From Beyoncé to Taylor Swift to the Founders of Amazon and Google to NBA Player Stephen Curry, the Montessori approach has cultivated some of the world’s most successful business people, political leaders, and creative minds.
Montessori is an educational approach, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, in the late 1800’s. The approach develops independence, confidence, and grit, while satisfying a child’s inner curiosity and desire to learn. The Montessori classroom is equipped with specially-trained teachers that guide a child’s learning, with unique hands-on materials to facilitate deep learning at an early age.
The Montessori approach can be applied from infancy to high school. Today, there are an estimated 20,000 Montessori schools worldwide.
A Word of Caution
Unfortunately, the term “Montessori” has become a generic name and practically any childcare service can call itself a “Montessori School,” without any legal consequences or trademark infringements. It is entirely up to a parent to determine if a given school follows the Montessori Method and yield the results Montessori schools are known for. Parents should carefully weigh teacher credentials, the quality of Montessori materials, classroom management skills, experience of school leadership, and perspectives of current families.
There are many myths about Montessori education – including the level of rigidity in the classroom and limited play as well as what constitutes authentic Montessori education – developed by pundits and non-experts in early education. On the contrary, the Montessori approach focuses on intellectual freedom, active socialization with peers and friends, and deep, fun learning with beautiful materials.
A Better Early Education
There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of an authentic Montessori education compared to traditional preschool. In his July 2011 Harvard Business Review blog, Andrew McAfee of the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management, discussed how the Montessori approach cultivates innovators for the 21st century.
A 2006 study in Science compares a group of low-income students in Milwaukee, WI who attended Montessori schools to their peers who attended traditional early learning centers. By age 6, “Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children,” according to the researchers. “They also tested better on executive function, the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.”
A 2017 longitudinal study confirmed a similar finding. The study, in Frontiers in Psychology, led by University of Virginia’s Angeline Stoll Lillard, compares students who participated in a randomized lottery-based admission to two public Montessori magnet schools in a high-poverty American city. The result? Montessori preschool elevated children’s learning outcomes and equalized outcomes among groups that may have unequal outcomes.
How is Montessori Unique?
Below is a comparison of a Montessori environment to a traditional early learning center. The Montessori approach – as research is starting to show – yields better learning outcomes. Our goal is a lifelong love of learning – not babysitting and forced academics.
Lessons are introduced to the child at their own pace and time. Class sizes are small, so Montessori teachers can tailor instruction to each student’s needs and interests.
Instruction is given in groups, not accounting for student’s individual learning differences. Children may not be free to explore the classroom environment on their own and reveal their strengths.
|Peaceful, Quiet Environment
A quiet classroom is generally a sign of deep engagement and happy children. Limited wall art creates a peaceful, calm environment for socialization and learning.
|Distracting, Noisy Environment
Loud classrooms are generally a sign of poor classroom management and unsafe practices. Overly-decorated classrooms are usually distracting and overly-stimulating, impeding a child’s ability to concentrate.
Mixed-age groups enable older students to demonstrate leadership and support younger students. Age is never a barrier for accelerated learning. Students learn to collaborate with different ages and different levels of expertise.
Students are usually grouped into classrooms with students their own age, falsely linking development and academic ability with age. There are missed opportunities for learning how to interact with older and younger students.
In the 21st century, children will interact with people from across the globe. Care for the environment and cultural exposure is part of every day learning and practice. Technology is never a substitution for learning and collaborating with others.
Curriculum could be based on single units and does not explore how subjects interrelate with each other. Computer software may be used to teach reading, writing, and math – oftentimes substituting for teacher-student interaction
|Teacher as Guide
In a Montessori classroom, the teacher is a guide for students to their next stage of development. The teacher observes a student’s interests, strengths and weaknesses and guides them to materials that can aid in their own exploration. They adjust their teaching style based on each student’s personality and temperament.
|Teacher as Instructor
The teacher instructs a large group of students of the same age, from the front of a classroom. The teacher may not tailor instruction to individual needs given the pressure of handling a large number of students.
Curriculum for Lifelong Learning
The Montessori scope and sequence introduces a child to math, language, science, and cultural students in a hands-on way through unique materials. We also focus on soft skills, enabling children to develop skills in collaboration, grace and courtesy, public speaking, and confidence. Our goal is to develop independent and confident students who love to learn. The below subjects reflect the various areas of the Montessori environment:
Practical Life activities are designed to help children develop independence, fine motor skills and concentration. These activities are part of a child’s daily routine – and mimic adult work – like zipping a coat, setting the table, or sewing a button. Children learn to start and finish an activity to develop self-discipline and concentration, critical for future learning.
Sensorial materials help children describe the world around them. Materials are used to refine the child’s senses and heighten their awareness to the subtleties of our world – while equipping them with the language to describe the world as they see it.
In Montessori, reading is taught through phonics (the sounds of letters) versus the names of letters. Students typically begin reading at age 3 ½, take home reading books, and master parts of speech and grammar. Our goal is an expressive and imaginative child, grounded in a concrete understanding of the world. Our student’s regular routine in reading and writing is complemented by opportunities to practice oral communication through music, storytelling, and public speaking.
Math & Science (STEM)
Children are first taught to associate quantity with the numerals, preparing them for abstract reasoning and problem-solving. At their own pace, students learn to master telling time, money equivalency, fractions, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
We guide children through the importance of scientific reasoning and how to communicate their thinking with logic, evidence, and experimentation. Students develop critical thinking skills while conducting their own experiments in class. Every month, our classroom conversations are driven by a unique science focus.
In the 21st Century, children will interact with people from across the globe. Through cultural students, students explore physical geography, current events, and history through class discussions, guest speakers, and our International Doll of the Month speaker series.
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