Montessori 101

“Within the child lies the fate of the future.”
― Maria Montessori

The nature of our community is that for some of us, we’ve been proponents of Montessori since we ourselves were children; or since our children were born; or we came to it through preschool as our children moved through those early years; or we spent the entire summer ‘cramming’ after our children were accepted to Maple Grove; or it’s still on our list of things to figure out.

(I may or may not be somewhere in between those last two).

No matter how we got here it’s nice to have a ‘refresher’ and we thought on the blog that we’d get everyone on the same page before we ‘go deep’.

There is a TON of stuff on the web that introduces Montessori. But by far the best resource I’ve seen is Montessori Mischiefs’s Montessori 101.

Maria Montessori rose from an ordinary childhood to be an extraordinary woman – a doctor, a teacher, a fierce and loving mother. Her educational theories are not only seen in Montessori schools but have been largely incorporated into general educational principles.

I don’t want paraphrase (or plagiarize) the article above but what I always highlight when discussing Montessori with others is:
– respect for the whole child
– sensitive periods
– encouragement of self-regulation and intrinsic rewards

Respect for the whole child manifests itself as freedom for the child to learn at their own pace (work choice), providing a calm and nurturing physical environment, and modelling caring and compassionate behaviour (including basic manners and respect).

Sensitive periods are periods where different concepts are ripe for ‘absorption’. This developmental theory is supported through multi-age groupings. In the public system that means Kindergarten, grades 1-3 (roughly ages 6-8), grades 4-6 (roughly ages 9-11), and grade 7. Ideally Kindergarten and Grade 7 would be included with other ages but we work within the framework of the public system, with no preschool aged children and with high school starting in grade 8. Sensitive periods are also acknowledged as “windows of opportunity” for key learning concepts to be introduced.

Encouragement of self-regulation manifests itself as work choice and free movement around the classroom. Intrinsic rewards refers to the fact that children (unless trained differently) are motivated by the joy of learning (especially when using beautiful self-correcting materials). Misbehaviour shouldn’t be punished but corrected.

Above all, Maria Montessori believed that Education could change the world. I believe the underpinning of Montessori is summed up perfectly in Maria’s assessment: “These words reveal the child’s inner needs; ‘Help me to do it alone'”


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