“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment”.
WHAT IS MONTESSORI ?
Montessori is neither a method, nor a set curriculum, but rather an “approach” to learning.
It has been created by Dr. Maria Montessori – in many ways a woman ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. Early in her medical practice her clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment.
Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university in 1901 to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904 she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. Her desire to help children was so strong that in 1905 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice and founded the first ,,Casa dei Bambini”, or “Children’s Home.” What ultimately became the Montessori “method” of education developed there, based upon Montessori’s scientific observations of the children’s almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials.
Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children doing “naturally,” by themselves, with little or no assistance from adults.
Because Montessori is based on observation and following the individual needs of each child, it adapts to and provides for each child in a unique way. It has been used with amazing results, in countries all over the world, and with children of all cultural backgrounds. It has assisted children across the spectrum from highly gifted to those with learning disabilities.
It can indeed be said that, if implemented as it should, it is as unique as your child!
The child under 6 years old is undergoing a process of self-construction. The application of the Montessori philosophy and the specifically designed Montessori equipment aids the child’s ability to absorb knowledge and continue this path of self-construction. All children have a natural, innate urge to learn. This urge, fostered and supported in the right learning environment, and with the right activities for each stage of the child’s development, allows the child to develop his or her full potential.
Before the age of six, a child learns from direct contact with the environment, by all means of all senses, and through movement. The child literally absorbs what is the environment. Sensorial-manipulative materials enable the child to gain learning experiences and move from the concrete experiences to the abstract concepts.
Each child is an individual developing at his own in-born pace. Education must be in harmony with his pace and his “true” moral, spiritual, cognitive, and affective qualities.
Since the child absorbs knowledge from the environment it must contain various activities satisfying his needs. The classroom environment is safe and orderly, every piece of apparatus serves a certain developmental purpose . The shelves are filled with activities that are attractive looking so the child reaches for them voluntarily. The child is free to choose activities and stay on task as long as he wishes.
There are five main areas in the preschool program: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language , Mathematics and Social Studies. Considerable emphasis is also placed on Creative Arts and Music. Children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any time of the day all subjects can be studied, at all levels.
The first instinct of the young child is to become independent from adults. Through manipulating tools, pouring, spooning etc. the child becomes ready to perform self help skills. He is practicing his eye-hand coordination, develops small hand muscles and fingers dexterity thus preparing the hand to hold the pencil in the future. Independence, self- confidence, sense of order and above all extended concentration are the key benefits of Practical Life .
The child gets to know the world through his senses. He needs to touch, feel, listen and observe changes in order to make sense of his surrounding. Sensorial area is rich in Maria Montessori designed apparatus aimed at exposing children to the world of colors, shapes, sounds, volumes etc. By matching, grading and comparisons the child refines his senses, develops observation and organizational skills preparing himself for mathematics. They explore shapes of solid and plane figures and their interrelations in preparation for Geometry.
Language development is supported in many ways in Montessori classroom. The child is encouraged toward self- expression individually and in a group
activities. As the child gains sensorial experiences, language is provided to expand his vocabulary and precision. Phonetic language exercises build the child’s understanding of word building and composition, ranging from the simple sounds of individual letters through sentence work and book reading. Throughout the classroom, the language materials provide concrete experiences with each element of language : listening, writing, reading and speaking.
The very nature of many Practical Life and Sensorial materials leads to development of several mathematical skills: exactness, order, discrimination, recognition of similarities and differences, gradation, estimation, calculation. By the time the child approaches Montessori Math materials they will have developed many of these skills. The children are then first introduced to the materials that develop understanding of the numbers one to ten. Through work with the concrete materials, the child then learns about the decimal system and the four operations : addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Older children then move from manipulating concrete materials to the abstract level that allows them to perform calculation with just paper and pencil .
Social Studies and Science
By introducing the child from a “bird eye view” of the planet earth, we look into details of continents, specific countries and biomes. The world of science is explored through study of plants and animals. Through cultural studies, celebrating various holidays, looking into costumes and arts the children gain acceptance and appreciation of different cultures.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER
Montessori is much different than the traditional model. Instead of the knowledge passing from the teacher or the book to the student, the Montessori Teacher is trained in putting the child in touch with a carefully designed classroom environment. It’s the role of the teacher to prepare, and continue to prepare, the environment, to link the child to it through well-thought-out lessons.
A special principle of Montessori philosophy is that children also learn by observing and teaching others.
The socialization of the Montessori classroom is natural and spontaneous, it resembles the interactions within a large extended family, or the community. This is indeed one of the reasons why Montessori offers children a mixed-age environment: older children love to help the younger ones, and spontaneously assist the newcomers in finding their place around the classroom.
The younger children are free to watch the older ones, while the older children may, if they wish, teach the younger ones.
A co-operative atmosphere rather than a competitive atmosphere is encouraged in the classroom.
MONTESSORI LEARNING OUTCOMES
Children in Montessori classes learn according to their own developmental time limit. They are expected to make responsible choices for their learning and to use their freedom well. Children appreciate the respect they are given and become mature, caring, friendly and curious individuals who love to learn!