Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori. In 1907 Maria Montessori opened her first classroom, the Casa dei Bambini or Children’s house, in Rome. From the beginning, Montessori based her work on her observations of children and experimentation with the environment, materials, and lessons.
Montessori education is characterised by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. The Association Montessori International cite the following elements as essential:
- Mixed age classrooms
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A constructivism or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials rather than by direct instruction
- Specialised educational materials
The Montessori approach is based upon the natural laws of human development. Maria Montessori observed that children under six absorb limitlessly and effortlessly from the world around them and in so doing lay down all the foundations for later in life.
The mixed age group allows the children to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally. It is an essential part of any Montessori School.
In a Montessori School the child is guided by a trained adult who will show them how to do the things they are ready for. Later they can work with the materials independently.
Montessori education is practised in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to 18 years old.
Principles of Montessori Education
Montessori is about learning to balance responsibility with freedom of choice. It offers children the opportunity to realise their potential in a non-competitive environment and seeks to promote:
- Self-confidence and self-esteem
- A sense of achievement and self-worth
- A sense of responsibility for themselves and their actions
- Independence and adaptability
- Cooperation with others and a sense of community
- Respect for the rights and needs of others
- Initiative and self-motivation
- Concentration and persistence in completing a task
The key principles include:
- Life education based on respect and love for self, others and the environment
- Educating in the context of the whole child, taking into account the social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects
- Developing the human potential
- Making the connection between life and the universe
- Embracing home, school and the greater community as part of the educational approach
- Offering a learning environment of minimal interruptions and interferences
- Nurturing relationships that satisfy the true needs of the child
There are three key components for the optimal Montessori working environment: the prepared environment, the children and the adult.