Montessori is not an adaptation of traditional methods, it’s a completely different way of teaching and learning. It’s an approach that acknowledges it is how—and not what—we learn that most shapes the developing personality.
While independent studies show that Montessori students perform academically as well or better than more traditionally educated peers, we believe it’s their demonstrably better life skills that best prepare our young people for a complex and fast-changing world.
Instead of being placed in a classroom with children of all one age, the Montessori child is given a wider range of students to interact with. Each multi-aged classroom, whether ages 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, or 12-15, encourages children to learn from each other, to master skills, and become facilitators of learning for their younger classmates. The social interaction and cooperation that ensues from this type of arrangement creates a higher level of emotional and intellectual growth.
Another distinct difference between the traditional and Montessori classroom is seen in the role of the teacher. The traditional teacher typically has a controlling and leading position, usually at the front of a room, giving a lecture-format lesson to all of the students simultaneously. This assumes that all children are ready and willing to learn the same thing at the same time with the same time restrictions for mastering the information. The Montessori teacher has a very different role in his or her classroom. He or she assumes the role of observer, carefully guiding, supporting, and monitoring each child’s individual needs and progress. The teacher always brings himself to the physical level of the child, whether at a desk or on a floor mat, careful to give only the help that the child needs to continue on in the right direction. Self directed learning and responsibility is the goal, rather than simply arriving at correct answers. Teachers also give individual and group lessons based on the abilities and readiness of the students. In this way, children are allowed to progress at their own natural rate, free to explore the subjects that interest them in great depths, without the risk of stagnation and loss of desire to learn.
Dr. Montessori observed that children progress through planes of development during which they are open to learning and mastering certain skills and behaviors. For this reason, the children are grouped into classrooms with three year age ranges, and given certain lessons with specific materials during each period. Each plane of development becomes more advanced and spirals off of the previous learning experiences. Children are first encouraged to physically explore their world in a sensorial way before the more abstract methods of learning are employed. This creates a strong and lasting foundation on which to build.
In addition to the customary subjects, Montessori classes also include lessons in grace and courtesy. The children learn to respect each other and all life on Earth. They learn to shake hands with adults, look them in the eye when they speak, and ask thoughtful questions without fear. These children show self confidence and naturally develop a healthy sense of self esteem because they have been given the tools and opportunities with which to experience personal success. They show compassion for those around them because the structure of their environment naturally supports this outcome. These children are happy and joyous.
Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core.