Sunday, February 8, 2009

What is Montessori Education

“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.”

Dr. Maria Montessori: The Absorbent Mind

A Montessori education is designed to take advantage of sensitive periods between the ages of 3 to 6, when the child is most able to absorb information from his environment. Although Montessori education focus on the sensitive periods in childhood, especially early childhood, very early learning is neither the norm nor the objective in the Montessori philosophy. Montessori philosophy also continues in the upper elementary, being 6 to 9, 9-12, and 12-18. Education always flows from the concrete to the abstract in each area. This is a very organized way of learning.(much easier to).There are distinct areas in the Montessori room. The room is divided into a Practical life area, Sensorial, Geography, Mathematics, Language, Music and Art areas. I'll go into these areas in more detail in a later post.

Dr. Montessori spoke of 4 Planes of Development: birth to 6; 6 to 12; 12 to 18; and 18 to 24. During the First Plane the child incarnates the immediate environment; during the Second Plane, the child uses his creative imagination based on reality in order to psychologically conquer the world. Two sensitive periods during the Second Plane were discussed by Dr. Montessori: imagination and abstraction.

Maria Montessori developed materials based on each sensitive period. These materials are called the didactic apparatus. These materials were used with children all over the world and the children naturally gravitated to these materials on their own. The children worked with these materials with great concentration not usually seen. The reason children gravitated towards these materials and were able to work with such intense interest was because they were constructed around the children's natural inclinations or sensitive periods for that age.


Each Montessori class, from toddlers through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs-respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials he may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The three-year-age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation-language experiences-in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.


The Montessori method of teaching is founded on the premise that all young children pass through a well-defined sequence of steps to maturity, but at different rates of growth and in different ways. Growth is as individual as each child. Advancement within a child varies from skill to skill. Presented with the proper instruments and direction, however, a child's curiosity and eagerness to comprehend the world will motivate him/her to move from mastery to one task to another with tenacity seldom seen in adults.

The Montessori philosophy believes that before children can take advantage of a good education, they need to know how to learn. We need to train the senses in order to perceive and acquire knowledge through experience. Only then can we aid children in the development of basic skills and the ability to judge, think and create. The child is introduced to the joy of learning by providing a framework in which intellectual and social discipline can develop. When children learn how to think and reason, they can give intelligent responses.


Montessori Education is both a philosophy of child development and a rationale for quality in that development. The special method, named for the Italian physician Maria Montessori, stresses the importance of the development of a healthy self-concept. Education, she believed, is a preparation for life, not merely a search for intellectual skills. The child has one intuitive aim - his self development. Maria Montessori has said" The child works to perfect himself, while the adult works to perfect his environment." He desperately wants to develop his inner resources and his ability to cope with a strange, complex world. The child who accomplishes this moves into harmony with his world and becomes a full person. The Montessori method pursues the fact that the mind of the very young child is absorbent and thus the environment should be prepared carefully to train his senses, to stimulate his curiosity, to satisfy his need to know and to protect him from unnecessary failure. Montessori's philosophy and psychological principles led her to devise carefully graded series of self-teaching devices that are now commonly accepted and supported by current research.


Each Montessori school provides a precisely prepared Montessori environment which fosters satifaction in learning by discovery and a joy in achievemet. The climate and selected activities are prepared to interest and motivate the child and to protect him from unnecessary failure.
All Montessori materials are self correcting. The montessori guide or teacher never corrects, she only observes and continually models the propper way through lessons. In the Montessori environment you will not see correction or praise. The child does an activity for the joy and satisfaction of it, not to please the adult or for the adults approval. We must be lovingly careful not to interfere with praise and or criticism. Just observe the work, ask questions about the work. If we are not careful, we can cultivate the need for approval. The child must be free to experience the joy of the work for himself not because we like it. He must be allowed the opportunity to learn how to confidently discern himself whether a work is right or wrong.
The Montessori materials develop basic problem solving and observational techniques. The child begins in the concrete and manipulative materials and gradually works toward the abstract. Montessori's recognition of the importance of a stimulating environment as a means of "freeing the child's potential" is now supported by a multitude of studies in early learning. The classroom is equipped with specially designed and sequenced materials which Dr. Montessori devised. These materials, together with highly trained and administrators, provide a classroom where the child is stimulated and challenged, but never pressured. In such a climate the child learns to feel good about himself. His right to dignity and worth are protected.

*Some excerpts in the above passage taken from The Montesssori group*

Additional Resources for further study of the Montessori Philosophy


Pari said...

Thanks for the insightful post, even I do prefer Montessori method of teaching. Montessori Method of teaching believes in self learning. They amalgamate lots of imaginative and creative play, arts and crafts, hands-on learning, nature experiences in their teaching methods, which allures a child to learn and be self directed. Montessori is a wonderful way to provide the balance between play and learning process. Visit the website to know practical tips on everyday child care and daycare issues.

Louella said...

Thank you for such detailed posts in your blog. My son is 6 years old and the more I read about Montessori method, the more I regret not having learned about and introduced him to it when he was younger. Nevertheless, I have decided to slowly introduce him to the approach through after-school activities and daily habits. Do you think the sensorial materials would not interest my son anymore?