The Montessori Method
The Montessori curriculum is an integrated, holistic approach that is designed to help each child reach his/her full potential by providing the experiences from which children create their knowledge. Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in appreciation and respect for a fundamental belief in progress, the contribution of the individual, the universality of the human condition, and the meaning of true justice.
The goal of a Montessori program is to help every child reach his or her full potential in all areas of life and develop a respect for each other and for their environment.
There are many features of a Montessori education that distinguish it from "traditional" educational approaches. The American Montessori Society's (AMS) website provides an excellent introduction if you have never experienced a Montessori classroom.
Some key features of the Montessori approach are:
Dr. Maria Montessori developed an educational process that begins with using manipulative (hands-on) materials that demonstrate a learning concept, progresses to representational materials (pictures), finally to abstract thinking, all based on the child’s own developmental phases. The beautiful multi-sensory materials are sequential and self-correcting which cultivates independence, builds self-esteem and creates self-directed learners.
The Montessori method of teaching takes each child where she/he is, and encourages him/her to develop at his/her own pace, in his/her own way, using the sequential materials. No child feels pressure to conform or feels she/he is performing better than or worse than his/her peers, because the children all understand they are each working at their own pace. Grades, as understood in a traditional school, are not a part of this system. The child compares his/her work to his/her work goals, and works to improve from there.
There are many opportunities during the day for both individual and group learning activities. Children learn to interact with each other in a natural social environment. They discover that it is desirable to work together, to help each other, and the result is they learn more than they otherwise would in a traditional, competitive environment. Because students are naturally curious and interested in learning, every effort is made to encourage this through a non-competitive and accepting atmosphere.
Dr. Montessori identified stages of development in 3-year increments for children from birth through 24 years of age. Montessori classes are structured around these natural stages of development rather than traditional grade level structuring. This affords each student the opportunity to work on different levels of difficulty depending on the child’s skills and interests, rather than being restricted by artificial grade level barriers. Children remain in the same class for three years at a time. This creates trust in the faculty and the classroom environment, encourages a sense of community and long-term friendships, and essentially frees children from many social concerns so that they can focus on their academic development.