“Here is an essential principle of education: to teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.”
Who is Maria Montessori?
The Montessori Method of education was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952), the first woman doctor in Italy. She was a brilliant educator and scientist who developed a teaching method based on child development and her own observations of children.
She found that:
- Children are more motivated when they themselves choose their work.
- Children will choose to repeat the work until they master it.
- By working with hands-on materials children develop a deeper understanding of concepts.
- Concentration, independence, and control of one’s movements are fostered in a Montessori environment
- When big concepts are broken down into small steps, children find success, confidence and a joy of learning.
Maria Montessori wanted to prove that children could learn best in an environment of hands-on immersion experiences. She felt that tactile exploratory learning opportunities would form a strong foundation for later abstract learning (such as math facts, reading, science exploration, etc.). She theorized that teachers should instead become “directors” and actually “quietly follow the child” in order to discern their interests, strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, a teacher would then know how best to reach their students through appropriate individualized learning experiences that would stimulate true growth and learning.
What happened with her “experiment” was something truly extraordinary. She not only realized that her theories were correct, but she also found that this individualized learning was extremely successful with all types of students, regardless of age, learning style or socioeconomic background.
For more than 100 years, the Montessori Method, has been successfully proven time and again in schools across the globe. It is estimated that there are about 4,500 Montessori schools in the United States and 20,000 worldwide.
What makes a Montessori classroom unique?
The role of the teacher as the child’s guide
Most unique to Montessori education is the role of the teacher. Instead of a teacher-centered classroom, where the entire group follows the teacher’s instruction simultaneously, the Montessori teacher is a facilitator or guide—working to connect each child to the different academic and social activities through individual or small group presentations.
A carefully prepared environment and specifically designed materials
There can be no Montessori education without the prepared environment. Each of our classrooms includes plenty of floor space and desk space along with activities of different levels meticulously arranged from simple and concrete to abstract and more difficult. Along with academic subjects, other areas are incorporated through classroom activities and within the greater Driftless community, such as care of the environment, peace education and basic life skills.
Hands-on, self-directed learning and the development of independence
The carefully prepared environment provides the structure for the child to self-educate. Self-directed learning has many benefits. When children choose their own work, they are more likely to be genuinely interested in it. There is freedom of movement, which is beneficial to children physically and also psychologically. As children select and master their own work, they gain confidence, self-esteem and the ability to engage in time management, self-control and planning.
Uninterrupted blocks of work time, practice to achieve mastery
A hallmark of the Montessori classroom is a 2.5- to 3-hour uninterrupted block of daily work time (typically in the morning). During this time, children choose their work and are able to move freely between activities. They may also become so absorbed in their work that they remain engaged for hours or even continue to work on a single activity over the course of multiple days.
Montessori classrooms typically span three years. This multi-age approach allows more experienced students to share and assist while gaining even greater confidence and mastery. Younger students are able to look up to their peers and get a preview of what is to come. Within this setting, children are not “spinning their wheels” waiting for their classmates to catch up, nor do they fall behind because they are struggling to keep pace. Furthermore, children learn patience and cooperation through their interactions. There is only one of each activity, and the children know they must wait until it is their turn.