The Montessori method is a highly individualized educational approach for children used worldwide and based on the research and experiences of Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori (1870–1952). It is designed to lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and become eager, self-directed learners. Using a carefully prepared environment, teachers are guides utilizing self-correcting, hands-on learning materials and purposeful activities that allow children to learn at their own pace through discovery. This type of meaningful work in an orderly environment fosters concentration, encourages responsibility, independence and confidence, and results in children who love to learn.
A multi-sensory sequence of manipulative materials in all areas of the classroom give children concrete experiences that form a firm basis for their conceptual knowledge. Self-correcting materials provide the immediate feedback required for self-discovery, and teacher demonstrations allow for learning through observation. Montessori programs are individually paced. Material presentations are one-on-one or in small groups to ensure that the child is neither held back nor overwhelmed by the pace or level of other children. Using the Positive Discipline Approach, the school facilitates the development of age-appropriate communication skills and creative conflict resolution, the building of empathy and respect for others, and the ability to balance individual needs with the needs of others.
Multi-age classrooms allow for peer learning. Children learn especially well from the observation of slightly older children, while older children are able to demonstrate their mastery of materials by teaching younger students. Multi-age classes provide: the stability of three years in the same environment; a three year student/teacher relationship which provides a deep understanding of a child’s learning style; opportunities for chronologically older children to become leaders and examples for newer students; opportunities for children of similar skill levels, but different chronological age levels, to work together; and an environment conducive to the Montessori spiral curriculum, in which similar concepts and tasks are presented at varying levels of complexity at several times during the three-year curriculum cycles.
The Role of the Teacher and Emergent Curriculum
An individually paced curriculum is provided for each student as our teachers observe performance, record areas of progress and areas of difficulty. Teachers design presentations and assignments according to the needs and capacity of each child. The indirect method neither imposes upon the child nor abandons the child to grapple alone. The teacher observes each child to determine specific needs and to gain the knowledge needed to prepare an environment conducive to the child’s growth.
Our teachers allow children to develop their own specific activities within the framework of general educational objectives. Teacher planning may include a variety of possible outcomes for a lesson, thereby allowing for students to suggest specific directions as the unit progresses. Lessons may also spontaneously develop through the interaction of the students, teachers, and outside events. When teachers are responsive to the needs and ideas of students in the learning process, the children become active agents in their own learning processes and experience knowledge as emerging from the self and through social interaction.