The Approach of Montessori Education
Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 15:55
Montessori advocated special preparation for the teacher: a course of study promoting self-knowledge along with knowledge of child development and techniques for implementing individualized learning, curriculum, and educational environment. Authentic Montessori environments offer the child an experience that builds competence and confidence with unsurpassed effectiveness--a timeless gift from one of the world's great educators. Authentic Montessori teacher education programs provide a rich, fertile ground for the nourishment and development of the teacher.Maria Montessori created the first "Casa dei Bambini,"(Children's House) in the slum quarters of Rome, Italy. With the 1912 publication of her first book, The Montessori Method, she described a revolutionary, new kind of school that gained immediate worldwide fame for the Montessori system. She revealed how her tiny "students" realized a potential that no one, not even Montessori herself, had even dreamed of as being possible. In the Casa dei Bambini Montessori had created, for the first time, an environment tailored to the child's needs. One where adults demonstrated profound respect for the child and employed pedagogical techniques that resembled guidance more than direct teaching. She established an atmosphere of freedom within limits. The "disadvantaged" children flourished in their development of independence, self-discipline, social grace and cognitive accomplishment.
Montessori's most recent biographer states that many of the ideas she either invented or used in a new way have become part of education's common language of discourse about the subject of educating the young--so much so, that their source is neither recognized nor credited (Kramer, 1976). Among these ideas we find:
- Child-scaled furniture
- The concept that children learn through play
- The idea of developmentally appropriate educational materials
- The "ungraded" class, which groups children by interest and ability rather than age, provides individually paced instruction, and gives each child freedom to proceed at his/her own rate
- The idea of the child as different from adults, not just a smaller edition
- The observation that infants are learning from birth onward, that age six is late to start thinking of a child's education and three is not too early to begin schooling of the right kind
- The importance of the environment in which learning is to take place
- The significance of early stimulation for later learning and its implications for the education of the culturally impoverished child
- The observation that children take a natural pleasure in learning to master their environment and that this mastery is the basis of the sense of competence necessary for independence
- The judgement that real learning involves the ability to do things for oneself, not the passive reception of a body of knowledge
- That the child benefits form learning materials that are intrinsically interesting, reality oriented, and designed to facilitate self-correcting and the refinement of sensory perceptions
- That imposing immobility and silence hampers children's learning and that, given interesting work to do, children will establish their own order
- The concept of "sensitive periods," phases of development appropriate to the learning of specific motor and cognitive skills
- The right of every child to develop his or her own fullest potential and the idea that the school exists to implement that right
- The idea that the school must be part of the community and involve the parents if education is to be effective
In many respects Montessori has been the starting place for all of early childhood education. Her influence may also have made itself felt through the contributions of others respected today in the fields of education, child development, and psychology: Jean Piaget, who made many of his early observations in Montessori schools and served as president of the Swiss Montessori Society; Erick Erikson and Helen Parkhurst, who held Montessori teaching credentials.Once again, we need to reimagine our schools through the lens of Montessori education. More and more parents are clamoring for the very atmosphere of education that Montessori developed, all those years ago: a place of eager learners, experiential, hands-on learning, creative thinking and problem solving, and collaborative work to nurture the imagination of children and lay a solid foundation for success in life.
What a difference it would be if the values that we celebrate and promote in Montessori classrooms and schools were available to more children and families throughout the country.