Maria Montessori was a true pioneer. Montessori had a particular view of learning. The Montessori philosophy therefore depends on three proponents, each having equal value – the child, the cognizant adult and the prepared environment.
The child is the base. Montessori felt that each child was unique and the child’s mind and process of learning varied throughout the stages of the child’s development.
She saw that they were inherently good and when allowed to develop freely, children feel connected to everything and are naturally caring to each other and the world around them. Dr. Montessori was convinced that they had precise inner guides and that the work of adults was to help them to be all that they could be. The spiritual nature of children had been forgotten and denied and that children could therefore show adults the way to return to a more meaningful, holistic way of living.
The Child moves through sensitive periods
Dr. Montessori noticed that there were certain periods of particular sensitivity that occurred in children. During these periods children could learn the activity that she was focused on at a particularly intense rate and that such learning appeared to come very easily.
The periods were a sensitive period for order, refinement of the senses, language acquisition, walking and movement, small objects and involvement in social life. If left to follow this natural interest the child could achieve much more than would normally be expected. Montessori teachers therefore watch out for these very creative periods and make sure that the children have the freedom to follow their interests.
Birth to age 6 – The child constructs themselves and absorbs their environment The child’s personality is laid down.
Ages 6 to 12 – The child constructs his/her social self. The child begins to socialize with the world, to absorb their culture through interacting, observing and through the use of imagination, and begins to develop a sense of morality.
Ages 12 to 18 – The child continues to construct the moral self. They begin to participate in society and to search for and establish their place in it. The teenager requires protection during this time of great changes and therefore, intellectual pursuits often take second seat to social development.
Ages 18 to 24 – The young adult is preparing themselves for his/her place on earth. They are sustaining and expanding their culture, developing leadership abilities with the goal of becoming responsible, contributing members of society.
Children need freedom
Montessori saw freedom as the single most important factor in allowing children to develop as spontaneous, creative individuals.
The aware adult, whether a parent or teacher, acts as an observer, protects the child’s right to learn, models desired behavior, prepares the environment and also accommodates the needs of the child. In the classroom setting, the adult is neither simply the central authority nor “imparter of knowledge”. When presenting a lesson, the adult’s role is to model the learning activity. This is done in a slow, concise way, modeling care and respect. Different modalities of learning are considered when a lesson is given. That is, when the adult speaks, they are not demonstrating, and when they are modeling, there is little language. In this way the child’s attention can be focused more on what is said or on what is done. The child is then invited to do the task. Most of the Montessori materials are self correcting so that the child can “learn as they go.”
Children learn through their senses
Dr. Montessori saw that children built on their physical experiences of the world through their senses. By designing interesting materials which the children were drawn to, she could help them extend this understanding.
The prepared environment is one that encourages exploration and movement (especially for the young child) and will allow “freedom within limits.” The child is shown how to respect the environment, how to make choices and is allowed to develop the abilities of concentration, coordination, and a sense of order and independence. Montessori realized that children first needed concrete objects to hold and manipulate. Subsequent materials would then gradually lead the child to abstraction. The furniture in Montessori classrooms fit the child’s size. An example — tiny, light tables and chairs are available for even the youngest Montessori toddler students. Materials for the child’s use are complete, attractive and available for the child’s choosing. Teacher materials, storage areas and even teachers’ desks are ideally out of sight and inaccessible to the child.
Children are natural learners
Montessori schools believe that children are at their happiest when they are busily involved in a process. They are natural learners who will want to constantly explore the world if left to follow their instincts. External demands that don’t fit with their needs is what stops children from enjoying this natural curiosity. The only results young children are interested in are the ones that end up making them feel good about themselves and their abilities. Learning their unacceptable results that in turn make them feel bad creates a fear to the process. That fear can cut them off from the joy of learning forever.
Montessori schools believe that each child is an individual and should be encouraged to work at the pace that is right for him or her. Children are never in competition with each other.
Lets preserve the rights of each child to be protected from undue pressure and make learning FUN and NATURAL.
Maria Montessori wrote many books during her time. Here are some recommendations;
There are also many books written by other authors about Montessori and her philosophy.
Recommendations, in no particular order, include the following: