What is Montessori Method and what are it’s advantages over traditional education?
The Montessori method was developed by the Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. She developed the materials and methods based on her belief that education involved the unfolding and development of the child’s innate abilities, talents and interests. Her approach was scientific and humanistic. Her ideas rapidly spread around the globe resulting in many schools throughout the world. There are about 4,500 Montessori Schools in USA and more than 20,000 worldwide.
At the primary level (age 2.5 to 6), Montessori emphasises learning through all five senses. It is based on the fact that all children are individuals with their own strengths, needs, likes and learning styles. In a Montessori classroom there is great respect for the choices of the children and they learn at their individual pace and according to their choice of activities. Here learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning.
The research by Dr. Angeline Lillard shows that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills. Some of the advantages observed are:-
- Increased interest in learning
- Creative, self-disciplined and independent
- Greater understanding of truth and fairness
- Better understanding of concepts of grammar and mathematical operations
- Deep understanding of how geography, history and science are all related.
The study was published in the September 29, 2006 issue of the Journal Science.
Who accredits Montessori schools and how to select the best school for my child?
Unfortunately there isn’t any single Montessori association that accredits or monitors the authenticity of the Montessori Schools. There are several Montessori organisations to which schools can belong. The word “Montessori” is not legally protected and it can be used by anyone. This has resulted in many non-Montessori Schools using the “Montessori” name to capitalise on popularity. Parents must carefully research and observe a classroom in order to choose a real Montessori School for their child.
Authentic Montessori classrooms have the following basic characteristics:
- Children are grouped in classes of mixed ages
- Teachers are trained to teach children one at a time or in small groups
- Children are allowed to work independently and they are free to move around the room rather than remain at allocated desks
- At any given time, different children will be studying and working on materials related to different areas, at varying degrees of complexity
- Both adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt those who are busy at work.
Why Montessori classrooms are multi-age with a 3 year age span?
At the primary level, children are grouped in a three year span from 2.5 to 6 years. The most successful Montessori classes have 30-35 children with one teacher and one assistant. This is possible because the children stay in the same group for three years and much of the learning comes from the children and the environment.
The mixed age group environment creates an atmosphere where children learn to help and be helped by other children. Older children learn to be more tolerant and gain leadership skills when they serve as role models for the younger children. When an older child helps a younger one, it reinforces previously learned concepts. Younger children learn about courtesy, manners and conflict resolution by watching the older children in the class.
Being in the same classroom for 3 years allows a teacher to truly understand each child’s learning abilities, style and developmental level. This helps to set appropriate learning agenda as well as build on strengths and work on weaknesses.
What is the importance of completing the 3 year cycle in Montessori?
To receive the full benefit of Montessori education, the child should remain in the program for 3 years. The primary level is a clearly defined 3 year discrete educational unit. A child who partially completes the program will not obtain the full benefits.
Third year is the time when all the learning that has taken place in the previous two years reaches fruition. Children build upon what they have learned and experience rapid academic and social growth, when they are given the opportunity to consolidate their knowledge within the Montessori classroom.
In the second year many parents shift their children to the kindergarten of traditional school because of the fear of not getting admission in first standard. These children do benefit from their Montessori education, but they are robbed of the precious third year. It’s like building a house where a solid foundation is laid on the first year, walls erected on second year and roof constructed on the third year. The foundation is useful on its own, but the house becomes much more significant when built to completion.
Will it be difficult for the child to adjust in traditional school after attending Montessori School?
Montessori children are normally curious and confident learners who look forward to going to school. They will be able to cope with the new conditions in the traditional classroom as they have developed a high degree of self-motivation and independence in the Montessori environment. They will adjust to any new classroom but does best in those which encourage discovery and individual rates of learning.