What is Montessori Education? | Student Life in a Montessori Classroom | Montessori Philosophy | The Montessori Method of Education | Montessori FAQs
What is Montessori Education?
Montessori education is an educational approach that facilitates student independence in a prepared environment. In the multi-age classroom environment, students learn skills such as critical thinking, social responsibility, and a life-long natural desire to learn.
The Montessori approach affirms that children’s development and growth is highly influenced by childhood education that includes hands-on learning activities and multi-sensory learning materials.
The child-focused approach of Montessori classroom learning ensures that concepts are not taught only by rote memorization. Instead, a Montessori classroom environment incorporates learning materials and focused instruction to deepen children’s skills and relationships with reading, writing, mathematics, history, geography, science, art, music, and more.
The Montessori experience supports growth for children and cultivates their responsibility and confidence.
The Montessori method of education incorporates learning materials specifically designed to honor the mind of the developing child. Teachers observe students as they use hands-on learning tools designed to help children perfect life skills through practice and repetition. All learning materials focus on a single human development activity that supports independence, problem-solving, and social responsibility.
Examples of Practical Skills Learned through Montessori Academic Experiences:
- How to tie your shoes
- How to put on snow pants, other clothing, and footwear
- How to fasten zippers, buttons and snaps
- Basic sewing skills
- How to wash the surface of a table
- How to blow your nose
- How to quietly push in a chair and close a door
- How to organize learning materials on a bookshelf
- How to offer an invitation
- How to politely decline an invitation
The Best Montessori Schools and Skilled Montessori Teachers:
- Create a prepared environment that fosters student independence and personal responsibility
- Observe each child’s skills development progress with learning materials that encourage discovery & logic
- Allow each student to choose and follow his/her own path to functional and intellectual independence
- Enable students’ growth at their own pace, with respect to natural desire, skills and emerging interests
Montessori Parenting beyond the Primary Classroom
Montessori parenting is encouraged beyond the primary classroom to reinforce academic experiences in early childhood and inspire optimal development based on students’ natural curiosity and interests.
How Parents Can Reinforce Montessori Methods at Home
Parents can enhance the consistency between home and classroom by implementing the Montessori perspective and maintaining the principles of Montessori pedagogy. Children emulate the adult world around them through play and active participation. Montessori methods – both in-school and reinforced by Montessori parenting – provide children with opportunities to perform purposeful activities that use real life skills that foster independence.
For example, let your student (under supervision) load the dishwasher, feed a pet, do the dishes, run the vacuum, pack a suitcase, etc. Montessori equipment (materials) should not be purchased and used outside of the classroom by anyone that’s not properly trained in Montessori methods and pedagogy.
Student Life in a Montessori Classroom
In a Montessori classroom, students enjoy the flow of their day with each other and with nurturing staff members. The prepared environment inspires a healthy relationship between adult teachers and students of all ages.
Montessori Daycare / Toddler Childcare
Montessori daycare introduces children to Montessori activities, beginning with a community meeting, followed by individual lessons and exploration through play. This supportive pre-Montessori childcare curriculum balances flexible time for independence with group time to support each student’s growth and rapid brain development during the critical time of 15 months and 2.9 years old.
Montessori Preschool & Kindergarten
Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten students in multi-age classrooms participate alongside each other as they experience key daily curriculum subjects including practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, geography & culture, science, art & music.
Elementary Montessori Classroom
The Elementary Montessori Classroom is an exciting learning environment enriched with opportunities for students to observe and practice life skills using materials that teach and reinforce subjects and concepts such as math & geometry, language, grammar, biology, history, geography, botany and physical science.
Montessori training in childhood education incorporates a unique academic structure (prepared environment), with specific learning materials based on the traditional teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori.
The basic concept of the Montessori Philosophy of childhood education maintains that a child already has within him or herself, the person he or she will become later in life. In order to develop physical, intellectual and spiritual potential to the fullest, the child must have freedom—a freedom to be achieved through order and self-discipline. The world of the child, Dr. Montessori maintained, is full of sights and sounds that appear chaotic at first. From this chaos, children must gradually create order, learn to distinguish between the impressions that assail their senses, and slowly but surely gain mastery of themselves and their environment.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed what she called the “prepared environment” that provides a certain order that allows children to learn at their own speed and according to their own capacities in a non-competitive atmosphere. Dr. Montessori believed in never letting children risk failure until they have a reasonable chance of success.
Dr. Montessori recognized that:
- The only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child
- Children move themselves toward learning
- The teacher prepares the environment, directs the activity and offers the child stimulation, but it is the child who learns and who is motivated through work itself (not solely by the teacher’s personality), and through persisting in a given task
- If Montessori children are free to learn, it is because they have acquired an “inner discipline” from their exposure to both physical and mental order
- Patterns of concentration and thoroughness established in early childhood produce a confident, competent learner in later years
The Montessori method of childhood education teaches children to observe, to think, and to discern. Early in life, it introduces children to the joy of learning and provides a framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand-in-hand.
For further information, North End Montessori School recommends The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method, and the Movement, by Elizabeth G. Hainstock (Plume, 1997).
The Multi-Age Classroom Environment
The Montessori multi-age classroom environment is organized with flexible groupings. In each mixed-age classroom, you’ll find students working on different concepts at the level that challenges them, yet is not frustrating. Students can choose their activities and materials while they are guided to independence and motivated by their own joy of learning.
This training fosters functional independence and intellectual independence for all students. Older students become role models and help younger children. This provides growth opportunities to practice academic skills, language skills, and motor skills that inspire caring citizens and future leaders.
The Montessori Method of Education
The best Montessori schools create an environment in which students do not passively absorb knowledge from the teacher. The Montessori teacher’s role is to observe and provide guidance when appropriate and to intervene when the child is ready to move on to a higher level. Montessori educational programs are differentiated by highly qualified teachers, materials and prepared environments. Montessori school teachers typically have more advanced education and specialized pedagogy training than traditional child care teachers. Most teachers at North End Montessori School have earned one or more advanced degrees.
|Montessori Education & Approach||Traditional Childhood Education Approach|
|Mixed-age classroom with same teacher for 3 yrs.||Classrooms by age; new class & teacher each year|
|Motivated by self-development||Teacher leads and motivates|
|Self-correcting materials||Teacher corrects errors|
|Children handle objects & teach themselves||Teacher lectures and directs lessons|
|Individual and small-group learning||Large-group learning|
|Teacher is observer and director||Teacher is focal point and dominant influence|
|Child completes “cycles of activity”||Activity cycles determined by set time mandates|
|Few interruptions||Frequent interruptions|
|Freedom to move and work within classroom||Assigned seats and specific class periods|
|Emphasis on more cognitive learning||3 Rs postponed; social development emphasized|
|Quiet time is by choice and out of regard for others||Quiet is enforced|
|Materials used for specific purpose; sequenced steps||Many used in many ways, often with no guidance|
|Work is for joy of working and sense of discovery||Work is because children are directed|
|Environment provides discipline||Teacher provides discipline|
|Students are encouraged to help each another||Students encouraged to seek help from teacher|
|Child chooses material||Teacher sets curriculum|
|Child sets his or her own pace||Teacher sets the pace for the group|
|Emphasis on concrete to abstract||Emphasis on abstract|
|Reality-oriented||Mostly role-playing and fantasy|
|Specific place for materials, sense of order||Random material placement & storage/retrieval|
|Child provides own stimulus to learning||Teacher provides stimulus|
|Child-centered learning environment||Teacher-centered atmosphere|
|Self-education through self-correcting materials||Uses reward and punishment in motivation|
|Recognition of sensitive periods||All children are treated alike|
|Multisensory materials used to develop specific skills||Play materials are for nonspecific skills|
Comparisons adapted from The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method, and the Movement by Elizabeth Hainstock; (Plume 1997. Appendix C, 113).
What is the History of Montessori Education?
Montessori education (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) is named for its founder, Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician and educator. She created the Montessori approach to educating children according to the natural development of a child’s initiative, sense and muscle training. She designed a “prepared environment” with specific prepared materials and training games that enabled children to freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.
What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
The Montessori method emphasizes learning through all five senses—not just through listening, watching, or reading. Montessori children learn at their own pace and choose which lessons to participate in. Older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger students, representing a different approach to traditional education. For a detailed comparison, see the section above titled, Montessori Education Versus Traditional Childhood Education Approaches.
Who accredits or oversees Montessori Schools?
Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name “Montessori.” The name is not protected and can be used by any organization with or without the credentials of Teacher/Educator certified to teach the Montessori Methods. Parents are strongly encouraged to research credentials and observe a classroom in operation in order to choose an authentic Montessori School for their child(ren).
There are several Montessori organizations to which schools may belong. The two major ones in the U.S. are Association Montessori International (AMI-USA) and American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents should ask about school affiliations. North End Montessori is an active member of the American Montessori Society.
What special training do Montessori teachers have?
Anyone can legally use the name “Montessori” in describing their teacher training organization. Therefore, it is important that certification is earned from organizations that are aligned with the two major organizations offering Montessori training in the U.S.; AMI-USA and AMS. Most training centers require a bachelor’s degree for admission. Training ranges from 200 to 600 pre-service contact hours and covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials.
What is the best way to choose a Montessori School for my child(ren)?
Determine which organization the school is affiliated with. Ask what kind of training the educators have. Visit the school and observe the classroom in action. Ask the teacher to explain the principals and theories of the activities you observed. Most importantly, talk to the prospective teacher about his/her philosophy of child development and education to determine whether it is compatible with your own.
Are Montessori schools religious?
Some are, but most are not. North End Montessori School is independent of any religious affiliation.