When you hear the word Montessori what comes to mind? Most would say schools. Those that have little or no idea might say “That’s where the kids get to do whatever they want.” How many would correctly identify it as a pedagogy. A science or way of teaching. This pedagogy just happens to be directed at children, but not just “preschoolers”, and most certainly not just in a classroom.
Maria Montessori used her medical background to study children of all ages, and walks of life. Over the years of studying how children learn, she set up “Children’s Houses”. A school unlike any other where children would be surrounded with natural, realistic beautiful materials. Montessori discovered that all people, right from birth are naturally curious about their environment.
Once the years of studying children and then designing the materials were complete, the rest flowed naturally. Invite a child (of any age) into a beautiful space (in Montessori language we call that a prepared environment). Give him/her an opportunity to freely move about that environment and choose freely from any prepared material they are intrigued by. Design the materials so that everything is accessible, easily manipulated, and has a built in control of error, so the child learns naturally from their own mistakes. Allow that child to work uninterrupted with that material for as long as they choose. Most importantly provide a Guide (in Montessori language we call her a Directress not a teacher), that will always speak quietly, respectfully and lovingly to the children. A guide that will assist the child in gaining new information, not telling the child what he should learn. A guide that will foster independence, without burdening the child with ego building praise. A guide that will demonstrate Grace and Courtesy (important words in the Montessori world) and Peace so that even the smallest child is able to show compassion. Over 100 years later, in over 100 countries, and 22,000 schools Montessori is changing the face of educating our children.
All this pedagogy or “way of teaching” is not limited to a school setting. That’s why many families all over the globe classify themselves (we are one of them) as Montessorians. We use the same fundamental principles described above in our own lives beginning at the birth of our children. Many would not agree with our practices that may include children self feeding, toilet learning and contributing to household chores at an earlier age than is readily accepted in most cultures. However I think all parents would agree that they love their children. Montessorians look at that love as a gift and a powerful one. Maria Montessori said “Within the child, lies the fate of the future.” I believe that was never more true than it is in todays world.
I will include this link for anyone wanting some ideas of materials. I would also encourage anyone to read Maria Montessori’s books. Especially the “Absorbent Mind”. You can find a link in a previous post. I will continue this series by going into greater detail on the different stages of a child’s development beginning from birth. I hope it will bring better clarity. Both to myself and others.