Montessori Education is based on the work of Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952), a brilliant educator and the first female medical doctor in Italy. She developed her philosophy and method of education after years of careful study, observation, and experimentation in her approach to working with young children. As Dr. Montessori first emphasized and Montessori schools worldwide stress today, the education of young children must be respectful of who the children are as individuals, and what their developmental needs and emerging sensitivities are.
The belief that children’s greatest desire, their greatest drive, is to learn and to grow and to understand their environment is the foundation of the Montessori philosophy. Montessorians believe that it is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to prepare the environment (home and classroom) in order to provide what the child needs to accomplish this undertaking and learn about the world. The adults must also prepare themselves in order to model appropriate behavior.
Each child has his own preferred style of learning. S/he is at a particular stage of growth and development with specific sensitivities, which will differ from others in the same class. S/he will have unique needs and interests. It is one of the greatest benefits of Montessori Education that each child can be supported in his or her growth and education at just the right level and in just the right way.
“THE CHILD IS BOTH A HOPE AND A PROMISE FOR MANKIND.”
THE PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
Maria Montessori believed that the educational environment to be created for the children was of utmost importance. Through meticulous, dedicated observation and work, she developed a plan for the Montessori classroom as well as the didactic equipment used within it. Montessori classrooms are normally open and airy, with an abundance of light and growing plants. Furniture is child-sized. Materials are beautifully prepared and maintained, and carefully arranged on the shelves. Pretty pictures hang on the walls at the children’s height. Everything is prepared for the children’s needs.
When observing in a Montessori classroom, you will see a busy yet peaceful place. The children move with purpose and confidence throughout the classroom, choosing materials from their given places and doing their work. When the work is completed, the children return the materials to their place and go about selecting their next work. Children may work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. They may work at small tables or use an individual work rug on the floor. The teachers flow about the classroom, giving individual lessons, assistance, and direction.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
THE MONTESSORI MATERIALS
Maria Montessori designed special materials for use in her classrooms to fill the needs she observed. Montessori teachers use these materials after careful training in their use and the goals associated with their use. These materials are supplemented with teacher-made or commercially produced materials that the teacher deems appropriate.
The materials are designed to appeal to children, to draw the children to work with them. They are kept in good condition with no missing pieces, which may hinder the children’s work. They are beautifully arranged in baskets or on trays which the children can carry themselves to a workspace.
In a Montessori preprimary classroom, the most important goal of a material is often not its direct goal, i.e.: pouring rice, drawing a map of the world, or stacking a cube tower. It is rather the inner growth that occurs as the child works with it – concentration, attention span, confidence, the powers of discrimination, and the joy of learning. These drive the child to the work, to repeat it often, taking something more each time from his work.
Montessori Materials are designed to isolate concepts, for example: rods designed to emphasize length are all one color. This enables the child to easily discern the concept. The materials progress from simple to complex in their design and use. The simple materials indirectly prepare the children, in concepts and physical readiness, for the use of the more complex materials.
The materials are designed to be self-correcting. They hold within themselves the control of error, enabling the child to correct her own mistakes.
THE MONTESSORI CURRICULUM
The Montessori classroom provides a holistic approach to education: the social, emotional, and physical needs, as well as the academic needs, of the child are addressed. As a result, the Montessori curriculum is very rich and incorporates many areas of mastery and study. A Montessori classroom incorporates the following:
PRACTICAL LIFE (EVERYDAY LIVING)
This area includes works to help support the child in learning to care for himself and his environment. These are activities that adults often find mundane, but that children seem particularly drawn to, such as washing dishes, folding laundry, polishing, sweeping, pouring, tonging, etc. These help children develop independence, coordination, concentration, an “I can do it” attitude, and positive work habits.
The children are exposed to a wide variety of art media and technique. Our goal is for the children to be exposed to the works of a wide range of artists and artistic styles, while themselves working and developing artistically.
These are activities that help the child learn to discriminate, categorize, classify, and perceive. They, like the everyday living materials and all the other curriculum areas, help to develop coordination, concentration, positive work habits, and a positive self-esteem.
Activities to help the children learn about the natural and physical world around them abound in a Montessori classroom. The children study life science, earth science, and physical science. Our emphasis is always on how all life on Earth is interconnected and interdependent.
Both physical geography- the study of the solar system and the earth’s formation and structure, and cultural geography- the study of the peoples of the world and their cultures, serve as a framework for learning about our world.
Language permeates the classroom in all curriculum areas. Children are given a multitude of opportunities to develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Due their innate desire to develop their language skills, children in a Montessori preprimary classroom are often precocious in their reading and writing abilities.
Children have a natural inclination for order and for creating order, and mathematics calls to them for that reason, when presented in a concrete, manipulative, hands-on fashion. Work with the Montessori math materials leads the children to gain an understanding of number concepts, mathematical operations, fractions, geometry, and place value that will build a firm foundation for all later mathematical study.
Music is interwoven throughout all areas of the curriculum. We enjoy singing together and playing games daily during our Singing Circle time, as well as singing songs throughout the day that support our areas of study.
The Montessori teacher was called a “directress” by Maria Montessori, because of the supporting, guiding role she takes in the education of the young child. In contemporary times, the term “Montessori teacher” is often used for simplicity, although the role of the teacher as directress is maintained.
Montessori teachers must be trained in the Montessori philosophy, methodology, and materials. Montessori teachers must carefully observe each child and learn as much about her as possible, in order to better provide for her needs. A Montessori teacher must know and understand the developmental stages children pass through. The teacher acts as liaison between the children and the environment, preparing and maintaining the environment meticulously for its use by the children.
The teacher must be peaceful, flexible, dedicated and intuitive to the needs of the children. She must be constantly alert to the signals and messages given by the children in terms of their growth and development and their readiness in each curriculum area.
NURTURE EACH CHILD’S INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS AND INTERESTS. DESCHUTES RIVER MONTESSORI SCHOOL ENCOURAGES CHILDREN TO EXPLORE THEIR WORLD, AND TO DISCOVER AND UNDERSTAND THE LIFE FORMS AND QUALITIES OF WHICH IT IS MADE UP.
eighteen months to three years
- provide a safe, engaging, and nurturing environment for the child
- promote trust in themselves and their world
- develop confidence in their emerging abilities
- develop gross motor coordination, fine motor skills, and language skills
three to six years
- foster the growth of functional independence, task persistence, and self-regulation
- promote social development through respectful, clear communication and safe, natural consequences
- offer opportunities for imaginative exploration leading to confident, creative self-expression
six to twelve years
- offer opportunities for collaborative intellectual exploration in which the child’s interests are supported and guided
- support the development of self-confidence, imagination, intellectual independence and self-efficacy
- foster an understanding of the child’s role in their community, in their culture and in the natural world