What is Montessori?

The Montessori method was developed by Dr Maria Montessori in Italy in the early 20th century. After decades of observing children around the world, Maria Montessori developed her philosophy for education. This philosophy and practice fosters independent, self motivated growth in children. Her goal was to nurture each child's natural desire for knowledge and learning. Maria Montessori believed that knowledge is not gained through listening to words but though experiences in the child's surrounding environment. Thus creating the the concept of the “prepared environments”. The prepared environment is set up for each age group based on common tendencies and developmental stages. 

Montessori guides (educators in a traditional environment) are the link between the child and the prepared environment. This is achieved through individual lessons on the materials given to children at their own pace. The child then follows the learning process, exploring topics and materials independently after their introduction by the guide.

Maria Montessori believed that the best way for a child to reach their potential was through age-appropriate independence. Independence builds confidence in the child as they learns through their own successes and failures. But a Montessori environment is not an unstructured environment.  Just like society has limitations, there are also limitations for the child in the Montessori environment. 

"Help me to do it myself."

Key principles of the Montessori approach:

  • Self-guided learning: Children have the freedom to work independently, making selections from a choice of pre-prepared activities and developing self-sufficiency. They’re given guidance from their teachers and encouraged to learn naturally through the art of play, which is considered to be their ‘work’.

  • Uninterrupted work time: Extended periods of time provided to work (also known as the work cycle) allows the children an uninterrupted opportunity to work on on their chosen materials daily. This approach allows children to pace themselves, deciding when to interact with others, work alone or take a break. The prepared environment is set out in individual areas, meaning children move from area to area within the classroom area to undertake different activities. 

  • The whole child: In addition to the academic aspect of learning, the Montessori approach is dedicated to educating the child in all aspects of life. Practical skills are also an element of learning, such as cooking, as well as each child playing their part in taking care of the classroom. Behaving politely and kindly towards each other, along with a sense of community, are also an important focus.

  • Materials: Hands-on learning is actively encouraged, with age-specific resources being regularly utilised. These self-corrective learning tools, such as moveable alphabets, mean that if errors occur during the solving of a puzzle or game, the child can revisit and work out the correct method.

  • Combined age groups: Montessori classrooms often have mixed age groups spanning three years. This supports children to learn a their level of ability, rather than their birth age. Young children benefit from observing older children, and older children take care of their younger peers and classroom.