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A Look at Montessori

The Montessori Method was developed in the early 1900’s by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. Using her scientific background, she began observing and working closely with the children at her Casa Dei Bambini (Children’s House). Based on her observations, she developed unique materials and a safe, respectful, child-centered environment. Montessori was one of the first to revolutionize educational thought by stressing respect for the child, freedom of expression, self-education, and learning through self-driven exploration guided by the senses. She was a woman of vision who believed that every child deserves respect, and that every child is a unique individual with unlimited potential when given the proper tools to be successful.

The Montessori Method of education is based on concrete learning through hands-on manipulation of materials in a carefully prepared environment. Montessori Classrooms are comprised of mixed age groups. This grouping creates a highly productive learning environment which allows older children the opportunity to teach the younger children while the younger children benefit from the example of their older friends. Under the teacher’s guidance, each child works with materials that are geared toward their abilities and interests receiving individual lessons that allow them to progress at their own pace. Driven by their innate curiosity the children develop an eagerness to explore and a true love of learning.

We have outlined a few of the key differences between a Montessori program and a traditional school program below.

Montessori Program

  • Emphasis on cognitive and social development
  • Mostly individual instruction
  • Teacher has guiding role
  • Three year age span in one classroom
  • Children reinforce their own learning through repetition of work and internal feelings of success
  • Highly organized sets of graduated materials that are three dimensional and “concrete”
  • Develops wise use of free choice. Child chooses work that is of interest to them
  • Child’s individual abilities determine their learning pace
  • Environment and methods encourage self-discipline through awareness of personal responsibility and natural consequences
  • Emphasis on learning respect for others, proper care of one’s self and their environment, and personal responsibility
  • Curriculum is based on a holistic approach to education offering lessons in a wide range of subjects such as language, mathematics, geography, history, science, sensorial awareness, art, practical life skills, music, Sign Language, Spanish and yoga

Traditional Program

  • Emphasis on rote learning and social behavior
  • Mostly group instruction
  • Teacher controls classroom
  • One age per class
  • Learning is teacher motivated and is reinforced externally through rewards, stickers, etc.
  • Mostly abstract materials such as books, papers, etc.
  • Very few choices. Teacher assigns work for child
  • Instruction pace determined by median ability of entire class
  • Teacher acts as primary enforcer of discipline utilizing generated consequences and reward systems
  • Emphasis on learning rules and acceptable behaviors
  • Curriculum focuses primarily on core subjects such as language, mathematics, history, and science