Children are born mindful and with wisdom we can keep this skill alive --
“Montessori is wonderful in this way.”—the Dalai Lama
There are an increasing number of full and part-time Montessori schools popping up around town. A lot of parents are curious about what Montessori means and how the teaching philosophy is different than other centers. Here are 5 things you need to know about a Montessori education.
- The Montessori Method is Based on Science
Dr. Maria Montessori was a trained pediatrician and psychiatrist in Italy who discovered that there was a different way for children to learn. She spoke about the ‘Absorbent Mind’ as the ability of a child to learn huge amounts of information between birth & 6 years. Recent studies on brain growth show that by the time a child is 6 years old, 90% of all the connections in the brain have been made.
- Montessori Learning is Individualized Learning
Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses. Children learn at their own individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is a process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
The children choose their work without adult guidance and complete a task for different amounts of time. A guide will sit with children individually to give a lesson so they can assess how each child does with a new concept and can jump ahead as necessary. Each child has their own curriculum and are free to learn as quickly as they are able.
In a Montessori environment, children also learn practical skills for life, and each of those skills has a bigger purpose in the educational process. For example, peeling carrots for snack shows a child they can complete a multi-step process, focus on a task, remember the correct order of steps, and produce something of value.
- There are Multiple Ages of Children Within a Classroom
Montessori Education programs are typically offered at the infant-toddler (birth to age 2), early childhood (ages 3-5), lower elementary (ages 6-9), upper elementary (ages 9-12), and secondary levels (ages 12-15 and ages 15-18).
The Montessori guide is responsible for presenting a concept individually to each child, but thereafter, any child who is knowledgeable about that concept is welcome to assist in the learning process. The younger child will ask more experienced peers for guidance just as readily as the teacher. This peer interaction benefits both children because when a child teaches something, they must first organize it clearly in their own mind.
- Montessori Believes in The Uninterrupted Work Period
The uninterrupted work period is fundamental to the Montessori approach. The children must have time to work through various tasks and responsibilities at their own pace. This ensures that individual children have time to settle into a task that interests them and are not unnecessarily interrupted when they are engaged in a worthwhile activity. Whole-class lessons, circle time, outdoor play time, snacks/lunch, and enrichment classes for the whole group should not interrupt and are not included in the work period.
For toddlers, the uninterrupted work period may be 60-90 minutes. For early childhood level (ages 3-6), a 3-hour uninterrupted work cycle, 5 days a week is optimal and a 2-3 hour work cycle, 4 days per week is the required minimum for AMS-accredited schools.
- Anyone Can Call Themselves Montessori, So Be Careful
The term ‘Montessori’ is not regulated, so any program can label themselves as a 'Montessori' -- it may or may not follow the true principles of a Montessori education. Many schools say ‘Montessori-inspired’, which most likely means that they try to follow some of the principles, but typically teachers are not certified in the discipline.
As a parent, you want to research carefully and observe a classroom in operation. There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents should ask about the school's affiliation and make sure that the lead teachers in the classroom -- as well as the director -- are accredited as a Montessori teacher.
To search for child care centers and preschools in your area that utilize a Montessori philosophy, click here.