‘Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.’ Maria Montessori
The Montessori Method is named after Dr. Maria Montessori. She was born in Italy in 1870 and became the first woman doctor in Italy, qualifying in 1894. She came to education from her work as a GP with children with learning difficulties. These children learnt so well, by using her methods and specially developed materials, that she was hailed by many as a miracle worker. This led her to believe that other children were underachieving and she soon began a crusade to change teaching. As Dr Maria Montessori was a scientist, she approached education in a scientific way, always beginning with observation.
“If we want to help life we must first find the conditions that govern it” Maria Montessori
The most striking difference you will find on entering a Montessori setting is the unique environment, closely followed by the different way in which the children are working. The environment is calm and orderly, with open shelves displaying activities readily accessible to the children. Small ornaments are displayed along the tops of the shelves, natural materials such as wood, glass, pottery, brass, silver and woven baskets are very much part of the scene, everywhere you look the equipment is clean, tidy and well maintained. This attention to detail is a fundamental part of Montessori philosophy and helps to keep the child at the centre of our thinking.
The staff may not be apparent at first; we are likely to be working quietly with a child or a small group.
Every child is given one to one ‘lessons’ by a teacher, from these they gain an initial understanding of what is being taught, each child then works alone to repeat, assimilate information and extend ideas through exploration of the material.
All the materials in the school have been chosen directly because of the concepts that they clearly convey to the children; many are specific to Montessori settings. Activities range across a broad curriculum and gradually move from concrete hands-on learning to abstract ideas and concepts. Ideas are developed one at a time at each child’s own pace.
The mixed age range forms a mini society with individual freedom under a framework of community rules. These rules include learning to clean up after yourself, respecting other’s rights and feelings (including the right to work quietly without being disturbed or interrupted), looking after others and the environment and learning to do things safely. These are actively promoted along with positive language as part of the Montessori curriculum at all ages.
Although you may not be aware of it, Montessori schools have been around for over a hundred years, (the first Children’s House opened in Rome in 1906) and Montessori has already left a lasting impact on Early Years Education. Her focus on the child’s natural ability and desire to learn, provision of a child sized stimulating environment and support by well-trained and dedicated adults are as much a part of modern early years targets as they were of Maria Montessori’s. Since its conception, the mental and physical activity of the Montessori Method has been shown to stimulate ‘Education for Life’ in many schools and nurseries around the world.