Developed in the early 1900s, the Montessori method of teaching is now practiced globally in Montessori schools. Focusing on freedom within structure, natural child development, and specialist education materials, this "Montessori approach" has a huge number of educational advantages but has also split opinions.
Read on as we outline the method, its origins, and its principles as you consider whether it might be the right program for your child.
What is the Montessori method of teaching?
The Montessori method is based on the principles of teaching by Maria Montessori, who started her first school in an apartment building in Italy in 1907. 📏
This first school was simple and basic but full of materials that would end up forming the foundations of the Montessori learning method.
Maria Montessori realized that her students understood complex ideas much better when they engaged all of their senses. Some of the first activities she focused on were basic; like dressing, sleeping, gardening, and caring for the environment.
Montessori allowed her students to roam free and play with the materials available, which she oversaw.
She realized that children concentrated deeply when given free choice and showed much more interest in the activities. Over time, this emerged into spontaneous self-discipline.
She concluded that by working independently, children reached new levels of autonomy, and positivity, and became self-motivated. This understanding came to form the basis of the Montessori philosophy.
Montessori decided that a teacher’s role was as a facilitator, carefully arranging and overseeing an environment where students could become independent and responsible adults who shared a love of learning. ⭐
Maria Montessori and the Montessori method of education began to travel the world and inspire lots of thinkers in other countries, for example; Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham-Bell, and the more modern-day Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin! 🚀
The term ‘Montessori’ now stands as its own term beyond the school itself and is used within a large number of different schools and communities that share the Montessori theory ethos. This includes Kindergartens, elementary schools, special-needs schools, and homeschooling, too!
What do Montessori teaching methods look like in practice?
- Students choose what to learn from a carefully curated program
- Open classrooms (sometimes outdoors) to allow for free movement
- A safe, engaging, and nurturing environment
- Specialized Montessori materials expertly organized and placed
- Mixed-age classes (e.g. 0-3, 3-6, 6-12) so children can learn from each other
- Uninterrupted blocks of study time (up to 3 hours)
- No grading or homework
- A trained teacher-specialist
- Using specific Montessori toys that are designed to integrate into the method
What are the five principles of the Montessori method?
The Montessori method abides by five principles, so understanding these is a great first step to figuring out if you want to learn more about the method, and introduce it into your family’s lives:
- Principle 1: Respect for the child
Children should be respected and their concentration not interrupted, respect is also shown by giving children the freedom to make choices.
- Principle 2: The Absorbent Mind
Especially at a young age, children are constantly absorbing. This makes it all the more important to create a carefully designed, safe, and stimulating learning space.
- Principle 3: Sensitive Periods
Children aren’t able to learn to the best of their ability all of the time! Montessori believed that these periods varied for each child.
- Principle 4: The Prepared Environment
Environments should be child-centered, focusing on stimulating all of the senses.
- Principle 5: Auto education
Students are capable of educating themselves with the facilitation of a teacher to guide them.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Montessori education?
Montessori is based on hands-on learning, self-directed activity, and collaborative play. Does that mean kids can do whatever they want all of the time? Absolutely not! ✋🏼
There are boundaries and environments created and set up by teachers for students to be creative. Everything is careful and safe, and a lifelong love of learning is created.
Encouraging independence in children is never easy, especially when there are risks involved like the potential to fall over or get hurt.
The Montessori method offers a safe environment where children can experience natural consequences whilst developing strong motor skills.
Rushing to focus on writing and numeracy too soon before children have fully developed is not proven to be any more helpful. Motivating and exploring the senses creates long-lasting retention of trickier knowledge. 😊
Maria Montessori believed that the educator should ‘follow the child’, but this can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming when a child might not be playing ball.
And what about when there is a classroom of other students to help, too? Some students who attend Montessori might find the transition to mainstream school (with more rules and boundaries) much harder.
How can you bring Montessori into your home?
Not quite sure about the method? Try these simple home tricks which align with its principles, and see how your child responds over time:
- Keep living plants in your child’s study space, and show them how to look after them. This helps to create happy emotions around learning.
- Allow for the child’s independence in every room by lowering hooks and paintings to eye level, allowing for children to enjoy things themselves. You can also encourage them to put away their own clothes!
- Declutter and create a home for everything to have its place - this appeals to a kid’s natural love of order.
- Play with toys on rotation rather than leaving everything in a big toy box. This allows the child to be stimulated by different things at different times, rather than spoiled.
- Do not interrupt play! In Montessori, play is the work of a child and a time when they can deeply concentrate.