The Montessori philosophy focuses on the development of the whole child. It is based on three principles: observation, individual liberty, and the prepared environment .Dr. Montessori noticed that children had five tendencies: to move, to repeat, to refine and explore, to communicate and to engage the mathematical mind. Current educational concepts such as individualized learning, readiness programs, multi-graded age groups, team teaching, and open classrooms reflect many of her early insights. Dr. Montessori's passion for peace both internally for the child and externally in the world is a theme throughout the Montessori theory and practice. With these principles and themes, an environment where children are respected and intellectually stimulated according to their specific development and personal interests is created.
2. What are the benefits of multi-aged classrooms?
Montessori classrooms are multi-aged. Current educational theories and studies show that "students in multi-aged classes tended to be higher or better than those in single-aged classes in the following areas: study habits, social interaction, self-motivation, and attitudes toward school." (Gayfer, 1992).
The benefits of multi-aged classrooms include:
- less competition and more cooperation in work and play between older and younger children;
- a wider range of knowledge, experiences and abilities to draw upon in the multi-aged setting;
- higher motivation towards learning;
- respect for one another’s individual abilities and experiences;
- children who are more likely to include all others in their games;
- appropriate peer modeling, especially when older children are role models for the younger ones;
- interaction and friendship opportunities are easier with a wider range of ages;
- a greater sense of security and belonging is evident; and,
- children develop responsibility, kindness, friendliness, diplomacy, language skills and self – respect.
3. What is the prepared environment?
Dr. Montessori believed in a prepared environment which included two important aspects: the physical space and the trained guide. The physical space needs to be clean, materials organized and with purpose in a logical manner, and child-sized furniture to invite the child into the space.
The guide or teacher is required to be well educated in the characteristics and tendencies of children at various developmental stages and have the desire and knowledge to engage the child into the learning environment and the materials within it.
4. Is Montessori right for my child? For my family?
Through daily experience, Montessori children develop empathy for others of all ages, creative and reasonable ways of thinking and confidence. Montessori environments are right for many children who are self-motivated, naturally have an inquisitive mind and want to socialize in a safe, caring community. Montessori education is right for families who value their child's voice and perspective, who trust in their child’s innate ability to learn and who consciously choose an alternative way of teaching children.
5. How do the children learn to socialize and share in the classroom?
There are a limited amount of materials in a Montessori classroom. With the limited material as well as limited adult interaction, there are times when more than one child would like to work with a particular material at the same time. This interaction fosters discussion and the children develop patience, empathy and in later years, collaborative negotiation. Teachers give "grace and courtesy" lessons as early as three years of age, and continue throughout the nine years to remind and encourage the children to negotiate fairly and with empathy in the classroom.
6. How do Montessori children do when they enter "mainstream" programs?
In a Montessori school, a child’s inherent desire to learn has been encouraged and strengthened. They have been allowed to follow their own interests in depth, and this, along with experiencing the benefits of a multi-aged classroom for five to eight years, and extensive socialization which includes freedom and responsibility, Montessori children demonstrate a broad understanding for what mainstream programs offer. They are confident and often try out for sports, arts and music opportunities. They also understand the necessity for homework, group projects and testing. Because they have formed deep, caring relationships with children of various ages, they tend to make friends easily and choose appropriate work partners and peer groups.
7. What can a Montessori Education offer my child?
Montessori education offers children an environment to break down and understand processes at their level, test out hypotheses and find solutions. Montessori-educated children gain wisdom as well as broad general knowledge, solid leadership and team skills, and a sense of belonging to society. A child’s strong qualities of confidence, maturity, and self-motivation will enable them to engage in the community at large.
8. What does the concept of freedom in a Montessori classroom mean?
Through the years, a Montessori child is taken on a tour of the classroom and the materials. This journey is paired with the ability to choose what and when to work. The children are given the parameters to work in the class, including knowing they have the responsibility to clean up after themselves, waiting until another child is finished using the material and/or has negotiated their role in the work, and waiting and/or asking for a lesson on an interest. This freedom paired with responsibility enables the child to develop confidence when given the opportunity to have a voice in his/her own education.
9. How is character addressed?
The education of the child’s character is as important in a Montessori environment as academic education. This includes the children learning to take care of themselves, their environment and each other, including cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, movement, grace and courtesy and being involved in their local and international communities.
10. How is Physical Education handled in a Montessori framework?
Movement is one of Montessori’s core principles and the philosophy stresses the importance of movement for muscle growth, muscle memory and mental development. By the time the child is six years old he/she is physically dextrous both in fine and gross motor skills. Add to this the robust characteristics of the Elementary child and you have a recipe for success through activities that build confidence, focus and character.
11. Barriers to Discovery – how can I help my child in the “discovery” process?
As adults, we all need to be aware that “helping” the child is often a barrier to learning, especially if we give “tips” or “tricks” to “speed up” the learning process. Children need to struggle and figure things out themselves. Many times when a child is on the verge of discovery or of finally understanding something, he/she will discuss or practice the work at home. Remember to allow your child the time to continue his/her journey of discovery by not showing him/her short cuts but rather by encouraging the intellectual process of thinking and figuring. Mental activity will create awareness and understanding.