On this page:
- Montessori pedagogy
- The most important elements of the Montessori method
- Practices used in Montessori classes
- Advantages of Montessori schools: questions and answers
Teachers, for many reasons, are not always able to fully take care of the child and individually meet his needs. That’s why so many parents notice their children aren’t realizing their full potential in traditional schools. What options do these parents have?
We can think about private schools. Here, there is a wide variety of options, making the choice difficult. What will be best for the child? What will help him develop?
In this article, we discuss the extremely popular, but unfortunately not well understood Montessori method. If correctly implemented, this can be a great way to educate an intelligent, creative, and empathic child. What is the Montessori method and what are its biggest advantages?
Maria Montessori was a qualified doctor and researcher who took care of the education of children with mental disabilities. At the beginning of the 20th century, these children were kept in psychiatric hospitals for adults. When the institute for children with disabilities was finally opened, Montessori began working there, which showed her that appropriate teaching methods would help them become more independent. She introduced the same methods of learning she used with healthy children, and this turned out to be a hit.
The most important elements of the Montessori method
The child is in the center
The Montessori method is based primarily on observing and supporting the child, not on forcing him to do anything, as in traditional schools. It’s the student who independently chooses the materials that interest him the most, developing in his own rhythm and pace.
At Montessori schools, it’s recognized that every child is different and must be approached as an individual, not a part of the whole. It’s also important to leave the student as much choice as possible, the freedom that gives him a sense of security and agency. Many parents are afraid that without clearly setting boundaries, the child will not understand how to behave. However, the Montessori method shows children can deal with this. How?
This is one of the most confusing elements of the Montessori method for parents who were educated themselves in a traditional model. It’s difficult for them to understand that a child can learn more while acting and working than listening to a teacher talk. In the meantime, above all, it’s the best way to give students a love for learning, and not just for a short period.
Remember how you wanted to learn everything while going to school, but you quickly lost your enthusiasm? This is not the case in Montessori schools. The child arranges puzzles for a week, if they feel like it, while learning about their capabilities and ways to acquire knowledge. After this time, they will be heading for something completely different, which will allow them to continue learning. Every experience generates development—this must not be forgotten.
This is one of the main principles of Montessori—do it yourself! The teacher's only job is to show the child how to perform a given task in a model way. The child can repeat what the teacher does, but can also do something completely different, more creative, focusing on other things. The teacher's task is to notice this and draw conclusions. The child's task is partly to learn how to make decisions independently. This teaches not only independence, but the fact that there are no wrong answers, there are simply different questions that we can ask. This method is not intended to close the child's mind, but to open it.
Practices used in Montessori classes
We will look at three practices used in Montessori classes: uninterrupted periods of work, concrete learning, and collaboration between students.
Uninterrupted work cycles
One of the pros of Montessori education is the uninterrupted work cycle. Some studies show that uninterrupted working time can increase focus, concentration, and discipline. It can also improve soft social functions. For example, Jacqueline Cossentino, in Montessori Schools Help Children Exposed to Trauma (2016), discusses how a continuous cycle of work causes a kind of heightened awareness, much like meditation.
Deep concentration is the basis of both Montessori pedagogy and meditation. Just like regular meditation, it allows the practitioner to become calmer, more aware, and generally have greater self-control. Maria Montessori found that children who engage and concentrate powerfully on purposeful work become calmer, have more developed self-control, and develop better social skills.
Students use "embodied cognition" in Montessori schools: they learn through their minds and bodies. The advantages of this approach are well known. Using their hands to work with objects, it engage many senses. In this way they learn faster and more efficiently. They become more focused and engaged.
Angeline Lillard has done a lot of research on Montessori pedagogy. In Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius (2005), she describes in more detail the benefits of embodied cognition. There are many studies showing that movement and cognition are closely related. People perceive spaces and objects better, evaluate faster and more accurately, better remember information, and show better social cognition when their movements are adapted to what they think or learn. Traditional classes are not geared to exploiting the relationship between movement and cognition. In Montessori, however, it is key.
The mind and body are closely related—we learn best when we can move our bodies in a manner consistent with our knowledge. This isn’t surprising, because our minds have evolved through interacting with the environment. The sensory materials used in Montessori schools are specially designed to train the senses and develop motor skills.
Another Montessori practice is that students learn from each other. In summary, situations where children learn from their peers through specific structured instructions are very beneficial. Peer curricula can be integrated into traditional teaching methods and are increasingly used there. In Montessori education they are key.
Advantages of Montessori schools: questions and answers
We asked Tim Selding, president of the Montessori Foundation and chairman of the International Montessori Council, about the benefits of Montessori education.
Our Kids: What are the unique features of the Montessori schools?
Tim Selding: What Montessori is trying to do is not to create an education philosophy or standardized curriculum, but to follow the child. Schools are designed around what we know about the individual developmental stages of children. Our teachers and schools see each child as a unique person. Montessori is not a single approach for every child, but one that suits the personality and age level of each child and allows him to learn at his own pace.
Our Kids: What are the advantages of Montessori schools?
Tim Selding: The content of what’s learned in Montessori schools is equal, if not better, than what can be found in the best private and public schools. Children have much better academic performance, emotional maturity, and social skills from Montessori schools. A child who finishes Montessori education can realize the boldest dreams. They are usually superstars. Some of the world's largest corporations, including Google.com and Amazon.com, are run by our graduates.
Our Kids: How do I know if Montessori is right for my child?
Tim Selding: Whether the child is above average talent or slightly below average, or has special educational needs, this method works. Sometimes parents’ approach can be a problem, though. Many of them are very worried about the child's learning performance and tests. Our children are not evaluated. It's about developing internal motivation and character, as opposed to the approach that offers rewards such as grades.
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