What Is Montessori?

 

First things first…

If you are reading this post, chances are you have heard the term Montessori and you want to know more about what it means, so let’s look at a few ways of approaching it – the Who, What, When, Where and Why of Montessori…

So Who is Montessori?

Maria Montessori is the founder of the Montessori style of education. At a time when women were discouraged and even forbidden to attend secondary school and university, Maria fought to enroll in her local, all-boys technical school where she found her passion for biology. She then attended medical school in Rome and graduated with high honors to become the first female doctor in Italy. Choosing to specialize in Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Montessori was exposed to children of varying socio-economic levels and she noted that each individual possessed an intrinsic intelligence that could be fostered. And at that point, she began to observe and document …

The What of Montessori…

Montessori education is a method of engaging a child in learning using hands-on materials in a carefully designed environment that combines sensory stimuli like soothing nature sounds, soft smells, textures, and ambient light. In this prepared environment, the adult (who most might think of as the teacher) serves the student as more of a guide, who connects the child learner to the materials, modeling how to use the materials but never explicitly telling the child why. In this way, the child is able to make individual learning discoveries when their mind is ready to absorb the lesson.

 

 

Additionally, the Montessori classroom, as first designed by Maria Montessori, is built on the idea of the multi-age community. In this setting, the members, who have progressed to a higher level of understanding and ability in their use of the hands-on materials, are then able to serve as guides and mentors for classmates who need help or guidance. A well designed classroom will also be arranged and equipped with the success of the student-members in mind. How? Well, the main fixtures and furniture will suit the size of the children in the class so that each student can have maximum independence in the environment. Also, the utensils will be proportionate to a child’s grip and strength, again, to encourage independent and successful use. And, the student will have access to Sensorial, Practical Life, Math, Language, and Cultural materials. All of these components of Montessori education – the prepared environment, the teacher as guide and the child learner – revolve around an important factor...

The When of Montessori...

The “When of Montessori?” Yep. You read that right. The “When.” You see, Maria Montessori came to the realization, through countless hours of observation of the children in her care, that humans are particularly primed for acquiring certain knowledge at specific times in their early development. She termed these special moments of learning as sensitive periods – when a child shows a proclivity for learning a new skill. The actual age at which a sensitive period occurs can vary from child to child. But through continual observation, the guide or teacher will recognize the appropriate moment for introducing the concept or material. So, in everyday life, this might look like a three year old becoming fascinated with a writing implement, showing that he is ready to progress in his language and writing skills. And these external cues give us an indication of what is taking place...

The Where of Montessori…

Inside the student. Now, we could talk about a school or a specially-furnished room at home that is Montessori-inspired. So, please do stay tuned for follow-up articles. However, the “where” of Montessori is more importantly the mind of the child. In Montessori’s own words, “What the hand does, the mind remembers.” This is the foundation on which Maria Montessori developed the concrete manipulatives and materials that the Montessori classroom is famous for. The human mind will progress from a concrete understanding of a sensory object that it can touch and see and smell and taste and hear, to an abstract understanding, a thought, a cognitive grasp that lives in the mind of the student. The Montessori model is intended to draw upon the senses of the individual student to foster a lifetime of learning. Which is ultimately…

 

 

The Why of Montessori…

Though Maria was born at a time when children were thought of as secondary citizens, she had vision - a vision of how the world would look if we were to view a child as a hope for the future, as a guardian of the world. Her idea of respecting a child and seeing in each individual the potential for a peaceful future, drove her commitment to her work and still inspires Montessorians today. After all, “The child is both a hope and a promise for all mankind.” Maria Montessori, Education and Peace

 

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