Philosophy of Montessori Education

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Who is Maria Montessori?

Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator, the first woman to receive a medical degree in Italy. Born in 1870, she developed psychologically rooted methods of educating children for life. She devoted her life to this work and was honored and respected throughout the world by the time of her death in 1952.

What is the purpose of the Montessori Education?

The purpose of the Montessori education is to help each child develop within him or herself skills for a lifetime of creative learning. It is to develop the basic ideas, attitudes and skills essential for success in school and life! A thirst for learning: habits of concentration, sense of order, independence, control of movement, functional creativity and self confidence. In the Montessori classroom there are two ways to approach this: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of hands-on jobs by exploring his own choice rather than by being forced; second, by helping to perfect all of the child's natural tools for learning, so that his or her ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual, long range purpose in addition to the immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.

What is the Montessori Concept of Freedom?

Freedom is a prerequisite condition for learning. Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child (or adult) is one who has developed his/her potential and prefers to work out problems for him or herself but is capable of asking for and receiving direction when necessary. An undisciplined and unsettled child (or adult) is not free, but is a slave to his/her immediate desires and is excessively dependent on others. (Whether parent, teacher, wife, or husband) The free child, of course grows into a free adult. Freedom within the classroom means, that the child is free to move about the room at will, to talk to other children, to work with any equipment whose purpose the child understands, or to ask the teacher to introduce new material to him/her. The child is not free to disturb other children at work or abuse the equipment that is so important to his/her development. Montessori allows each child to develop skills as they become ready for them at their own pace.

What is the Montessori Concept of Discipline?

Discipline is the second Prerequisite condition for learning. Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline." An inner control that the child develops over his/her own behavior through working with the challenging Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated because of a lack of proper stimulation and inadequate opportunities to achieve. She noted that they became happier and self controlled after a period of time in a Montessori classroom in which they experienced challenging tasks that absorbed their energies and resulted in a sense of achievement.

What are sensitive periods?

This is Montessori's name for age periods when the child shows unusual capabilities in acquiring particular skills. A modern name for this phenomenon might be "formative periods" or "periods of special maturational aptness" -- a period in which the child is psychologically attuned to learn or acquire given ideas or skills more easily than at any other period. Modern psychologists refer to critical learning periods and stress developmental needs to be capitalized upon with developmental tasks. For example: the sensitive period for writing is between three and half and four to five, for precise movement and coordination two and a half to four, and for acquiring a sense of order two and a half to three and a half years. The Montessori takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select individual activities that correspond to his/her own periods of interest.

At what age should a child start?

The entrance age varies in individual schools. We start with two year olds and go up to six year olds. A child can usually enter a Montessori classroom between the ages of two and six, depending on when he can be happy and comfortable in a classroom situation. He/she will begin with the simplest exercise based on activities that all children enjoy. The equipment that the child uses at three and four years of age will help the child to develop the concentration, coordination and working habits necessary for the more advanced exercises the child will perform at five and six. The entire program of learning is purposefully structured. Therefore, optimum results cannot be expected either for a child who misses the early years of the cycle, or for one who is withdrawn before he finishes the basic materials described here. Parents should understand that a Montessori school is neither a "baby-sitting" service nor a "play school" that prepares a child for traditional kindergarten. It is a unique cycle of learning designed to take advantage of the child's sensitive years between three and six, when he/she can absorb information from a well prepared and enriched environment. By pursuing his/her individual interests in a Montessori classroom he/she gains an early enthusiasm for learning, which is the key to his/her becoming a truly educated person.

What does the Montessori teacher do?

All certified teachers have completed a year long combination theory internship program; and have successfully completed oral and written examinations in early childhood education, by either A.M.S. or A.M.1. schools. The teacher's task is to work with individual children, introducing materials, and giving guidance when needed. The competent Montessori trained teacher creates an environment with hands on jobs, for individual and group work. One of the primary tasks is careful observation of each child in order to determine his/her needs and to gain a knowledge he/she needs in preparing the environment to enhance the child's growth. The teacher's method of teaching is indirect in that he/she neither imposes upon the child as in direct teaching nor abandons the child as in a non directive permissive approach. Rather, she is constantly alert to the direction in which the child has indicated his/her wishes to go, and the teacher actively seeks ways to accomplish the child's goals.

How can I afford both Montessori and college later?

If you have to make a choice, the money is better spent at age two and three than at age eighteen. The child who "falls in love with learning" at an early age will get higher education with or without his parents' help. Many college students today are wasting time and money because they have no interest in learning. They never develop the foundations for a lifetime of creative thinking.

Where can I read more about Montessori?

The following books are available at most libraries:

  • Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work.
  • The Absorbent Mind: By Maria Montessori.
  • The Secret of Childhood: By Maria Montessori.
  • Montessori's own Handbook: By Maria Montessori