The mantra for Montessori Education is “follow the child”. Montessori was a keen observer and avid student of how children grow and learn, especially in the early years. She referred to the early years as the “secret of childhood”. Traditional education recognized that the way they taught didn’t work well with young children. For this reason most schools around the world didn’t start till age 5 or 6. Part of following the child is understanding the child’s development.
Montessori discovered that young children learn best by doing things and actively interacting with the people and things in their environment. If young children learn best by doing then it is imperative that we have great things for them to do! We see young children easily absorbing information from everything around them including incredible growth in their speech just by having good conversation with their parents and other adults. When the children are supported in their growth and development we often see them exceeding our expectations!
Traditional education is most often based on a curriculum with lesson plans that the teacher adheres to. The teacher usually does her best to make the subject interesting to the children. The child follows the teacher, so to speak, or doesn’t do well in the class. Montessori saw the uniqueness of each child and tailored her program to help each child discover their interests and build on those. As children are given opportunities to try new and different things they gradually develop their sense of identity and a passion for what they want to learn and do. This inner motivation is key to living a fulfilling life and being successful in whatever they choose to do. Simply stated, instead of the teacher trying to make what she wants to teach interesting, we follow what is interesting to the child!
I am the father of three girls and was always amazed by how different they were from each other in so many ways. All my daughters were Montessori students in the early years. A good example is my middle daughter who had a love of science that grew through high school. She eventually went to UC Davis to study chemical engineering. She was behind in her English so she had to take a remedial English class. Because she had a strong work ethic that came from following her interest in her studies she ended up graduating with honors five years later! All three of my daughters have grown up pursuing different interests and directions in life and they are each living fulfilling and purposeful lives. I firmly believe they are each making their corner of the world a better place!