Maria Montessori was the first female to carry a Ph.D. in Italy, over 100 years ago. She was later put in charge of the project of creating a school for children in a low-income housing district. Using her scientific background in anthropology, she simply observed the children. The following TEDx MidAtlantic video in which Anna Lee, an “educator to the bone” in Frederick, MD, explains why she believes that all human potential starts within a child’s hands.
Maria Montessori began developing materials for the children based on the idea of giving the children tactile experiences with real-life concepts. She observed that “play” was the work of the child. This was at a time when it was thought that children couldn’t “learn” anything academic. It was felt at the time that children had to be sitting still and quietly listening to learn.
Her work was radical as far as thinking in that time period. She developed a set of materials and a standard for their use that is still in use today.
The Materials and the Method
These are what make a school a Montessori school. The materials she carefully thought out, tested, and refined, were inspired by the children and their abilities. The way she described their use, in her writings, are simply a method of presenting them to a child in a way that helps them gain the most use and knowledge. Preschool and kindergarten are essential for a child’s development.
Some people think all Montessori schools are only Catholic. Maria Montessori was Catholic, but that does not limit those who employ her methods and materials to any religious preference, but indeed, but good schooling can be awesome!
Some people have heard that only “advanced” or “exceptional” kids go to Montessori.
(I think that might be a chicken before the egg thing 😉)
The beauty of Montessori is that a child can learn whatever they are ready to learn at their own pace. This is the Montessori Philosophy. Children of different abilities and ages work well together and help and teach one another in the prepared Montessori environment.
Some people think Montessori is not academic enough. I have heard some parents say “I want my child reading by______.” The problem with this is:
1-It is not the parents’ goal to set
2-It does not consider the child’s ability or interests.
Children learn skills much faster and more solidly if it is on their own terms. Montessori allows children to grow and learn on their own time and at their own pace. The secret is that kids WANT to learn! They want to progress!
I have seen over and over a child who is allowed enough space to grow, flourish faster than anyone else could expect from them (that, by the way, is why it is called Children’s Garden Montessori 😉) This also shows in the number of famous Montessori graduates. Some people think Montessori is too academic, rigid or structured. This probably stems from the fact that there isn’t a lot of fantasy play in Montessori.
Maria Montessori wasn’t against children role-playing and using imagination. She observed that children between the ages of 3 to 6 have a hunger for real life and learning the skills that come with it. Montessori materials are very fact-based and can help your child in many ways. I believe it is important to distinguish between fantasy and reality at this age, but I think it is wrong to restrict fantasy and pretend
The structured accusation might be because the Montessori prepared environment looks a little “O.C.D.” to the untrained adult, but children thrive in that order and learn about sequence and placing naturally. Along with grace, courtesy and personal responsibility. See also this post: Holistic Education: Molding the Children Holistically.
Some people think Montessori classrooms have no “discipline” and the children have no rules or structure. The Montessori Classroom is “child-led but this does not mean it is Lord of the Flies in there. What it does mean is that the child is allowed to progress at their own pace. They are moving through a series of materials prepared to help them grow to their fullest potential. Again, this “non-forced” approach helps children develop. To learn more about using the Montessori Method while homeschooling your child, check out this post.