What is Montessori?

What is Montessori?

Montessori is an approach to the education of children. It is a way of looking at and understanding how children develop and learn, based on careful scientific study, that has been translated into a systematic method of education. It is unique in that it has successfully undergone continued development for over one hundred years and has been used effectively with children in different countries around the world.

It was established in 1906 by Dr. Maria Montessori. Maria Montessori, originally a medical doctor, became an internationally renowned child educator when she brought the scientific methods of observation, experimentation and research to the study of children in the early 1900’s.

Why Consider Montessori?

The educational advantages a child receives in life are very important. The child’s personality, outlook, and intelligence are in the process of being formed. For the child to fully actualise his or her potential it is critical that the child be provided the resources and assistance necessary for learning and development. This help can only be provided if based upon an adequate understanding of the child and the processes of their growth and development.




It teaches to individuals instead of to groups

In traditional classrooms, lessons are presented to the whole class and sometimes to small groups. In Montessori schools, the general rule is the teacher presents lessons to individuals. Other children can watch if they are interested. In this way, the teacher can address the specific needs of a child and can respond to that individual child’s interest and level of understanding.

The child does not have to sit through something that he or she is not ready for. This individual attention also helps the teacher to understand the child more fully and better provide for that child.

Children learn through practising tasks rather than through listening and having to remember

In many non-Montessori classrooms, children are expected to learn by listening to the teacher. Work is usually with paper and pencil. In a Montessori classroom, on the other hand, children learn by practising with apparatus which embodies the concept to be mastered.

For example, when learning about shapes such as triangles, squares, circles, etc., instead of listening to a teacher talk about the shapes and watching them drawn on the chalkboard the children trace real figures and make designs. They fit different shapes together to make patterns. They fit shapes into the correct corresponding holes to develop fine visual discrimination.

The Montessori curriculum is much broader than many other programs

The Montessori program teaches more than just the basics. First of all it has exercises to develop the child’s basic capacities – his or her ability to control movement (motor development), to use senses (perceptual development), to think (cognitive development), to decide (volitional development), and to feel and have emotions (affective or emotional development). In this way, the program helps the child become a competent learner. This develops independence and responsibility.

In addition, the curriculum also helps the child develop a strong foundation in language and math, and an in-depth study of physical and cultural geography, zoology, botany, physical science, history, and art. Children further learn practical skills for everyday life such as cooking, carpentry, and sewing, but more than this they learn how to be contributing members of a social community.

The materials in a Montessori classroom are carefully designed and thoroughly researched to fit the developmental needs and characteristics of children

With regard to discipline, in a Montessori program, the emphasis is on self-discipline developed through helping a child learn how to appropriately meet needs rather than disciplining through the use of rewards and punishments. Every activity is carefully thought-out to build upon previous preparation and to lead the intelligence on to a higher activity.

In a Montessori classroom the organisation of the room allows children easy access to a variety of learning experiences

The room is specifically organised to appear attractive and orderly. Materials are displayed on shelves at the child’s height.

Montessori teachers are trained to teach respect and positive values through their modelling as well as through the way they teach

The Montessori method of helping a child is through a process of showing a child what to do in a positive manner. Montessori teachers avoid ‘put-downs’ or sarcastic comments and try not to humiliate or embarrass the child.

The Montessori program is designed to develop independence and responsibility

The organisation of the classroom, the method of teaching, and the practical life lessons are oriented toward helping the child become a self-sufficient and disciplined individual.

The routine of the Montessori program is based upon the principle of freedom of choice rather than on set times for prescribed activities

Since everything in the Montessori environment is something that is worthwhile and educational the child can be free to choose.

In Montessori programs children are viewed as positive beings whose primary aim is the work of constructing an adult

Rewards and punishments, therefore, can only get in the way. Development and learning by themselves are adequate motivators. Montessori does not believe in fantasy, bright colours, or gimmicks, as these things come between the child and real learning. Therefore, joy is discovered and experienced in the real world through the study of nature, science, math, music, reading, history, and geography, rather than in a world of comics, cartoons, and fantasy.