Educational fads may come and go but the Montessori method of education has remained unchanged for over one hundred years. Named after its founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, the Montessori method relies heavily on observation and the preparation of the environment. It recognizes the importance of order, choice, and the fostering of independence in children of all ages.
Dr. Montessori’s work centered around the belief that children possess a natural yearning to acquire knowledge and play a meaningful role in society by taking part in purposeful activities. The didactic materials developed by Dr. Montessori are noted for being auto-educational and for putting the control of error in the child’s hands. In this way, the child is free to select materials on which to work and is allowed the freedom to build mastery through repetition and sharing their discoveries with others.
Dr. Montessori stressed that education must take a two-pronged approach, focusing on both biological and social development of the child. To aid in these endeavors, the role of the guide is to engage in thoughtful observation, and to prepare the environment and provide materials to meet the evolving needs of the child at each stage of development.
Self-paced, the Montessori method of education validates children’s curiosity, passions, and interests; viewing them as intellectual, social, and emotional pursuits that are worthy of encouragement, further investigation, and study. The philosophy and pedagogy aims to develop and refine a child’s sense or order, coordination, concentration and independence through engagement in self-selected work. Subjects are treated equally and are presented simultaneously, intertwined in what is referred to in Montessori elementary as a Cosmic curriculum. Everything presented is shown first to the child as a whole, from concrete to abstract. This approach from the big idea to the fine details gives the child the context in which to delve into deeper studies through comparison and classification schemes.
Montessori early elementary is marked by a series of Great Lessons in which the child is introduced to the wonders of the universe and life through stories and timelines. These Great Lessons, of which there are five, draw the child’s awareness to the inter-connectedness of life. They provide the setting and stage for the unfolding of the elementary curriculum subjects which include sensorial and practical life; language arts; botany and zoology; mathematics; physical sciences; physical, cultural, and political geography, and art.
The Montessori method places explicit trust that the child, if treated with respect and kindess, will make good use of chances to work productively in search of useful and satisfying results. Dr. Montessori’s emphasis on caring for living things, the environment, and exuding grace and courtesy lends to the natural development of reverence, responsibility, integrity, empathy and compassion in children.
With a strong global perspective and call for socialization, Dr. Montessori’s method acknowledges the importance of fostering a sense of community. The early elementary curriculum gives children the opportunity to develop a strongly held set of values and practices through work. This focus on accountability nurtures good citizenship and stewardship, as children grow to recognize their own value, and the value of others, through the art and act of sharing and giving back to others. Society is built by mankind; Dr. Montessori’s method is aimed at improving the world through the improvement of mankind, starting with the child.