Montessori education is based on the pioneering work of Dr. Maria Montessori, whose lifelong study of the way children develop led her to create a method designed to take maximum advantage of children’s natural desire to learn.
The Montessori Method respects the uniqueness of each child and tailors the educational experience to the needs and progress of each child’s developmental level. For the younger child, (0–6 years), skill-building activities are presented individually, on the child’s own developmental schedule, when the Guide observes that the child is ready for that particular activity rather than because the activities appear in that day’s lesson plan. Once these basic skills are developed and the child enters the elementary level, the children then work in a collaborative environment, continuing to expand their basic skills and exploring an interest-based curriculum. When presentations are given, they entice, rather than force, the child to learn.
In traditional schools, children of roughly the same age are put together in the same class. Montessori classrooms include an age range of approximately three years. These mixed-age environments are an important part of the Montessori experience. The combination of collaboration and caring between the children of different ages also helps form a community in which the children learn how to interact respectfully with one another. This is an extremely important life-long skill and one that is often overlooked in traditional classrooms.
Fostering self-motivation and using mixed-age classrooms allows Montessori classrooms to offer a greater amount of freedom than other classrooms. As the children are drawn to and engage in concentrated work, they begin to develop self-discipline. They learn to concentrate on their own work and to respect the work of others.
The Montessori Method incorporates a profound respect for the child and a deep appreciation that childhood is a time of construction of an individual being. The Montessori child learns not what to think but how to think. The prepared environment and trained Montessori Guide offer the children materials and guidance that will help them discover the world in which they live, become engaged, self motivated students, and acquire the skills needed to become healthy, active citizens in their community.