that a child learns through experience.

Behavior of Children

There is always a busy hum of activity in a Montessori classroom because the use of the materials involves many motions; walking, carrying, pouring, speaking and particularly the constant using of the hands. However, all activity is guided by a respect for the teacher, a respect for the work of others, and a respect for the materials themselves. Dr. Montessori never equated goodness with silence and immobility. Self-discipline, she felt, should be acquired gradually through absorption in meaningful work. When a child becomes vitally interested in a particular classroom activity, his behavior almost always matures. If a child misbehave in a Montessori classroom, the teacher usually helps him to select work which will more fully absorb his attention.



Why Mixed Age Groups?

If classroom equipment is to be challenging enough to provoke a learning response, it must be properly matched to the standard which an individual child has already developed in his past experience. This experience is so varied that the most satisfying choice can usually be made only by the child himself. The Montessori classroom offers him the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of graded materials. The child can grow as his interests lead him from one level of complexity to another. Having children ages three through six together permits the younger children a graded series of models for imitation, and the older ones an opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by helping the younger ones.

Non-Competitive Atmosphere

Because the children work individually with the materials, there is no competition in the Montessori classroom. Each child relates only to his own previous work, and his progress is not compared to the achievements of other youngsters. Dr. Montessori believed that competition in education should be introduced only after the child has gained confidence in the use of the basic skills. “Never let a child risk failure.” She wrote, “Until he has a reasonable chance of success.”

Using Montessori at Home

The return on your investment in Montessori will be enhanced if there is consistency between your home and your child’s classroom. This does not mean putting Montessori materials in your living room. It means adopting the Montessori perspective. With this perspective your attitudes, your pace, your expectations and the limits you establish for your child will be in keeping with the principals that Maria Montessori developed for her teachers principles that came from her lifelong observation of the nature of children. To gain this perspective you can read Montessori’s writings, attend parent information meetings at school, and/or join a Montessori discussion group.



The Impact of Montessori for a Life Time

The habit and skills which a child develops in a Montessori class are good for a lifetime. They will help him work more efficiently, observe more carefully, and concentrate more effectively, no matter where he goes. If he is in a stimulating environment, whether at home or at school, his self-education, which is the only real education, will continue.

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