by Barbara Moffitt
All parents want the best of everything for their children. Parents invest a large amount of money from the time the child is born buying toys to help them learn, develop and to occupy their time. The Montessori environment is prepared by trained teachers using educational materials designed by Dr. Maria Montessori to aid the total development of children from age two through elementary school.
Hundreds of pieces of equipment are available to the children to teach specific concepts such as sizes, shapes, colors, dimensions, sounds and numbers. Most parents are not financially able to duplicate these learning tools, nor are they specially trained to direct their use. Montessori Schools were originally created in the early 1900’s to provide a safe, nurturing place where parents could leave their children while they went to work. Learning starts at birth and Dr. Montessori realized the importance of starting early to establish inner values, high morals, good work habits and academic excellence. Being a medical doctor allowed her the opportunity to observe young children. She saw their needs and began creating materials to help them learn. It was her desire to chance the educational learning process of that day to one which would meet the individual needs of each person, whereby children could learn by doing, grow in self-esteem, and progress at their own pace. Her educational philosophy has been adapted all over the world with great success. The method has been used with all socioeconomic levels and children of various cultural backgrounds who have diversified academic abilities.
Today with the crisis in education becoming more and more serious, it is all the more imperative that the Montessori approach be reexamined.
What Makes Montessori Education Unique?
A specially designed classroom filled with learning materials planned to enhance the 5 senses and build the intelligence.
- Children learn by exploring and discovering concepts with “hands-on” manipulative equipment.
- Teachers trained with special techniques create a curriculum that meets the developmental needs of each age level.
- Children work in a family setting of mixed age grouping, learning responsibility and respect for each other.
- Individualized learning allows students to progress at their own pace.
- Positive reinforcement, support and encouragement is a top priority.
- A strong foundation of self-esteem is built as the child experiences success through work.
People sometimes think that Montessori is affiliated with a particular religion. It is not. There are thousands of Montessori Private and public educational programs across the nation. Others think that the children are free to do whatever they want. Not so. The children are guided by the teachers using ground rules which give freedom within limits. The children are taught to respect their classroom and each other. The objective is always to teach self-discipline through positive work. Other comments have been made that say the environment is not structured or even the opposite, by saying it is too structured. Yes – there is a specific planned curriculum, but the curriculum is designed in learning apparatus displayed throughout the room. Children move freely choosing work. The child is allowed to explore and discover the concepts built into the materials and then return the work to its proper place. Lessons are given as to its use, but creativity is also encouraged so the the child will learn to think for himself. Montessori teachers work diligently creating environments and learning materials that teach and are self-correcting so the child can learn by himself. Teachers guide the children through each achievement level so they thoroughly understand before going on.
One will always see children working on different projects in a Montessori classroom because we believe in the individual progressing at his own pace and up to his highest potential. Children are not pushed nor are they held back. The child’s interest is allowed to evolve and he is not limited by time. Thus, most Montessori children are working at a higher level of academic achievement and enjoying it because they are experiencing personal success. children and teachers work together in a three-year cycle of instruction, which allows them to really get to know each other – another strong asset of the Montessori program.
Parents often ask if their child will be too advanced when he leaves the Montessori environment. Children who are exposed to more – learn more. Quite often they are ahead of peers in other programs. Our objective is to always work on self-control, discipline and self-esteem. The children learn to solve problems for themselves. The goal is that they will be able to adjust to any situation and make the best of it. There are different rules and guidelines in any social situation and adaptation is a skill that must be developed. Practical Life experiences give the child responsibility and help the child gain independence. Our expectations are high because we know children can learn much more than traditional programs offer.
Children learn to work in a small community of friends. Social graces, manners and interpersonal relationships are developed through group activities as well as individual pursuits. They become a family – learning to share, to care for themselves, each other, and their world. Montessori gives the child the adventure of discovery and the joy of accomplishment. Children want to learn and the future of education depends on our commitment to providing the very best learning environment. Montessori offers a solution.
Barbara Moffitt is the Executive Director of the National Center for Montessori Education. She served on the N.C.M.E. Board of Directors for 15 years prior to this. She is the editor of the Reporter, the quarterly journal for N.C.M.E./Atlanta, which offers a Montessori teacher certification program for Early Childhood ages 2 1/2 to 6 years. Barbara Moffitt is the owner of Country Brook Montessori School in Norcross and Covered Bridge Montessori in Smyrna, private schools for children ages 18 months to 12 years (Norcross) and 2 to 12 years (Smyrna).