The Montessori system of education is both a philosophy of child development and a rationale for guiding such growth. It is based on the child’s developmental needs for freedom within limits, as well as, a carefully prepared environment which guarantees exposure to materials and experiences.
Through this, the child develops intelligence as well as physical and psychological abilities. It is designed to take full advantage of the child’s desire to learn and their unique ability to develop their own capabilities. The child needs adults to expose him to the possibilities of his life, but the child must determine his response to those possibilities.
The main premises of Montessori education are:
Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who differ from each other.
The child possesses an unusual sensitivity and intellectual ability to absorb and learn from his environment that are unlike those of the adult both in quality and capacity.
The most important years of a child’s growth are the first six years of life when unconscious learning is gradually brought to the conscious level.
The child has a deep love and need for purposeful work. He works, however, not as an adult for completion of a job, but the sake of an activity itself. It is this activity which enables him to accomplish his most important goal: the development of himself – his mental, physical, and psychological powers.
The whole child approach – The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach their full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation for future intellectual academic endeavors. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specifically prepared teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, the time to enjoy the process, and ensures the development of self esteem. It provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge.
The Prepared Environment – In order for self directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment – classroom, materials, and social setting / atmosphere – must be supportive of the child. The teacher provides the necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive environment. Together, the teacher and child form a relationship based on trust and respect that fosters self confidence and a willingness to try new things.
The Montessori Materials – Dr. Montessori’s observations of the kinds of things which children enjoy, and go back to repeatedly, led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential, and self correcting materials to facilitate learning.
The Teacher – The Montessori teacher functions as a designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child’s behavior and growth. The teacher facilitates learning. Extensive training is required for a full Montessori credential, including a college degree and a year teaching students under the supervision of a Montessori qualified teacher.