What is the Montessori Method?
By Marion Darancette
Montessori Education refers to a philosophy of education developed by a medical doctor named Maria Montessori, who was born in Italy in 1870. She became involved in education at the request of the Italian government. Her views became a radical departure from traditional education in that she considered how the learner learns rather than just what was to be taught (curriculum). She focused on how children learn during their various stages of development from birth to maturity and she did this by careful observation of children as they worked and played within various environments. She planned a number of environments for children and noted their behavior in them. She was the first to point out some now familiar concepts of the physical adjustments needed so that small children can function efficiently. She noted the great strides they made in their educational progress when they were given a chance to work with things that were their own size and that they could handle. Imagine working in a world where everything is scaled to the needs of a giant, two or three times adult size. Many of the behavior problems of children resulted from the frustration encountered in trying to function in a giant’s world.
Montessori saw children were anxious to do things for themselves rather than having things done for them. The study of how to help children learn to do things and find things out for themselves, became a cornerstone of Montessori education. A child needs a rich and superior environment in which to do this. Montessori educators are primarily environmentalists.
The idea that a child is like an empty jug or blank slate that the teacher fills up with knowledge is exchanged for the view that each child comes with an inner program for learning. Certain things are best learned at different times in the child’s development. These things should be presented in an orderly way.
Children learn by active interaction with the things and concepts contained in their environment. The role of the educator is to see that the proper information and learning opportunities are available.
Younger children absorb information through all their senses. If they are given good educational materials which allow them to see, feel, and absorb many sensorial impressions, they will construct clear abstractions and develop a vocabulary which is precise and extensive. With this adequate foundation, their thought processes can expand further throughout life.
The classroom generally includes children with a three year age span. This age spread helps the learning process in the following way: the younger children are impressed and inspired by achievement of the older children, and the learning of the older children is aided by their demonstrations and explanations to the younger ones. This does not mean that the teacher abdicates her responsibility. The teacher simply uses all aspects of any situation for learning.
There is not a daily schedule where all of the children study a certain subject for a specified length of time and then are made to switch to another. The children, each of them, work on their own program until the material is mastered. Sometimes though, it is a small group effort. The point is that serious work is not interrupted because of a schedule. The fixed hours are: the start of school, lunch, and the end of the school day. If children are allowed to, they often choose to stay on after school, working on something they have started earlier. Children are allowed to progress at their own pace and the motivation comes from within themselves.
Many people agree that a different approach is needed to educating our children. I believe the Montessori Method is the needed approach.
Montessori Children’s House of Shady Oaks was founded in its present location on October, 11th 1986 by Marion Darancette. Marion attained a B.A. in Education, M.A. in Administration of Children’s Programs, California Teachers Credential and California Community College Teachers Credential. She also held the following Montessori Diplomas: Association Montessori Internationale (A.M.I.) 1972, Canadian Montessori Association (C.M.A.) 1965, and St. Nicholas Training Center (London, England) 1967. A mother of six, Marion was a teacher for 24 years. Marion passed on in November 2002. There is a scholarship fund named in her honor.