You have probably heard of the Montessori Method, a theory of alternative education with millions of followers around the world. When it comes to educational methods it’s always difficult to choose the best one for your kid as there’s a plenty of information on schools, methods, theories and scholars. Below are the most important things you should know about this method before you decide whether you want to apply it or save your child from all this Montessori frenzy.
Things You Must Know About The Montessori Theory
1. Who was Maria Montessori?
Doctor Maria Montessori (1870-1952) spent her entire life trying to understand how and why children learn. After getting her medical degree she began working with children with special needs, and that’s when she realized that applying the right educational methods one could help those kids improve their physical and mental health. She noticed that those kids used their hands to learn about the environment. The core of her theory is that using hands and senses (touching, smelling, hearing, seeing and tasting) leads to intellectual development as this is a way kids learn about the world and later use the gained knowledge to develop abstract thinking.
After having worked with special needs children for several years Montessori decided to apply her educational methods to normal kids. The results were equally successful, which proved that all children were capable of achieving spontaneous and independent learning. These, in its turn, became the key principles of the Montessori Method.
Her research Metado della Podagogica Scientifica applicato all’educazione infantile nelle Casa doi Bambini was published in English in 1912. The book became an instant hit, with lots of Montessori schools opening in different counties of the world. And despite certain criticism from fellow psychologists, notably William Kilpatrick, who accused her of using outdated psychological theories, the Montessori Method was seen as a revolution approach to children learning. Now, a century after the introduction of the method its ideas are still strong and popular among parents and educationalists.
2. What are the key principles of the Montessori Method?
The main principles of the Montessori Method include:
Maria Montessori said a teacher/parent was not to help a child with a task but rather give an opportunity to succeed on their own. Doing things on their own increases children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Watching the child helps the parent learn about the child’s needs.
- Following the Child
This principle suggests that by following the child in a non-directive manner the parent/teacher may learn about the child’s needs and provide them with opportunities to learn and develop (if the child wants to climb, the parent/teacher should give an opportunity to climb in a safe manner). The adult should not interfere with the process of learning/playing unless the child becomes destructive or able to hurt himself or others.
- Correcting the Child
When the child makes a mistake correct him/her by recognizing the mistake, by making the kid realize it and not by blatantly pointing it out and raising your voice as this can lead to fear of failure.
- Prepared Environment
Classrooms and playrooms must be safe for kids and properly equipped and prepared to allow freedom of movement and choice. The learning environment must be beautiful and inviting for kids to engage in various activities, according to their liking. According to Montessori, the child’s development depends on the environment. Parents are part of this environment.
- Absorbent Mind
Young children do not need lessons to learn, they learn by exploring the environment, being part of it and absorbing the information unconsciously. This is why the environment should be positive and well set up to provide the better learning.
- Sensitive periods
Montessori believed every child’s development included sensitive periods when the child could learn specific skills more easily. The sequence and timing of sensitive periods is individual for very child. The role of the parent/teacher is to notice this sensitivity and provide with opportunities for successful learning.
- No Competition
Montessori believed competition (e.g. grades) hindered learning as it reduced enjoyment. She said children could not be compared to each other. Every child should observe their own progress and self-growth. In this respect she spoke for multi-age classrooms that lacked completion but provided kids with various social and academic challenges.
3. Can you apply the Montessori Method at home?
YES! What’s more important, applying the Montessori Method at home is so much easier than you imagine.
Children learn from observation, so don’t explain much, just let the child observe what you are doing and make his own conclusions. When presenting a new activity try to do things slower than you usually do, so that it’s easier for your kid to get the point of the activity. Always let your kid try the activity on their own.
Among the Montessori approved activities that can be easily applied at home are:
- Brushing hair
- Brushing teeth
- Watering plants
- Folding clothes
- Setting the table
- Wiping a table
Also, make sure your kid has a set of safe educational toys to choose from. You don’t have to provide your kid with tons of toys, just a few toys made of reliable materials. Make sure the kid has freedom of movement, as well as freedom of choice.
Invite your child’s friends to your house and set up/help them set up various interesting activities. Children learn best with peers and from peers.
4. Are there any disadvantages of the Montessori Method?
As any other educational approach the Montessori Method has its own disadvantages. When applying this method you should keep in mind that it was invented a hundred years ago and some of its principles are now considered outdated. For example, Montessori wrote about weaning the child off the breast at the age of 6 months to encourage independence. Now all global health organizations speak for extended breastfeeding.
Also, the Montessori environment lacks structure and instructions, while some children function better in more structured and more guided environments. Likewise, lack of completion in the classroom may lead to certain problems if a child enters a more competitive environment. Besides, some kids need more discipline than others, so they benefit from extrinsic, rather than intrinsic motivation.
Lastly, the Montessori Method suggests individual work at one’s own pace which leads to restricted social interactions with other kids in class.
5. Who are the famous Montessori educated people?
“Montessori taught me the joy of discovery…It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you.”
Will Wright, computer game designer and original designer of The Sims
Among the famous Montessorians we can mention Princes William and Harry, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founder of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize winner for Literature), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and many others.
“I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez