There are a lot of misconceptions about the Montessori method of education. While I knew the name, I must admit I knew little else about it. After doing a considerable amount of research, I am completely sold on it and would love to see it utilized more readily. I can’t understand why I didn’t learn about it in teacher’s college and why it isn’t the fundamental method.
Simone Davies breaks down what it is all about in her book, The Montessori Toddler.
What is Montessori?
“In Montessori education there is a dynamic relationship between the child, the adult, and the learning environment. The child is in charge of their own learning, supported by the adult and the environment.
The materials are laid out on shelves in a sequential order from easiest to hardest. Each child works at their own pace through the materials, following their interest in that moment. The teacher will observe the child and when it seems that the child has mastered the material, the teacher will then give them a lesson with the next material.
Children have the freedom to choose what they would like to work on (as long as it is available), the freedom to rest or to observe another child (as long as they are not disturbing another child), and the freedom to move around the classroom (as long as they respect the people around them). Within these limits, we follow the child and trust they will develop on their own unique timeline.”
What does a typical day look like in a Montessori school?
It can be difficult for parents to understand how there can be thirty children in a Montessori class, all working on different lessons and on different subjects simultaneously. I often get asked, ‘How can the teacher manage all this?’
Here’s an impression of how it works in practice.
Before the day starts, the Montessori teacher has prepared the classroom. Activities line the shelves at the children’s height in the various subject areas, with meticulously arranged materials that scaffold onto each other, building skills upon skills upon skills. During the class, the teacher observes the children, sees what each child is learning and mastering, and offers the next lesson to a child when they are ready.
If we walk into a Montessori classroom, we might see one child working on their math skills, another child doing a language activity, and an additional pair of children completing a project together. The idea is that the child can choose for themselves what they would like to work on.”
Classroom management and discipline are not an issue.
“In a Montessori classroom, less time is spent on ‘crowd control,’ such as getting everyone to sit and listen to a lesson or visiting the bathroom as a group. This gives the teacher more time to focus on observing and helping the children. Because the children in the classroom are in mixed-age groups, older children can help younger children. When they explain something to another child, they consolidate their own learning. The younger children also learn from observing older children.”
Teachers are the guide on the side
“We don’t need to be a boss giving them orders, directing them, or teaching them everything they need to learn. And we don’t need to be their servant doing everything for them. We can simply be their guide.”
But very attentive to individual students.
“We might be concerned that, with all this freedom, our child might avoid an area of learning. If this happens, the Montessori teacher will observe whether the child is not yet ready, and they can offer them activities that may be more accessible and attractive to them, showing them in a different way that follows their interests.”
Parents can use it too
There is even a movement to use the Montessori teachings in our homes as we raise our children. To this end, Davies offers a lot of practical suggestions. I will write a follow up piece soon. Stay tuned! If you are interested in a new way of education, please follow my new site and movement Know School!
My 2021 Reading Log – with dozens of reviews just like this