upbringing of kids starts from their birth”. This statement is very popular
among all parents. Up to the age of 1 or 2, numerous aunts, uncles, grandmas
and granddads, take of care the little ones. When the child turns 3, the busy
parents rush to find the place in the overcrowded kindergartens or in the
home-nurseries, which are so modern nowadays. However, are you sure that all
pedagogical, psychological, health and other aspects are professionally covered
in such institutes? In this aspect, I want to represent you the world
well-known system of Montessori schools. I am sure that the majority of you
have heard about them, due to their popularity abroad. Not only the USA, Great
Britain, European countries, but most of the so-called “third world” countries
are used to this type of education. Some elements of such schools we already
have in our kindergartens and primary schools. However, by paying attention to
this article you will discover some interesting and useful elements for
yourself, doesn’t matter who you are: the teacher, the principle, the director
or simply the kind parent of your loving offspring.
Montessori is not a
system for training children in academic studies; nor is it a label to be put
on educational materials. It is a revolutionary method of observing and
supporting the natural development of children. Montessori educational practice
helps children develop creativity, problem solving, social, and time-management
skills, to contribute to society and the environment, and to become fulfilled
persons in their particular time and place on Earth. The basis of Montessori
practice in the classroom is respected individual choice of research and work,
and uninterrupted concentration rather than group lessons led by an adult. As
you read through these pages you will discover the unique practices that make
Montessori the fastest growing and most successful method of education today.
The Montessori method is
both a methodology and educational
philosophy. It was originally developed in the early 1900s by Dr. Maria
Montessori. Many Montessori schools are preschool or elementary
level, but there are some. Montessori programs, which begin with infants and/or
end at the 12th Grade. Montessori stated, "I have studied the child. I
have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is
called the Montessori method."
philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently
than adults, that they are not merely "adults in small bodies." Dr.
Montessori believed in children's
children working to develop themselves into adults, and that this development
would lead to world peace.
The Montessori method
discourages traditional measurements of achievement (grades, tests) as negative
competition that is damaging to the inner growth of children (and adults). Feedback
and qualitative analysis of a child's performance does exist but is generally
provided in the form of a list of skills, activities and critical points, and
sometimes a narrative of the child's achievements, strengths and weaknesses,
with emphasis on the improvement of those weaknesses.
The method was developed
from observations of young children from which a set of universal
characteristics of children was created for each level of development. The
Montessori method has two primary development levels: the first is birth
through 6, the second is ages 6-12. A Montessori classroom for the first level
is called the casa dei bambini, or "children's house," with focus on
individually-paced learning and development. In the second level, collaboration
with others is encouraged, and "cosmic education" is introduced.
As an educational approach, the
Montessori method's focus is on the individuality of each child in respect of
their needs or talents, as opposed to the needs of the class as a whole. A goal
is to help the child maintain their natural joy of learning.
The Montessori method
encourages independence and freedom with limits and responsibility. The
youngest children are guided in "practical life" skills: domestic
skills and manners. These skills are emphasized with the goal of increasing
attention spans, hand-eye coordination, and tenacity. The Montessori Method
states that satisfaction, contentment, and joy result from the child feeling
like a full participant in daily activities. Montessori education carried
through the elementary and high school years follows the child's emerging
tendency for peer interactions and still emphasizes each student as guardian of
his or her own intellectual development.
Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for
bringing forth the very best in young human beings. She taught adults how to
respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the
education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body
of knowledge. The discoveries of Maria Montessori are valuable for anyone
living and working with children in any situation.
The premises of a
Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following: a view of
children as competent beings capable of self-directed learning. Those children
learn in a distinctly different way from adults. The ultimate importance of
observation of the child interacting with her or his environment as the basis
for ongoing curriculum development. Presentation of subsequent exercises for
skill development and information accumulation are based on the teacher's
observation that the child has mastered the current exercise(s).Delineation of sensitive
periods of development, during which a child's mind is particularly
open to learning specific skills or knowledge, including language
development, sensorial experimentation and refinement, and various
levels of social interaction. A belief in the "absorbent mind", that
children from birth to around age 6 possess limitless motivation to achieve
competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings.
This phenomenon is characterized by the young child's capacity for repetition
of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language
practice leading to language competence. Those children are masters of their
environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic,
comfortable, and allow a maximum amount of independence. Those children learn
through discovery, so didactic materials that
are self-correcting are used as much as possible. Independent problem solving
is a highly hands-on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop
their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities
include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement,
small and large motor skill coordination,
and concrete knowledge that
leads to later abstraction.
of expression mainly in pre-schools, Montessori philosophy is finally being
used as originally intended, as a method of seeing children as they really are
and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest
potential - spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual - as members of
a family, the world community and the Cosmos.
practice is always up-to-date and dynamic because observation and the meeting
of needs are continual and specific for each child. When physical, mental,
spiritual, and emotional needs are met children glow with excitement and a
drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. They exhibit a
desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment.
level of academic achievement so common in Montessori schools is a natural
outcome of experience in such a supportive environment. The Montessori method
of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of
mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age
group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults.
Montessori teacher training centers and schools exist on all continents. There
are Montessori parenting classes, "Nidos" ("nests" for
infants), infant communities, "children's houses" (for age 3-6), and
classes for children up to age eighteen in public and private schools.
Montessori works in gifted and talented programs and for children with
developmental disabilities of all kinds. Many parents are using Dr.
Montessori's discoveries to raise/educate their children at home.
were concerned that their own children have a good educational experience began
many Montessori schools. Innovative school administrators and teachers, as
charter or magnet schools, also begin schools. For many years, there were only
private schools but because of the success of the Montessori method, there
are almost 3,000 Montessori teachers teaching in public schools today, and
even more teaching in private schools.
significant attention in these schools is paid to the furniture and the
premises in general. Montessori classrooms are child centric. Furniture is
child-sized, and there is no teacher's desk. The typical classroom consists of
four areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics. Practical
life includes activities such as buttoning, sweeping, pouring, slicing, tying,
etc. Sensorial includes activities to stimulate and train hearing, touch,
smell, and taste.
classrooms try to include ways for the children to interact with the natural
world, perhaps through a classroom pet (rabbits, gerbils, mice, etc.), or a
small garden where the children can plant vegetables or flowers.
In schools that extend
to the upper grades, each Montessori classroom still includes an approximately
three-year age range. This system allows flexibility in learning pace and
allowing older children to become teachers by sharing what they have learned.
The intent is to establish a non-competitive atmosphere in the classroom. The
belief is that class work which is different for each child results in students
who are less likely to try to keep track of where other children are
Every activity has its place in the classroom
and is self-contained and self-correcting. The original didactic materials are
specific in design, conforming to exact dimensions, and each activity is
designed to focus on a single skill, concept or exercise. All of the material
is based on SI units of measurement
(for instance, the Pink Tower is based on the 1cm cube) which allows all the
materials to work together and complement each other, as well as introduce the
SI units through concrete example. In addition to this, material is intended
for multiple uses at the primary level. A perfect example of this is the
"Knobbed Cylinder" materials: not only do they directly offer a
sensorial lesson, but indirectly the child's grip on the cylinders paves the
way for holding a pencil, and the grades of cylinders allow for an introduction
Other materials are
often constructed by the teacher: felt storyboard characters, letter boxes
(small containers of objects that all start with the same letter) for the
language area, science materials (e.g. dinosaurs for tracing, etc.), scent or
taste activities, and so on. The practical life area materials are almost
always put together by the teacher. All activities, however, must be neat,
clean, attractive and preferably made of natural materials such as glass or
wood, rather than plastic. Sponges, brooms and dustpans are provided and any
mishaps (including broken glassware) are not punished but rather treated simply
as an opportunity for the children to demonstrate responsibility by cleaning up
Each activity leads
directly to a new level of learning or concept. When a child "works,"
s/he is acquiring the basis for later concepts. Repetition of activities is
considered an integral part of this learning process and children are allowed
to repeat activities as often as they wish. A child’s is becoming tired of the
repetition is thought to be a sign s/he is ready for the next level of
The child proceeds at
his or her own pace from concrete objects and tactile experiences to abstract
thinking, writing, reading, science, and mathematics. For example, in the
language area, the child begins with the sandpaper letters (26 flat wooden
panels, each with a single letter of the alphabet cut from sandpaper and
affixed to it). The child's first lesson is to trace the shape of the letter
with their fingers while saying the phonic sound of the letter. A next level
activity might be the letter boxes (small containers each with a letter on the
top, filled with objects that begin with that letter). Having mastered these,
the child may move on to the word boxes (small containers each with a short three-letter
word on the top, for example CAT, containing a small wooden cat and the letters
C, A, T). One child might move through all three levels of lessons in a few
weeks while another might take several months; although there is a prescribed
sequence of activities there is no prescribed timetable. A Montessori teacher or instructor
observes each child like a scientist, providing him
with appropriate lessons, as he is ready for them.
A wide range of
conflicting criticisms has been leveled at the Montessori method. The two
primary critics of the Montessori Method in education theory are William
Heard Kilpatrick and John Dewey. They thought
that Montessori was too restrictive, and didn't adequately emphasize social
interaction and development. Dewey believed that the Montessori Method stifled
creativity. However, Dewey and Montessori agreed that education should be
directed by the needs of the student and that the teacher should act as a guide
to the educational process.
Another criticism of
Montessori schools is that they do not traditionally assign homework. The
lessons taught in a Montessori classroom are not generally conductive to home
use, and the materials are highly specialized. It would be unlikely that a
parent would buy materials for this purpose. Critics allege that a child who
transfers to a traditional school and is required to do homework will have
trouble adjusting, but while this is the case in some instances, the opposite
also occurs. Homework in some form has started to find its way into the
Montessori curriculum, if in a somewhat forced manner.
A 2006 study published
in the journal "Science" concluded that Montessori students performed
better than their standard public school counterparts in a variety of arenas,
including not only traditional academic areas such as language and mathematical
reasoning, but in social cognition skills as well.
On several dimensions,
children at a public inner city Montessori school had superior outcomes
relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, because of a random lottery,
attended other schools. By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children
performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more
positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social
cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and
justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more
creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive
responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community
at their school.
The authors concluded
that, "when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and
academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other
types of schools."
In our country, the Montessori
system can make a great revolution in the upbringing of a small children. Our
pedagogical system has a great experience in the pre-school education. However,
the inculcation of Montessori system should start with the training of the
teachers. This system gives many opportunities especially for young teachers,
because such schools can be both private and public. The realization of new
pedagogical, educational, linguistic approaches is only welcomed in this
1. Dr. Angeline
Stoll Lillard “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius”-Oxford
University Press, 2005.
2. Michael Olaf
“Montessori Schools”- Oxford Press University, 1999.
Kilpatrick, “Montessori: advantages and disadvantages”-Oxford Press,
“Montessori Methods”- Oxford University Press, 2000.