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Children learn best through intrinsic motivation.
There are neither rewards nor punishments in true Montessori environments. Adults acknowledge and encourage the effort that has gone into children's work, but ultimately want the children to independently appreciate and value their own products. Likewise, adults do not mark errors, but instead make a note to help the child overcome any misunderstanding of concepts that may have lead to the errors.
Children learn best when they have control over their learning.
Adults give many interesting lessons with the materials to children, but it is ultimately the choice of the student that leads the learning. Adults must respect the developmental processes that lead children to choose what is best for them at any particular time. If there is concern that a child is avoiding specific areas it is the responsibility of the adults to find ways to inspire interest rather than imposing learning upon them.
Concentration must be encouraged and protected to allow optimal development.
During the morning work cycle, it is important for children to be allowed the time and space to follow their own interests and passions. For this reason, group time is held at the end of the morning work cycle. Also, visitors are asked to respect the children's focus and concentration. Parents may contribute to the classroom in ways that do not impact the work cycle as well. It is very important that children arrive on time so that late arrivals do not interfere this important aspect of Montessori education.
Montessori is education for peace.
Children are actively taught how to develop interpersonal skills that will result in their being empathetic to others. Games involving violence are prohibited. Parents are strongly encouraged to refrain from allowing children access to violence on television or in video games. In fact, it is best for children under the age of seven to have very limited exposure to video games and television in order to encourage brain development through three-dimensional interaction with the environment.
Competition hinders learning.
Whenever learning is tied to competition for recognition, grades or praise there is a marked decrease in retention and enjoyment. Children are not compared to one another in a Montessori classroom. Instead, they learn to monitor their own progress in order to recognize self-growth. This leads to personal satisfaction based on effort instead of comparisons or concern about what others may have accomplished. The multi-age classroom aids in this non-competitive approach since children can associate with social, emotional, chronological or academic peers as needed.
Montessori develops self-discipline and independence.
Children in a Montessori environment learn to be responsible for their choices. The teacher as an authority figure fades from the forefront. The prepared Montessori environment uses incremental levels of difficulty built into the materials. Children come to rely on their own intellect to recognize when they need to change their activity. They become truly self-disciplined with much less need for adult intervention. Visitors are often struck by the calm atmosphere that emanates from this self-discipline. Montessori said: whenever adults do things for the children that they can do for themselves, it hinders their development. Children learn to take care of themselves and their environment. The Montessori school is considered a "Children's House."
Montessori education paints with a broad brush before adding the details.
It is important for children to learn the bigger picture and basic concepts before learning the details. This helps children organize new information in ways that make it easier to learn and remember. The Montessori approach also rests upon providing concrete examples of abstract concepts and gradually allowing children to develop more abstract understanding.
Montessori encourages real life experiences for young children.
Children relish learning about real things. Most fantasy is imposed on children from the imagination of adults and is not generated by children. Children on the other hand, develop creativity and imagination through interaction with their wondrous world and use of the hands-on materials that open that world to them.
Montessori is education for life.
The Montessori approach is fully integrated over a multi-age span. It is not designed as a quick fix for children who may be struggling in more traditional environments. It is designed to help them develop fully as individuals, not just academically, but as whole people. It is best to plan for enrollment of at least three full years. This allows time for children to integrate the philosophy into the way they learn so that they can carry that love of learning with them throughout life.
About Maria Montessori
A Brief Biography
Maria Montessori was, in many ways,
ahead of her time. Born in the town
of Chiaravalle, in the province of
Ancona, Italy, in 1870, she became
the first female physician in Italy
upon her graduation from medical
school in 1896. Shortly afterwards,
she was chosen to represent Italy at
two different women's conferences
in Berlin in 1896 and in London in
1900. In her medical practice, her
clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.
Her desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House." What ultimately became the Montessori method of education developed there, based upon Montessori's scientific observations of these children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do "naturally," by themselves, unassisted by adults.
Children teach themselves. This simple but profound truth inspired Montessori's lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and teacher training--all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.
The Spanish government invited her to open a research institute in 1917. In 1919, she began a series of teacher training courses in London. In 1922, she was appointed a government inspector of schools in her native Italy, but because of her opposition to Mussolini's fascism, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934. She traveled to Barcelona, Spain, and was rescued there by a British cruiser in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. She opened the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands, in 1938, and founded a series of teacher training courses in India in 1939. Later, she founded the Montessori Center in London (1947). She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times--in 1949, 1950, and 1951.
Maria Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.
Content courtesy of the North American Montessori Teachers' Association.