Montessori is a world renowned philosophy of education. It is an educational approach that encourages and guides the child to his /her maximum potential. This allows for the fullest physical, spiritual, and intellectual development by assisting the child to educate themselves at their own pace. A specially prepared environment is created with an ordered range of sequential learning materials to guide the child in self directed hands-on sensorial activities. The concrete materials require manipulation with the use of the hands to develop the mind. Montessori is designed to take full advantage of the child’s to explore and discover. The Montessori concepts and principles are simple yet very effective. Allowing each individual child to develop and learn naturally at their own pace.
The basic concepts and principles of a Montessori education are as follows:
Respect – The principles respect each child as being a unique individual in their own right. Children different from adults and each other. Understanding the differences amongst one another and accepting each other with love and respect. A profound respect for each child’s personality and choice s is the key to fostering their creativity.
Understanding the differences amongst one another and accepting each other with love and respect. A profound respect for each child’s personality and choice s is the key to fostering their creativity.
The Prepared Environment – Montessori’s education method called for free activity within a “prepared environment”, meaning an educational environment tailored to the specific characteristics of children at different ages. The function of the environment is to allow the child to develop independence in all areas according to his or her inner psychological directives.
In addition to offering access to the Montessori materials appropriate to the age of the children, the environment should exhibit the following characteristics
• Construction in proportion to the child and his/her needs
• Beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment
• An arrangement that facilitates movement and activity
• Limitation of materials, so that only material that supports the child’s development is included.
The Absorbent Mind – The child has what Maria Montessori called it, an absorbent mind. The child’s absorbent mind unconsciously soaks up information from the environment, around him, learning about it at a rapid rate. This learning process is unique to the young child and lasts for the first six years of his life. The Montessori method is designed to take advantage of these mental powers during these critical years.
Sensitive periods – These periods document the critical stages of development. Dr. Maria Montessori recognized that it was much easier for a child to learn a particular skill when it was pursued during the corresponding “sensitive period.” This is when we see a child repeatedly does an activity with passion and conviction per se, and it seems like nothing can deter them to accomplishing that task until it is satisfied. It is a time of intense concentration and mental activity on developing a particular skill at that particular time, age/phase in growth. It is driven unconsciously by an inner force that the best way an adult can support this passion is to prepare the environment and encourage this special time of learning.
Freedom within limits – The structured Montessori classroom provides freedom within clear limits. It gives children a great deal of flexibility to make their own choices about the kind of work to engage in, and whether to do it collaboratively or individually.
Freedom does not mean that children can do whatever they like. Rather, children are encouraged to think independently and act as a member of a social group. This is achieved, within clearly defined boundaries, through the freedom the children have of movement, of interaction and association, and the freedom they have to choose their own work and to learn at their own pace
The Montessori Teacher – “Directress” as Dr. Montessori coined the term, guides the child through an ordered arrangement of developmentally appropriate activities. The teacher does not teach per say but instead assists the child to slowly gain mastery of the carefully thought out environment prepared especially for him/her. She demonstrates the correct process in using the materials as they are individually chosen by the children. The lessons are brief and efficient giving just enough information to intrigue them so that they will come back to investigate later.
The Montessori teacher is a trained observer of children’s learning and behaviour. These observations are recorded and used to determine where each child is in his or her development. This also leads the teacher to know when to intervene in the child’s learning with a new lesson, a fresh challenge or a reinforcement of basic ground rules.
As children learn in many different ways and at their own pace, the Montessori teacher is trained to “follow the child” and enhance the development of each of her pupils. They do this to a large degree, through the design of the classroom, selection and organisation of learning activities and the structure of the day.