What is Montessori?

What is Montessori?

Montessori is named after Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian educator of the early 20th century. She developed the teaching approach we now call the Montessori Method, which emphasises hands-on, individualized learning within a child-centered, mixed-age group classroom. Although best known as an educator, Dr. Montessori's formal training was as a scientist and medical doctor and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children had a natural drive, an inner directive, to learn. Given the right conditions, one would not have to teach or impart knowledge. Instead, in the right environment, children would learn spontaneously, following their natural instincts. Thus, Dr. Montessori developed her educational philosophy as a result of her scientific observations. She based her approach on the belief that children are individuals with their own strengths, needs, likes and learning styles. Her teaching strategies and her discoveries into the process of learning revolutionised the field of education and profoundly influenced children's education all around the world. Today, Montessori schools most commonly encompass preschool and elementary grade levels. However, the approach is also extremely successful in middle and high schools.

What is a Montessori based education?

A Montessori curriculum uses hands-on, multi-sensory/multi-modality instruction. This means that concepts are not just taught by rote memorisation or out of a textbook; learning is activity- based, allowing children to explore and learn using scientifically designed hands-on materials in a prepared environment.

Montessori education is based on the belief that children are individuals and thus, have individual learning styles and interests. The teacher guides each child through the learning process, using materials that fit their specific needs and pace instead of focusing on the daily lesson plan. Montessori teachers encourage children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate and discover. For all students, curriculum planning is developed around each child’s assessed skill set. Each child is individually evaluated and the materials presented are matched to his or her level. Thus, in effect, every child receives a personalised course of study and is allowed to progress at his or her own rate, regardless of age or grade level.

A Montessori education focuses not only on academics, but also on essential life skills and character development. The Montessori social curriculum is incorporated into the academic curriculum at all levels and children learn how to behave in specific situations and acquire social skills for everyday living. The children develop a sense of personal dignity, an understanding of their culture, and an awareness and respect for people of all ages and traditions. Conflict resolution skills are taught and attention is given to making good choices. Having the appropriate social and language skills enables a child to engage positively in the classroom community and beyond.

What are the benefits of Montessori education?

A Montessori-based education is child centered; it is based on a child’s need, interests and learning style at that moment in their life. Instead of applying a “one approach fits all” style of learning to an entire classroom of children, the Montessori-based approach takes into account the fact that children do not all learn the same way nor have the same needs.

Montessori helps children to become self-motivated, self-disciplined and focused, and retain the sense of curiosity that so many loose along the way in traditional classrooms. Children are given the tools to be successful in their future lives. They typically become life-long learners and problem solvers, innovators and good team players. They tend to act with care and respect towards their environment and each other. They are able to work at their own pace and abilities.

The Montessori curriculum encompasses not only an academic curriculum, but also focuses on a child’s personal and social development. Success in today’s world is not only measured by grades and degrees. Strong study and work habits, self-motivation, independent thinking and excellent communication skills are essential for academic and career success and an integral part of a Montessori education.