The Montessori Philosophy
The Montessori approach starts from a number of fundamental beliefs – that children are all unique individuals, that they all have immense potential, that they want to learn and be busy – and that, while they may want to be like adults, they do not learn or experience life in the same way as adults do.
Montessori gives children the freedom to make choices and to pursue them without interruption. It encourages them to respect the choices of those around them, and to take pleasure in their own accomplishments.
Montessori teachers seek to guide rather than control. They are not there to impart knowledge but to provide opportunities to learn and an environment in which this is most easily achieved.
Montessori addresses a range of learning and experience that is far broader than any state-prescribed curriculum. It focuses on six core areas of learning: practical life; sensorial; language; mathematics; cultural and creative activities. Careful structured activities in these areas, often using specially developed Montessori equipment, make it easier for the child, providing them with a broad platform of skills and knowledge that will support all their future learning.
Many of Maria Montessori’s observations and innovations in early child development – such as the provision of child-sized furniture – are now perfectly commonplace in mainstream classrooms.
Phonics – the approach to teaching reading and writing that focuses on the sounds and of letters and syllables – is now widely accepted as the best method for developing early literacy.
Montessori learning materials are all carefully designed to help children understand where they may have gone wrong and to enable them to work out ways of correcting themselves without being ‘told’ how to do so. This helps them to develop confidence in their own abilities as problem solvers and amplifies the satisfaction they feel in their own success.
Discipline, and in particular self-discipline, is central to the Montessori approach. Children in a Montessori setting enjoy enormous freedom to choose within the limits of the prepared environment. Poor or disruptive behaviour is discouraged through the reinforcement of positive behaviour and respect for the space, work and concentration of the other individuals in the classroom.
A child’s early years – from birth to six – are the period when he or she has the greatest capacity to learn and the greatest appetite for knowledge. It is what we, as adults, do during these critical years that lay the foundations for all their future learning, for their sense of themselves, their confidence, self esteem, respect and interest in the people and world around them – truly education for life.
Maria Montessori pioneered an approach to education that focuses on children’s innate desire to learn and their enormous capacity to do so when provided with the right environment and the appropriate materials under the guidance of a watchful, caring teacher.
Born in 1870, she was one of the first women to qualify as a medical doctor in Italy and it is her scientific background that underlies the design of the Montessori materials – many of which show quite remarkable insight into children’s learning patterns – and her belief in the importance of observation.
Her work with supposedly unteachable children and the poor in Rome, and later as her fame grew with psychologists and educationalists, has left a powerful legacy that has touched the lives of countless children – and the adults around them – all over the world.