> Educational Philosophy
- In the early 1900's -Dr. Maria Montessori built a method of education upon her medical research, observations of children and the idea that children think, learn and develop differently than adults. She believed in a "whole child" approach, educating not only their mind, but their emotions, social conscience and a display of grace and courtesy toward all. She believed that this method of education would produce not only incredible students, but also caring human beings who would lead us to world peace.
- The Montessori Method encourages a child's independence and exploration, based upon their development of inner discipline. The individuality of each child's needs or talents is respected. Montessori desired a stimulating, child-centered classroom in which children could explore, touch and learn without fear by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of all the senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, fine and gross motor coordination and concrete knowledge that later leads to abstraction. The three-year age span in each program allows flexibility in learning paces and for older children to teach what they have mastered. Each child proceeds at his or her own pace. The intention is to foster a non-competitive atmosphere. Children work on various materials throughout the room and are not generally aware of where other children are academically.
- During a typical day, children are content and joyful as full participants in the day's schedule of activities. Children are the masters of their environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to learn through discovery and self-correction as much as possible. The children see the classroom as "theirs" and not solely the "teacher's". Every material has its place in the classroom. Each activity is designed to focus on a particular skill, concept or exercise, however, there are often indirect purposes involved as well. The materials are clean, attractive and preferably made of natural materials, such as wood or glass. Generally, a child does not work with a given material until a teacher or other student has presented its proper use. Montessori curriculum is specifcally designed to be an integrated spiral. Each material sequentially leads to a different level or concept; the child acquires basic foundations for later concepts. Repetition is necessary for learning and children are allowed to repeat lessons as often as they wish. The teacher observes each child and provides lessons accordingly.
- The Journal of Science published a study in 2006 that concluded Montessori students outperform their traditional peers in all subjects.
- "The beauty of Montessori is that it is meant for every child. As a Montessori student, your child will have the opportunity to develop the intellectual foundation and emotional confidence that will serve as secure stepping stones as he or she travels the path to becoming an adult. Montessori educators equate success to helping a child become self-confident, emotionally secure, global citizen, who can competently and confidently address social or economic issues while achieving their life's goals. As a result of the Montessori approach to education, Montessori students are prepared for life, not just for a test." - Author unknown
- Montessori programs are usually structured to encompass developmental planes that have a three year age range among the children in a classroom. There are many advantages to this mixed age group over the traditional class where the children are essentially the same age.
- Follow the Child - Children are encouraged to excel where they might, and to perfect what they need to work on. By having work going on around them at many academic and developmental levels, a child can be drawn to whatever interests them, regardless of their age and supposed developmental stage. The mix of ages allows for “following the child” as Montessori is famous for, as the child can choose work of their interest from any level. Example from a Primary classroom: A four-year old can be reading at a Kindergarten level, but still working on identifying basic number symbols. Example from an Elementary classroom: A six-year old can do an advanced geography project while her friend might excel in history.
- No Competition - Multi-age classrooms virtually eliminate competition. Since there are many activities/lessons going on at any given time, children are unaware of what others are doing in other areas of the room. A younger child does not think to compete with a child older and bigger than he/ she. The children get used to having peers working at all levels, so it is not obvious when there is an exact peer who is doing “better” or “worse” than another. While traditional programs might address different children excelling or needing help in areas by dividing the group into higher and lower reading groups, for example. This labels children and can be very damaging to their self-esteem (if they are in the lower group), or unnecessarily have them place value in assessments from the outside (if they are in the higher group), rather than have them value learning for the sake of learning. Example from a Primary classroom: A five-year-old may still be identifying sounds, like a 3 or 4 year-old classmate, but no one sees or labels him as “slow”. Example from an Elementary classroom: A six year-old could be in a “reading group” with eight year-olds, but is not singled out as being “gifted”; she is just reading with friends.
- Learning/Teaching Each Other - Children often enjoy learning from other children more than from an adult. We have all seen a child look-up to and admire a slightly older child, often holding them in higher esteem than an adult. A lesson presented by an older child is often more intriguing, than if it were presented by an adult.
- Leadership and Learning through Teaching - People learn best from what they teach others. The older children improve their skills and gain both knowledge and satisfaction in teaching things to the younger children. The older children, especially those in their third year, take on an important leadership role for the class, developing life-long leadership and mentoring skills.
- Improved Social Interactions - With children at different developmental stages interacting, there is less quarreling. For example, rather than a room full of three-year-olds tugging over the same object, the five-year-olds model conflict resolution through words and sharing. The older children also behave protectively and almost parentally over the younger children in the room. Example from a Primary classroom: Kindergarteners are often seen comforting younger new students through transitions such as separation from moms. Example from an Elementary classroom: Elementary programs often have designated “peace” areas where they can invite a friend, peer or an adult, sometimes with a peer mediator, to resolve conflict.