“Free the child’s potential and you transform him into the world.” Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori method is an educational approach that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori to serve children from birth to adulthood. It is based on careful observation of children’s needs in a variety of cultures all around the world. There are currently more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States, and an estimated 22,000 worldwide. The world’s largest public school, with an enrollment of 40,000, is a Montessori school based in India. Montessori programs can be found in an estimated 500 American public schools.
Dr. Montessori, a humanitarian, devout Catholic and first female physician in Italy, began her revolutionary work more than a century ago. Her philosophy is based upon scientific observations of students who attended the “Casa dei Bambini,” a school she founded for disadvantaged and disabled children in Rome.
“It is not true that I invented what is known as the Montessori method. I have studied the child, I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that is what is called the Montessori method,” she said.
Dr. Montessori developed an educational approach that was based on her deep understanding of children’s natural learning tendencies as they unfold in “prepared environments.” All of the environments are designed for multi-age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and 12-15).
Each of these environments contains specially designed, manipulative materials. These beautiful materials are carefully placed so as to invite the children to engage in learning activities that they choose individually. Montessori teachers are trained to guide the children in the use of the materials so that they learn through discovery and develop strong powers of concentration and self-discipline.
Montessori: Brained-Based Education
Montessori education supports the natural, instinctive self-construction of the child as he or she grows. There is a flow from one developmental stage to the next and the prepared environments allow for natural transitions through the stages and for a seamless continuum of learning.
Dr. Steven Hughes, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology, calls Montessori “the original brain-based approach to education because it is based upon scientific principles of human development.”
Each stage of a Montessori education consists of a three-year age span, grouped together in the same classroom. The classrooms are: parent-infant (ages 0 to 3), preschool (ages 3 to 6), lower and upper elementary (ages 6 to 9 and 9 to 12), and middle school (ages 12 to 15). Each of these environments is designed to accurately and precisely reflect the natural learning characteristics of the child at that stage of development. Through the use of the prepared environment and guided by the trained Montessori teacher, the child is able to engage in a wide variety of tasks which encourage divergent thinking, social interaction and practice with applying logical problem-solving skills — all at the level that is developmentally appropriate for the child’s specific stage. The children learn the how and why of what they know as well they gain a rich storehouse of knowledge about the world.
What does a Montessori student look like? You might be surprised!
More About Montessori
Additional Montessori resources and information (please watch this page in coming days for a rich listing of helpful books, websites, videos and other resources on Montessori education):
Montessori organizations and resources
“The Absorbent Mind,” by Maria Montessori
“Together with Montessori” by Cam Gordon
Montessori Madness (must watch five-minute video)
Superwoman Was Already Here (Maria Montessori philosophy in animated “Fast Draw” form)