What Is Montessori Education?
Montessori education is student-led and self-paced but guided, assessed, and enriched by knowledgeable and caring teachers, the leadership of their peers, and a nurturing environment.
Within the community of a multi-age classroom—designed to create natural opportunities for independence, citizenship, and accountability—children embrace multi-sensory learning and passionate inquiry. Individual students follow their own curiosity at their own pace, taking the time they need to fully understand each concept and meet individualized learning goals.
Given the freedom and support to question, probe deeply, and make connections, Montessori students grow up to be confident, enthusiastic, and self-directed learners and citizens, accountable to both themselves and their community. They think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly and with integrity. What better outcome could you wish for your children?
Benefits of Montessori Education
Choosing a Montessori environment for your child has many benefits. Known for individually paced learning and fostering independence, the Montessori Method also encourages empathy, a passion for social justice, and a joy in lifelong learning.
Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century.
Learning and well-being are improved when children have a sense of control over their lives. Although Montessori programs impose definite limits on this freedom, children are free to make many more decisions than are children in traditional classrooms: what to work on, how long to work on it, with whom to work on it, and so on.
Recent research in psychology has proven that order in the environment is indeed very helpful to learning and development. Montessori classrooms are very organized, both physically (in terms of layout) and conceptually (in terms of how the use of materials progresses).
Your gut feeling is right: Research has shown that when people learn with the goal of doing well on a test, their learning is superficial and quickly forgotten. Children (and yes, adults, too) learn better when they are interested in what they are learning.
Learning From Peers
Children in Montessori classrooms learn by imitation models, through peer tutoring, and in collaboration. In mixed-age classes, younger children learn from older ones by asking them questions while watching them work. Older children who are teaching younger children repeat and consolidate their knowledge and skills and obtain social skills.
Our brains evolved in a world in which we move and do, not a world in which we sit at desks. Movement and cognition are closely entwined. Education, therefore, would involve movement to enhance learning.
Rather than learning largely from what teachers and texts say to them, children in true Montessori programs learn largely by doing. Because they are doing things, rather than merely hearing and writing, their learning is situated in the context of actions and objects. For example, children go out of the classroom and into the world to research their interests.
Certified Montessori teachers provide clear limits but set children free within these boundaries. They sensitively respond to children’s needs while maintaining high expectations. This kind of ‘authoritative parenting’ seeks a middle ground between a traditional, authoritarian attitude (“Do it because we say so”) and an overly permissive, child-centered approach of other progressive schools.