What is the Montessori method and what makes it unique from traditional early childhood programs?
The goals of Montessori education are to cultivate each child's natural desire to learn, acquire and master skills, learn responsibility and cooperation and foster strong, positive feelings about oneself and others. The method addresses the total child, developing social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination, and cognitive preparation, within a thoughtfully designed environment.
The classroom is prepared with a wealth of materials selected and designed to meet the needs of the individuals it serves. There is a range of materials both in variety and level of development to allow children to progress through the curriculum as their skills develop.
Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, conceived and developed a system of educating young children based on her observations and conclusions about how children learn. She developed materials and methods based on her belief that education involved the unfolding and development of the child's innate abilities, talents and interests. Her approach was scientific and humanistic. Her ideas rapidly spread around the globe resulting in training programs and schools opening throughout the world.
Some of the characteristics that distinguish a Montessori program are:
Mixed Age Groupings Called family groupings, this allows for peer teaching, broad social interactions, individual differences in learning style and pace, and creates a social community of family. It provides the youngest students with a graded series of role models and the older students with peer teaching opportunities for reinforcement of learning.
Individualized Instruction Each child learns and develops at her/his own pace through the use of materials and lessons introduced by trained staff. The integrated curriculum is introduced sequentially and at the developmental level of each individual child, allowing every child to work to capacity and at their ability level.
Child Directed Program Within the structure of the classroom and curriculum, children are encouraged to pursue their interests, make responsible choices for themselves and direct themselves to constructive activities. Since children's interests vary, this opportunity results in an independent, self-motivated learner.
Designed Environment/Materials The school environment is prepared with a variety of specially designed Montessori materials - multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting. Educational materials are carefully selected to meet the needs of range of students in each class and to meet the goals of the program.
Hands-on Approach To Learning The use of materials for learning in the Montessori classroom is an integral part of the program from pre-school through the elementary years. Based on a belief that children learn by doing, lessons for math, language and all subject areas include hands-on materials for use by the student.
The basic tenet of Montessori education is that a child learns best in an enriched, supportive environment through exploration, discovery and creativity with the guidance and encouragement of a trained and caring staff.
Children are encouraged to pursue their interests, make responsible choices for themselves and direct themselves to constructive activities.
For more information, please visit the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts website at www.msmresources.org.