What is Montessori?

“Education is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being”

Maria Montessori


Montessori is both a philosophy of child development and a method of applying the philosophy in an educational setting to guide a child’s growth. The Montessori classroom is a dynamic community of learners and guides. Some basic premises of Montessori include:

A Responsive, Prepared, Child-Centered Environment
Children are to be respected as unique individuals, different from adults, but not less important or valued as members of the community. The child possesses an unusual sensitivity and intellectual ability to learn from her environment. The focus of activity in our Montessori classroom setting is on the child’s experience within the environment, and not on the teacher’s teaching. Our environment is designed to meet the needs, interests, and abilities of the children within the class.

Teachers adapt the environment through modifying the selection of educational materials available, the physical layout and equipment in the classroom, and shifting the tone of the class to fit the ever-changing needs of the children. Generally students work individually or in small self-selected groups. Community meetings or “circle times” are scheduled, so as not to interrupt the child’s work and are usually held at transitional points during the day. There is a conscious effort to design our classroom as a “children’s house,” making it as comfortable and inviting as a home.

A Focus on the Human Tendencies
Maria Montessori based her philosophy of education, on the human tendency within the child, to explore, to move, to share with a group, to be independent and make decisions, to create order, to develop self control, to extract ideas from experience, to use creative imagination, to work hard, to repeat, concentrate, and perfect one’s efforts and creations. Each of these tendencies is considered carefully when designing our environments, preparing materials, and planning activities for the students.

A Multi-age Community of Learners
Our Montessori classroom is a community of children and adults. The classroom consists of children from a multiage span of three to four years. This creates a “family” like group where older children model and help care for younger children, and younger children look up to and learn from the older children. Varying levels of ability blend easily in a multiage setting, no child feels left behind and everyone learns at their own pace.

Cooperation and Collaboration
Montessori children learn “at their own pace.” When the child demonstrates readiness, she is guided gently by the teachers in the classroom, to explore increasingly challenging activities. In a Montessori setting, teacher’s refrain from comparing students to one another and base evaluations on the progress of the individual. Children are encouraged to work together as well as independently. Often a more experienced child will be asked to assist a less experienced child with an activity or lesson. Group discussion and problem solving are strongly encouraged. Teachers work to create a sense of community within the classroom. Children feel a sense of belonging and responsibility toward their classroom and towards each other.

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