Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
About The Montessori Philosophy
The Importance of the Early Years
Dr. Montessori, one of the most important educators of our time, emphasized the need for early education. She wrote, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to age six. For that is the time when intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed, not only his intelligence, the full totality of his psychic powers. “At no other age has the child greater need of an intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection.”
The Real Needs of the Child
Montessori attitudes and philosophy are most consistent with the needs of a child in the process of developing and learning. Montessori's educational theories are based on the way a child develops naturally and are then correlated for use as an educational system consistent with these laws.
Dr. Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person People teach themselves. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years spent in a classroom because he or she is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. She felt therefore, that the goal of early education should not be to fill children with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate their own natural desire to learn. Her experiments made the child the center of education; her program is adapted to the interests and needs of children. As a result, children concentrate with enthusiasm and achieve a real and profound understanding of their work. This intellectual progress is accompanied by emotional growth. The children become harmonious in movement, independent in work, and honest and helpful with one another.
Phases of Growth
Dr. Montessori discovered, and recent educational research has verified successive phases of growth in children, each with characteristic sensitivities that guide physical and mental development. These phases of growth, she called “sensitive periods." They are outwardly recognizable by an intense interest that the child shows for certain sensorial and abstract experiences. Dr. Montessori discovered that the guiding sensitivities constitute needs in the child that demand fulfillment and are universal to all children. Thus, the validity of Dr. Montessori's observations has remained constant since she began her task of the discovery of the child.
What is the Montessori method?
Montessori is a philosophy and method of education that emphasizes the potential of the young child and which develops this potential by utilizing specially trained teachers and special teaching materials.
Montessori recognizes in children a natural curiosity and a desire to learn; the Montessori Materials awaken this desire and channel that curiosity into a learning experience which children enjoy. Montessori Materials help children to understand what they learn by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial experience; in this manner, the Montessori child is actually learning and not just memorizing. The Montessori Method stresses that children learn and progress at their own pace, so that fast learners are not held back, and slow learners are not frustrated by their inability to keep up.
What does Montessori offer my child?
Montessori allows children to experience the excitement of learning by their own choice. Dr. Montessori observed that it was easier for a child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding "sensitive period" than at any other time in life. These are periods of intense fascination for learning a particular skill. Montessori allows children the freedom to select individual activities that correspond to their own periods of interest and readiness and to progress at their own pace. A child who acquires the basic skills of reading and arithmetic in this natural way has the advantage of beginning educated without drudgery, boredom, or discouragement.
What is Montessori apparatus?
The Montessori classroom offers 500 unique educational didactic (self-teaching) materials which are manipulated by the children in the classroom. They accommodate many levels of ability. They are not "teaching aids" in the traditional sense, because their goal is not the external one of teaching children skills or imparting- knowledge through "correct usage." Rather; the goal is an internal one of aiding the child's mental development and self-construction They aid this growth by providing stimuli that captures the child's attention and initiates a process of concentration Children then use the apparatus to develop co-ordination, attention to details, and good work habits. When the environment offers materials that polarize children...the teacher is then able to give the freedom needed for healthy development.
The Role of the Teacher
The function of the teacher in a Montessori classroom differs considerably from that of the traditional teacher; hence, Dr. Montessori used the term “Directress”. The directress brings children into contact with the world in which they live and the tools by which they learn to cope with the world. She is, first of all, a very keen observer of the individual interests and needs of each child; her daily plan proceeds from her observations rather than from a prepared curriculum. She demonstrates the correct use of materials to the children as they are individually chosen and carefully watches their progress and records their work. Individual children's total development as well as their progress toward self-discipline is carefully guided by the directress, who prepares the environment, directs the activities, and offers each child enticement and stimulation. The mutual respect of the student and the teacher-guide is the most important factor in this process.
The Ungraded Classroom
The greatest possibility for flexibility in permitting individual lessons and progress, while still retaining group sessions at no-expense to the individual child exists in the Montessori environment. The use of individual materials by the children, permits a varied pace of learning that accommodates many levels of ability in the classroom. If the classroom equipment is to be challenging enough to provoke a learning response, it must be properly matched to the sensitivities of each child. Only the children can usually make the most satisfying choice themselves. The Montessori classroom offers children the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of graded materials. The child can grow as their interests lead them from one level of complexity to another They work in a group composed of individuals of various ages, abilities, cultures and interests and are not required to follow anyone else's program. It permits the younger children a graded series of models for imitation, and the older ones an opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by helping the younger ones, hence, they add to the group as they receive from it what they need.
Why are Montessori children generally self-confident, out-going, and self-reliant?
Montessori is based on a profound respect for each child's personality Children work from their own free choice and are allowed a large measure of independence that forms the basis of self-discipline.
As children progress at their own pace and successfully complete the self-correcting exercises, they develop confidence in their ability to understand their achievement.
Montessori presents endless opportunities among the children for mutual help that is joyfully given and received. Co-operative social interaction among children of different ages engenders feelings of friendship, respect for the rights of others, and self-confidence.
These aspects of the Montessori program help eliminate the necessity for coercion that often causes feelings of inferiority and stress.
Why should you send your child to a Montessori school?
Montessori is education...not a nursery school. The best time to start your child's education is during the early years...2½ to 4½ years when most of a child's intelligence and social characteristics are formed. 50% of the child's mental development occurs before 4 years of age. In a Montessori School, your child will learn to think in logical patterns and to deal with reality. Children with a Montessori background become better prepared to cope with the complex challenges of tomorrow’s world.