At the heart of the Montessori philosophy is respect for the child, which has profound implications for the way children are taught in a classroom. In a Montessori Pre-school, this translates into the understanding and support of children’s developmental stages, versatile curriculum throughout their elementary school career, and a more hands-off role for the teachers, all of which encourage children to learn at their own pace.
Support of developmental stages
In Dr. Maria Montessori’s research and experience in education, she developed* the concept of developmental planes, a timeframe in which children are more apt to adopt certain behaviors and learn specific skills. Instead of thinking of development as linear and universal, Montessori’s concept of developmental planes posits that the path to mastery and access to the next plane is particular to each child, and supporting that child in their path is the most natural and effective way for them to learn. She observed that these stages of development span several years and for this reason, Montessori schools are organized into mixed-age groups that share the same developmental plane. Children have the opportunity to explore in the same classroom for three years, allowing them to pursue their interests and develop their skills at their own pace.
The three Montessori elementary school programs are the primary (3-6 year olds), lower (6-9 year olds), and upper (9-12 year olds) programs. Each program offers a different approach to curriculum, but all offer flexibility and diverse ways to approach the topics. In the primary program curriculum, children acquire knowledge through exploration and hands-on practice in practical life skills, sensorial, math, language, and cultural studies. For the lower program curriculum, children are introduced to the Five Great Lessons: the story of the universe, the timeline of life, the story of language, the story of numbers, and the timeline of civilization. As children move into the upper program curriculum, they will focus on research projects and group work of their choosing that deepens their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they’ve explored in the previous programs, letting their innate curiosity and love of learning guide the way.
Teachers as observers
Lastly and importantly, Montessori teachers are positioned in the classroom as observers and guides. Due to the intentional design of the prepared environment and the emphasis on self-directed learning, teachers do not have to uniformly govern a classroom full of children with diverse interest, skills, and needs. Instead they can observe the child as they explore, question, and engage subjects and encourage them to own their learning process, while offering support and their presence as a resource.
Montessori education is an approach to life which continues when the school day is over. To get the best results, Montessori techniques should be incorporated into your home life as well. Not only will this encourage your children to be more active and inquisitive, but it will also help them learn and become more self-confident.
Children pay more attention to things which are at eye level and are more likely to use furniture that is a good fit for their small bodies. Dedicate a portion of the home to your children’s perspective, including things like photos hanging at their level, a small-sized bookcase, or at the very least, the lower shelves of a full sized one, and a table/chair combination.
You can make baskets with various themed learning activities to keep your child active. Simple motor skill toys, musical items, and cultural examples make excellent learning baskets, but you should tailor the ones you make to your child’s interests and preferences. Providing children with the freedom to move from one activity to another encourages independence and self-control.
Get outside. Go to parks, zoos, aquariums, or just the backyard. Discover the diversity of life which surrounds us and how each living thing plays a part in the circle of life. Learn about different kinds of plants, build an ant farm in a soda bottle, or grow a flower or vegetable garden. Most importantly, do it with your children, because you are the first place your child looks for examples and instruction.
If you have questions about incorporating the Montessori Method into your home routine, contact the teachers and staff at Mission Valley Montessori. We share a common goal of helping your children be the best that they can be, and working together, we can achieve wonderful things.