Qualities of a Montessori Education
Essentials to Quality Montessori Education
If you’re considering Montessori education for your child, it’s important to know that the Montessori name is not trademarked. Any school can call itself Montessori, and programs vary in how they interpret and practice the Montessori approach.
The American Montessori Society believes that certain elements are essential to quality Montessori education. These include:
mixed-aged classes, in which older children serve as role models and helpers;
a full array of developmentally appropriate Montessori learning materials;
teachers with credentials from an accredited Montessori teacher education program;
adherence to the Montessori instructional approach, with teachers serving as guides rather than givers of information.
In keeping with the standards set by AMS, we strive to maintain a highly effective Montessori program.
Six Characteristics of Our Highly Effective Montessori Program
Characteristic #1: Specialized Montessori Materials
Dr. Montessori began her career as an educator of young children by working with a group of fifty children aged three to five years old. She had a few developmental materials, which she had previously developed to help learning-impaired children and were designed to help with sensory perceptions; she discovered that once these materials were introduced, the children worked spontaneously and repeatedly with them in total concentration. Being a scientist, Dr. Montessori observed and responded to this phenomenon by perfecting those materials little by little, through the experimental process of trial and error, which resulted in the creation of highly specialized materials that aided in skill development of children. Over a century later, Montessori materials continue to be used by children all over the world in response to their inner drives to learn.
Characteristic #2: A “Well-Prepared Environment” for Children
As children form and develop, they take from the environment what is needed for self-construction; the child clearly shows an inner need to learn about and to know themselves and their world. They want very much to develop their intelligence and to become independent and responsible. When adults prepare and provide these specialized environments, children can experience the fulfillment of their potential.
Each Montessori classroom is a well-prepared environment designed to support the child’s need for learning and growth. It is a “child’s house” where there are many carefully designed materials to meet the child’s natural interests. The atmosphere is positive, supportive, and non-competitive. The classroom has six distinct areas (practical life, language, sensorial, social studies, mathematics, and science) to encourage a child’s natural budding interest with the main objectives of providing creative and stimulating developmental experiences for the young child.
Characteristic #3: Multi-Age Groups of Children
Our Montessori classroom offers the child the opportunity to choose individual tasks from a wide variety of graded materials. Children can grow as their interests lead them from one level of skill to another. Having children of different age groups together provides models for younger children to imitate and gives the older ones an opportunity to reinforce their knowledge by helping the younger ones.
Characteristic #4: Specially Trained Teachers
Our Montessori teachers are specially trained in child development and in the Montessori approach. The teacher’s task is to observe children “at work,” keeping a record of the child’s work with the materials. The teacher will note periods of readiness and may divert a child who chooses materials that are beyond his or her current abilities, while at other times the teacher might encourage a child to try a new, more difficult task. Whenever a child makes an error, the teacher allows the child to discover his or her own mistake through further manipulation of the self-correcting material. The Montessori teacher tries to be sensitive to the needs of the child and values the process over the product. By letting children work toward their own goals, teachers are able to encourage children’s natural enthusiasm for learning.
Characteristic #5: An Integrated Approach
In addition to the Montessori materials and specialized areas of the classroom, quality Montessori programs include a full complement of before and after care. Children have daily opportunities to use their gross motor skills during outdoor play and enjoy creative dramatics, art, music, food exploration, and special classes that offer children many options for self-expression. Such integration of other auxiliary programs provides children the ability to make a smooth transition to other educational settings.
Characteristic #6: A Life-Long Approach to Learning
Dr. Montessori once wrote, “It is true, we cannot make a genius; we can only give each individual the chance to fulfill his or her potential possibilities to become an independent, secure, and balanced human being.” Montessori classrooms provide children with a solid foundation on which to build later learning experiences. Children who are encouraged to be creative, independent, and responsible during early childhood grow into competent, happy adults.