Montessori Education, Part I

My daytime college students will attest to the fact that I love Montessori schools.  Some might say I talk ad nauseam about them.  Though, I wouldn’t argue that point.  More accurately, I love Dr. Maria Montessori’s classic methodologies for teaching children.  Classic because her work began in the uber-late 1800s.   No, that is not a typo – 1800s.  1-8-0-0.  Around 1896, for my history buff readers.

One of my daytime students interviewed me for a class assignment and asked what I would change if I could “do it again.”  It being my career.  Without hesitation, “I would be trained as a Montessori teacher.”  Simple.

(Montessori classrooms tend to be well organized; all the materials are inviting, made of wood or
other natural materials and are accessible to the students)

Today’s post is Part I of a two-part crash course in Montessori education.  Who better to e-interview then two certified Montessori teachers.  Welcome, Ms. J and Ms. Z.

What is Montessori education?
It is a system of education based off the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori for both guiding and nourishing the spirit of a child to help the child reach his/her full potential.  If I may interject:  Did you know Dr. Montessori was nominated twice for the Noble Peace Prize? Incredible.

What age ranges does it serve?
Montessori education began with a class of mixed ages ranging from 3-6 years.  However, many Montessori schools also include separate programs for toddlers, 6-9 year olds, 9-12 years olds and even high school.

(Children learn starting at age 2-3 years how to care for the materials in the classroom;
Children are also taught how to create their own workspaces.  Here little O is rolling up her rug
after using that "workspace" for an activity.  Each activity in a Montessori classroom is called a "work.")

What are the benefits to Montessori education?
Montessori schools have several benefits:
  • For youngest students, the classroom is more like a home than a typical daycare or preschool and includes child size furniture and child-sized materials, or as we call them, “works.” 
  • There is an individual education plan for each child.  Children are not taught in groups solely based on their age like traditional public schools.
  • Within the classroom, there is a mixed-aged group (for example, ages 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds together) which allows older children to mentor younger children, and younger children to observe older children work.
  • Children are given work choices and can pursue individual interests.
  • Children are taught early on to respect others and the classroom environment.  It is common for Montessori classrooms to have glass water pitchers or other breakables.  Children are taught when they spill, how to clean up. If a glass pitcher breaks, how to sweep up carefully.
  • Children are introduced early to different cultures and countries, as well as, sciences like botany and zoology.
  • Dr. Montessori stressed the importance of creating a classroom that was rich with interest, aesthetically pleasing, organized, clean, and allowed for children to move around easily in the environment.

What are the drawbacks?
  • Most Montessori schools, like other private schools, do not have resources available to them like public schools typically have such as special education teachers and resources, larger gyms, media centers, technology labs, or separate art facilities.
  • For some children, transitioning from a Montessori school to a public school may be difficult.  Children are used to being self-directed in the Montessori environment compared to most teacher-directed, public school environments.  Guess what?  Some states have public Montessori schools!  Yay, (parts of) Colorado and Maryland - to name a few.

(Dr. Montessori was an advocate for peace.  In fact, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice. 
Students in Montessori classrooms are introduced very early to work about culture and geography.)

How does Montessori education compare to traditional education?
  • The Montessori curriculum for 3-6 year olds has both depth and breadth allowing teachers and students to follow the many varied interests of the class. Traditional schools often have a fixed curriculum they must adhere to daily. 
  • Traditional education usually begins at age five years vs. Montessori education begins as early as 2 ½ years of age. 
  • Montessori schools have what is called the “Practical Life” area where children can learn real life skills such as (cooking, sewing, cleaning, polishing, care of self: buttoning, zippering, and tying), as well as lessons in grace and courtesy towards each other.  Traditional schools usually are limited to water play and imaginative play stations or centers.
Thank you, Ms. J and Ms. Z for Part I of our Montessori crash course.

Aren't you, amazing blog reader, wondering if Montessori education is successful in the 21st century?  What kind of research supports or refutes Dr. Montessori's methodology?  Let's imagine there is something magical about Montessori education, how do you become a Montessori teacher?  Could traditional classroom teachers learn something from their Montessori brethren? 

(A close-up of classic Montessori materials - simple, yet engaging, natural materials.  Clean and well- organized)

Check back tomorrow for Part II of this series.

I can barely wait,


PS - If you are looking for a good read about Dr. Montessori, check out this book