The Montessori method, developed by Maria Montessori in Italy over 100 years ago, is unique among early childhood programs in its scientific and multifaceted approach to a child’s intellectual, emotional, and social development.
Freedom to Choose
Each child is given the opportunity to choose the materials they will work with that day, and the choice to work by him or herself or with a partner. A child can decide to work on one activity the entire morning or spend five minutes apiece doing several activities.
Beautifully Crafted Materials
From the Golden Beads to the Pink Tower, the beautifully crafted materials are literally the trademark of the Montessori method. The materials are self-correcting, meaning that when a child makes a mistake, they can see immediately for themselves that it did not turn out the way it is supposed to.
The materials are designed to address different learning styles. Language and math materials are tactile and colorful in order for them to address kinesthetic and spatial learners as well as visual and auditory ones. For example, a child doesn’t just learn the abstract concepts of math, they see how division works when they handle the Division Board. And, yes, preschoolers are taught long division!.
Multi-Year Age Groups
The primary classroom is set up in 3 year age groups: for children from age 3 to age 6. The dynamics of this multi-year age grouping has a number of advantages: children are able to learn at their own pace, older children act as mentors to younger children, and they are able to manipulate the same materials with increasing complexity as they develop over the three years in the classroom.
Work versus Play
When you observe a Montessori classroom in action, you will be struck by the buzz of activity as well as the intense focus of the children as they manipulate the materials. The children are engaged in “work”. The children quickly come to understand that the materials are not toys. This distinction does not create a dour, stressful environment: on the contrary, while play becomes work, work becomes fun. Children learn to take their job as learners seriously.
Child development experts are slowly catching up to Maria Montessori’s theories and insights and are starting to incorporate elements of them into mainstream preschool classrooms. However, the blend of the materials and the philosophies make stepping into a Montessori classroom, like our Montessori school in Houston, a truly special experience.