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,

Jen

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


Aren'

18 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I have loved learning about montessori school. It is so relevant to me, as I have a son and also because I am working towards being an art teacher so the hands on activities are especially interesting to me. I have not heard very much about montessori education prior to this class, so I have loved hearing more through your experience and through class discussions. I would like my son to be a part of a montessori school. I just wish it wasn't so expensive!

    Rebekah H.
    (Sorry I forgot to sign my name in the previous comment, so I deleted it!)

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  3. I enjoyed learning about Montessori schools. Hands on activities are such a great idea when children are teaching themselves. I believe children learn more effectively by doing things that interest them. Children seem to be more active and engaged in what they're learning overall.

    Marissa Miller

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  4. I really like this and how big it really is. i feel all students should start with Montessori schools then move on to a public school later. It seems like the pros out weight the cons by a lot. Teaching basic manners and proper etiquette could prevent some problems a child could have and wasnt seen if this subject of general knowledge wasnt taught.
    Gyler T

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  5. I enjoy learning about Montessori school and the philosophies behind them. This takes me back to our class when we were learning about 'windows and mirrors". It is so important to give 'windows' to students, teaching about other diverse cultures and countries is great. By encouraging self directed learning you place every student in the 'captain' chair.

    Where are the public Montessori schools in Maryland?

    Emillee C.

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  6. Depth and breadth, something that our public school system is sometimes lacking. The fact that the work environment is built for children is wonderful. As adults, we often forget that children have different needs from us, and that each child has their own individual set of needs. The fact that in a Montessori school each child has their individual education plan tailored to them and that they are encouraged to pursue and develop their own interests is something that I wish we would incorporate into out public school system all over the country. Teaching accountability for yourself is also another wonderful aspect of Montessori schools that I wish would be incorporated.
    Jackie H.

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  7. This is a good introduction to the Montessori method and I must say the benefits are great but the drawbacks are just as great. There is such a huge emphasis on play and space. Children need to be able to run and jump to develop and maintain gross motor skills. Having computer labs as well as media centers where children can check out books is a major benefit in public schools. I believe that facilitates learning a great deal since students can take the books and practice reading at home. In the absence of special education, I'm wondering how the Montessori method would track and assist children who are in need of special education or some other kind of one-on-one attention.

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  8. If there are no Montessori elementary or middle schools available, is Montessori preschool still advantageous? Or will the transition to traditional kindergarten or elementary school be too difficult? Is there research on this? I wonder if because children at a young age are so adaptable that maybe it wouldn't be an issue but would they adapt so well that the benefits of Montessori are lost? I think at least the lessons of morals and grace would stick yes? (or pushing in their chair!)

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  9. The Montessori method reminds me about what we learned about constructivism. Students individually discover and transform complex information. The teacher gives the students the freedom to learn in a way that fits them the best. Also the students seem to have more hands on assignments, freedom to explore and they have options. Also the Montessori method seems to help with critical and creative thinking.
    Ana V.

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  10. The experimental learning that montessori provides to children seems to be invaluable. I can only wish I was aware of Montessori schools when my children were younger. The learning experience is extended through hands on experimentation, allowing the child to fully grasp concepts. I think the greatest part of the montessori educational program is the student-based aspect, allowing the individual student to learn at their instructional level and at their own pace.

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  11. I absolutely love the Montessori method. I was a big fan of Montessori before I took your class and read your blog, but I am even more of a fan now. One of the reasons I love the Montessori method is because it teaches the whole child and nurtures the children in a way that they can't be nurtured in a regular classroom. It embraces the fact that each child is unique and has a different way of learning and encourages each child to really be their own person, which I find beautiful.

    Taylor H.

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  12. This post is related to my AACC EDU 214 class and my Final Exam. I thought I would educate myself about Montessori Schools, since I knew nothing about them. After reviewing the blogs, and some of the sites that were made available, I’d like to show a comparison to what I think I learned, and what I think I see in my daughters 3rd grade public education.

    It appears that classes are made up of children of various ages. This does not happen in a public school. But what a great idea, as I see firsthand working with children how a younger child is “in awe “of another child just a few years older. What a great way to foster collaboration and mentoring.

    Montessori employs “special set of educational materials” for the various subjects. It sounds like the kids work is small groups, with hands on things such as puzzles, maps, manipulative, art. This is instead of a teacher droning on, and referring to dittos, or reading “prefab” lesson plans. I have not seen the smart boards in action. Are they worth the money? Do they engage the children, or, are they just a fancy way to for the teacher to spice up a boring presentation? I surely hope they are improving the quality of the classroom learning, at 3K a pop.

    Student Activity - children are of course guided, but they may choose what they plan to work on. The theory that if they choose, they feel empowered, and are excited and interested, the perfect median to learn!!! Conversely, my daughter is challenged by breaking her day into more than 5 categories. Each category is spoon fed, quickly. One of the articles talks about deep concentration and “flowing”. This can only be achieved if the proper amount of time is allowed for absorption, thoughtfulness, creativity, etc.

    Individual Responsibility is taught at Montessori, and begins with keeping the classroom neat, and stocked. My daughter is taught similar core values each month, such as respect, kindness, pride, etc.

    Absence of grades and tests, for Montessori. My daughter has made great grades, and is highly praised by her parents, and paid by her grandmother. So much pressure has resulted that when she fell off the Principles Honor Roll to Honor Roll she was in tears, when she gave me her great report card, which she obviously did not feel great about.

    One of the articles mentioned ADHD, and medication, and the Montessori Method being so much more conducive to “training” the mind, especially the mind that needs the times to really “steep” into the material, not jump from subject to subject.

    I would like to further my understanding of Montessori Methods, as I stay in school. Liz T/EDU214

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  13. Reading and learning about Montessori schools makes me wish I had the opportunity to attend one when I was younger. I love the philosophy they have with teaching. The hands on and individual learning is so great. I feel like it's better than regular public schools because a lot of times kids get left behind or bored with the curriculum. I will probably end up sending my future kids to a Montessori school because of your class and posts!

    -Nina H

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  14. Montessori education has become a continual interest of mine. I love how the Montessori schools have individualized education plans for each students. Teachers in traditional classrooms need to differentiate for their students within their curriculum, but in the Montessori classroom every student is able to choose what they learn about. I also like the idea of having students of varying ages together in one classroom. I think that this helps tremendously with students social development. I also love that students are taught "Practical Life" skills. I think that it is important for students to learn at an early age how to preform basic life skills that aren't always taught at home. I think that Montessori schools to a great job at developing students to be capable and valued members of society. This post has been helpful in taking a deeper look into Montessori methods and how the education system works.

    Kristen W.

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  15. Montessori education interests me because everything is at the students height/reach and everything is hands on. I love this idea and would love to work in one later on after college.

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  16. Montessori education has great impact on me and i really thank you for sharing that in detail here. The idea behind this is the quality of time kids spend during school day by doing "hands on" activities in pretty organized and controlled environment. Students are not forced to do particular activity but lot of interest has been developed from curiosity which comes from inside.

    This can be very effective method of teaching AD/HD students and others with learning disability as it give emphasis on training mind and also includes practical real life skills.

    Shelika A.

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  17. Montessori education seems to be a good way to help students with ADHD. I like how the classroom is set up where everything is organized and accessible. I like how it also teaches kids to respect one another works and how to respect things that are not theirs.

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